Is There A Point When It Would Be Ethical For Society To Hold That Someone Is Too Stupid To Be Trusted With Children?

Kudos to Jonathan Turley for finding this head-exploding story.

In Dixon, Illinois, police stopped a woman who was driving her Audi SUV with an inflatable pool on the roof—and her two children riding inside the pool. Jennifer A. Janus Yeager explained that she had  driven into town to inflate the pool at a friend’s house, and then  had her two daughters ride inside of the pool to hold it down on the drive home.

Oh! That explains everything, ma’am! Sorry for the inconvenience, but I’m sure you understand that we have to investigate these things. Have a nice day, and be careful up there, kids! Hold on tight!

The police arrested this idiot on two counts of endangering the life or health of a child, two counts of reckless conduct and failure to secure a passenger between 8 and 16. Continue reading

Mid-Day Moldy Ethics Snack, 5/8/2019: Bad Charge, Bad School, Bad Father

Yechhh!

1. Do something, blame someone…In Plano, Texas, police have charged Lindsey Glass with violating a law making it a misdemeanor to negligently sell alcohol to a “habitual drunkard or an intoxicated or insane person,.” It seems she served Spencer Hight two gins, two beers and a shot of alcohol during two visits to the bar where she was working in September 2017, before Hight killed Meredith Hight and seven other people. After  police officers shot and killed him, an autopsy found that Hight’s blood alcohol level was about four times the legal limit. The  arrest affidavit said surveillance video shows  that Hight was unsteady, spun a “big knife on the bar,” and could be seen “pulling out a gun” from his waistband.

It’s a terrible charge, and an unethical prosecution.  Glass  texted a co-worker, another bartender, saying that Hight had been spinning the knife and told her had had to go “do some dirty work.” A report by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission said  that the other bartender had called an owner of the bar, who instructed that  police should not be called. Glass was so concerned that followed Hight to his ex-wife’s home and then called 911, according to local station  Fox 4.

A lawyer for Glass emphasized  that his client had called 911 and said she had been commended by police. “It is shameful of the Plano Police Department to go after the person who was vital in trying to stop the horrific events of that evening,” he told Fox 4 and NBC in a statement. Exactly right. Police, spurred by public anger and frustration, want to find someone to blame. The fact that the drunk  went off and killed eight people is pure moral luck. It seems that the bartender went above and beyond her civic duty, at some personal risk, to follow Hight. She was originally commended by police for her actions. [Pointer: ABA Journal]
Continue reading

Well, At Least Something Constructive Has Come Out Of The Latest Anti-Gun “Do Something!” Blather: Welcome Rationalization 40 A. Otter’s Solution, Or “I Had To Do Something!” And Rediscovered 40 B., The Lone Inspiration Excuse, Or ” Do You Have A Better Idea?”

We have talked about the empty grandstanding nostrum “Do something!” here quite a bit: there is even a tag for it, introduced in 2016, when the best the House Democrats could come up with to satisfy their anti-gun base that time around was a juvenile sit-in to demand suspension of the Fifth AND Second Amendments. Then I wrote,

The public debate over the various proposals to “do something!” about mass shootings is as depressing as any discussion I have ever participated in. The willingness of gun opponents, Democrats, journalists, pundits and otherwise intelligent people to not only defy the Bill of Rights guarantee of due process but to literally ignore its existence shows how close the stinking breath of totalitarianism is to the neck on our nation, and that it is much hotter than I realized. This isn’t an exception or an anomaly. This is a result of carefully bred contempt for American values.

The intense ignorance crossed with malice toward our Constitution reached a climax of sorts today on social media, as people who should know better (and people who do know better, like erstwhile Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Warren) applauded the cynical and hypocritical “sit-in” by House Democrats, who said they would hold their breath until they turned blue unless the Congress of the United States voted to allow the government to take away the rights of citizens based on “suspicion.” Only rationalizations can defend this position, primarily among them “The Saint’s Excuse,” or “It’s for a good cause,” “It” is this case meaning..

  • Accepting the ethically and morally bankrupt principle that “the ends justify the means”
  • Setting a precedent for allowing the government to abridge any rights it chooses once by some standard it finds a law-abiding citizen “unworthy”
  • Enacting a provision that the ACLU has pronounced unconstitutional
  • Establishing the principle that the Congress can and will abandon the rule of law as long as enough members of the public and media let emotion overcome reality
  • Lay the groundwork for a President, like say, just to pick a crazy, impossible example out of the air, President Trump, who is as ignorant of the rule of law as the position’s supporters, to really start ripping up the Bill of Rights, beginning with Freedom of the Press, Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Association.

To put it another way, it’s a really, really stupid and indefensible position.

But that’s “Do something!”  That’s’ where it gets you.

For some reason, however, I didn’t realize then that not only is “Do something!” bolstered, enabled and pointed to by many rationalizations [ Among them…“I’m on The Right Side Of History,”“This can’t make things any worse,” “Just this once!,” “It’s for a good cause,” “If I don’t do it, somebody else will,” “There are worse things,” “I’m just giving the people what they want!,” “I have no choice!,”“It’s My Duty!,” “These are not ordinary times,” “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now,”  “I’ll do anything!,”  “If it feels good, do it!,” “Think of the children!,”  “If it saves just one life,” and “It’s the right thing to do”…] since it can’t be supported ethics or reason, it is itself a rationalization in its “I had to do something!” form or “You can’t expect me to do nothing, can you?” version. It is a very insidious and dangerous rationalization. I am angry that I didn’t see it before.

I see it now because the Santa Fe shooting really undercuts all of the previous “reasonable gun control measures” that had been proposed to end all school shootings forever, as the pompous Parkland naifs insisted. Banning assault-style weapons and “high capacity magazines.” Background checks and longer waiting periods. Tougher vetting of mental health records of gun purchasers. Not one of these, nor all of them together, would have stopped the shooting in Santa Fe. Rather than admit this like fair, rational people, the anti-gun mob has devolved into shouting, “Well….do SOMETHING!”

On my Facebook page, an old friend, a lawyer, not yet senile as far as I know, actually posted, “Hey guys, here’s an idea: let’s finally do something about all this gun violence!” And that was it. Something. No other recommendation. Something. Brilliant. Why didn’t we think of that before?

The clip that introduces this post, which I have run here before, is the famous moment in “Animal House” in which the Delta House members, led by wise-ass Otter and chaotic Bluto, conclude that the only response they can muster to being kicked off campus is a “really futile and stupid gesture.” Hence the title of #40A. I was tempted to call it Kelly’s Solution after this…

….but Otter’s is funnier, and illustrates perfectly what acceptance of “Do Something!” as a justification leads to…futile and stupid gestures, or worse. For example, it paves the way for totalitarianism, as a desperate public cheers on action for action’s sake, not paying proper heed to where the action leads.

Rationalization #40 A., Otter’s Solution, or “I had to do something!” is an invitation to be unethical, irrational, reckless and irresponsible, bypassing law, values, common sense, and any other obstacle that usually constrains bad policy and  conduct. It creates an intellectually dishonest shortcut, making the decision to act before any effective action is considered, designating action the objective rather than what the objective of the action should be. Obviously this is backwards, and it is intentionally backwards, because it takes a detour around essential questions, responsible decision makers must consider before acting,  like “Is this legal?” “Is this wise?” “What will be the long term consequences?,”  “Can this work?” and “What are the costs?” Rationalization 40A makes the conduct itself the objective rather than the results of the conduct. The imaginary virtue is taking action—even if it is futile and stupid.

And, if one challenges the badly-reasoned “something” that 40 A supports, one often will be challenged by 40 B. The Lone Inspiration Excuse, or ” Do You Have A Better Idea?”

40 B. The Lone Inspiration Excuse, or ” Do You Have A Better Idea?” qualifies as The Lost Rationalization. I announced it two years ago, never entered it on the list, and forgot about it, until today.

I am not obligated to solve the problem you cannot solve without breaching ethics or law.  Nor is it obligatory for someone pointing out why proposed conduct is illegal, unethical, dangerous, imprudent and wrong to posit alternatives for the verdict on the proposed conduct to remains valid. The Lone Inspiration Excuse suggests that a terrible course of conduct can become acceptable by default. How many catastrophes have been created by that warped logic? If a proposed measure is too wrong and reckless to undertake, it shouldn’t be undertaken. That’s the first step. Finding a better course comes later, or never, if there isn’t one.

The ethical response to someone who reasonably and carefully explains why proposed conduct cannot work and violates principles of law, ethics or common sense deserves a thank you, for that is valuable information. “Well, you solve it then!” is not a fair response. It’s a deflection, and a transparent one. If the only course of action being proposed is unethical, then the responsible and ethical better idea may be not to do anything at all.

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/21/18: Comments, Clarkson, Bitter Hillary, And Weiner Dogs Amuck

Good morning, all.

1. Housekeeping note: Some commenters are expressing displeasure that I suspended a regular participant here following what I consider to be excessively disrespectful discourse toward me. Well. when they try moderating an ethics blog read by educated, passionate and verbally adept people for nine years, I’ll pay more attention to that displeaure. The task is much like that of a lion-tamer in the circus: as I learned when I read the autobiography of one who survived until retirement, the big cats growling is fine, and even the occasional swipe for show is tolerable, but when they start being disrespectful, you either show who’s boss quick or you get gang-mauled and eaten.

In about two weeks, I have to fly to Boston—on my own dime, of course— to ask a judge to dismiss a $100,000 defamation lawsuit from a banned commenter here. Am I bit inclined to be less than charitable to rude commenter outbursts aimed at me right now? Yes. The matter at issue right now involved flat-out, unambiguous personal mockery and derision, and the Comment Policies, accessible for years on the link above, specifically designate “6) Mockery without substance”  as commentary conduct that is not appreciated, , and also notes that a commenter risks be discipline for “…Insulting me, in particular by questioning my integrity, honesty, objectivity, intentions, motives, qualifications, or credentials.”

The commenter who was suspended can return to the wars at any time he chooses, after offering an acceptable apology.

2. Breaking my vow already…to eschew writing about the aftermath of the latest school shooting, I have to mention that Lelly Clarkson’s emotional speech at last night’s Billborad awards was played this morning on CNN and Headline News—and I assume elsewhere—as if she actually was saying something of substance. She wasn’t:

Is the news media going to keep on trying to steer a policy debate with complex social, legal, constitutional, cultural and practical factors into this emotion-flooded, intellectually useless dead end? Apparently so. I’m sure Kelly is sincere, but “moment of action” is nothing but another way of saying “do something,” which itself is just another form of screaming at the sky. What action, Kelly? Unless you make a relevant proposal that addresses the event you are crying about, your statement is worse than useless.

We should not keep pandering to this invitation to turn off our brains regarding guns, yet that is what the news media is actively campaigning for us to do.  They are irresponsible to do this.

But we knew that. Continue reading

Sun Day Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/20/2018: Bright Above, Dark Below…

What IS that thing???

Good Morning!

There is this big, white-yellow, ball-thing in the sky overhead..not sure what it is.

The sky is also this weird bluish color.

Very strange…

1. The news media actually calls this creep a moral authority...which itself is significant. On his late-night talk show, Jimmy Kimmel said, “President Trump said he is with the people of Santa Fe in this tragic hour and will be with them forever—except for when it comes time to do something. Then he will not be with them.”

Trump’s post shooting statement was standard issue President-after-tragedy stuff, neither unusual nor objectionable to anyone not seeking to manufacture offense.  “We grieve for the terrible loss of life, and send our support and love to everyone affected by this absolutely horrific attack,” Trump said. “To the students, families, teachers, and personnel at Santa Fe High: We’re with you in this tragic hour, and we will be with you forever. My administration is determined to do everything in our power to protect our students, secure our schools, and to keep weapons out of the hands of those who pose a threat to themselves and to others. Everyone must work together, at every level of government, to keep our children safe.”

Kimmel :“They care more about the support of the NRA than they do about children.”

Kimmel’s statement is signature significance for an ignorant, unscrupulous asshole, and one who either has never read the Constitution, or doesn’t care what it says. There is absolutely nothing that the President of The United States, (or “they”) could or can do to prevent school shootings like the one in Santa Fe.

2. Who wants to join me in a sit-in at Starbucks? It will have to be a lily-white sit-in to make the point. Starbucks’ desperate, pandering, virtue-signaling, deranged new policy that allows anyone to sit in its stores or use its restrooms, even if they don’t buy anything, immediately guarantees the Tragedy of the Commons, which the silly, social justice warrior-run company apparently felt was a preferable disaster than to be accused of racism for enforcing a reasonable and necessary rule when blacks were the violators. If all the tables and space are taken up by non-customers, loiterers and free-riders, Starbucks can’t do any business, but it is literally saying, “We don’t care!” Why? Well, even if they ordered white freeloaders to leave, every time the freeloader was black, Hispanic, gay or in a wheelchair, a YouTube video would appear, go viral, and Starbucks would be tarred as corporate bigots. The police could try this same strategy: announce that officers will not fire on any individual resisting arrest or threatening an officer’s life. I’m sure that will work out well too.

3.  Yes, this was the quality of the people running the country during the Obama years. Obama’s Education Secretary Arne Duncan argued on Twitter that parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws. He really did. Let’s have a contest: List how many ways this suggestion is unethical. I’ll get you started: it is irredeemably stupid, and thus an abuse of influence, making the naive and easily gulled believe that because this man ran the Education Department, he is a respectable authority whose bone-headed utterances can be trusted and taken seriously. (I see at least five more.) Continue reading

Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/19/2018: Thinking About Things That Matter While Ignoring The Royal Wedding Hype Edition

I can’t say it’s a good morning..

…since it’s been raining for three days already, with no end in sight..

1. I wonder how long before he’s fired? Instead of renewing his earlier call to repeal the Second Amendment, resurgent lone conservative New York Times op-ed columnist Bret Stephens spoke truth to abused power by condemning the news media in today’s column. He writes in part,

When Donald Trump takes his swipes at the “disgusting and corrupt media” and tens of millions of Americans agree, it’s not as if they don’t have examples in mind. Consider this week’s implication by major news organizations that the president described all illegal immigrants as “animals” during a White House roundtable with California officials. That would indeed be a wretched thing for him to say — had he said it. He did not. The Associated Press admitted as much when it deleted a tweet about the remark, noting “it wasn’t made clear that he was speaking after a comment about gang members.” Specifically, he was speaking after a comment about members of the Salvadoran MS-13 gang, infamous for its ultraviolent methods and quasi-satanic rituals. To call MS-13 “animals” is wrong only because it is unfair to animals….We have a president adept at goading his opponents into unwittingly doing his bidding. They did so again this week. Those who despise him for his deceits should endeavor to give no impression of being deceitful in turn.

Bingo.

2. Briefly noted…Today’s Times editorial is a graphic about how “Congress has dithered as the innocent get shot,” despite the fact that no “sensible gun control measures” would have prevented yesterday’s shooting in Texas…just gun confiscation, if that were possible, which it isn’t. Two letters in the letters section make the same contradictory, yet probably sincere, point. “Another day with the reality that sane gun control is a national emergency.” Continue reading

Unethical Website Of The Month, “March For Our Lives” Edition: Change.Org

This page, the petition for gun control to “save our children” is what earns the “honor.” I see many Facebook friends, many on whom are genuinely gifted intellectually, surrendering to emotion and signing this junk, as junk it is. The petition neatly encapsulates the serial intellectual dishonestly,  misleading rhetoric and appeal to emotion that we will see bloviated all over the National Mall this weekend: I guess that has some value for historical purposes. Otherwise, it is an engine of ignorance designed to either attract the ignorant, make the less ignorant more so, or deceive.

Let’s look at this mess, shall we?

In the tragic wake of the seventeen lives brutally cut short in Florida, politicians are telling us that now is not the time to talk about guns. March For Our Lives believes the time is now. Created by, inspired by, and led by students across the country, we will no longer risk our lives waiting for someone else to take action to stop the epidemic of mass school shootings that has become all too familiar.

Nobody is saying that “now is not the time to talk about guns.” Who has said that? The statement is straw man. Agreed: now is a good time to talk about anything: guns, pangolins, acne, cabbages and kings. We have a First Amendment as well as a Second, something those Other Civilized Nations that are always being extolled in the gun debate don’t have.

Created by, inspired by, and led by students across the country, we …

Not to be pedantic, but a serious petition should be written by someone  who can speak the language. Signers are created by students? It’s bad enough that they are being led by students, who are after all, students. They do not know enough, either through knowledge or experience, to be seriously participating in a complex policy debate, much less leading it.  “We, the undersigned adults who are duty-bound to be teaching and leading our rising generation, are allowing them to dictate to us.” Good plan. How can anyone sign such a petition and not hide their head under a bag?

…will no longer risk our lives waiting for someone else to take action to stop the epidemic of mass school shootings that has become all too familiar.

This is pure appeal to emotion rather than reality. The existence of the right to own guns no more “risks lives” than the existence of anything else that is dangerous when misused. There are 10.6 deaths per 100,000 U.S. citizens due to guns according to latest statistics, including those of suicides and those killed by law enforcement. Three times that many die in alcohol-related automobile accidents. Nobody argues that we risk our lives because “someone” hasn’t taken “action” (aka, “do something,” “make it go away” “make us feel safe when nobody in a free society is ever safe”, aka. “ban and confiscate guns.”) regarding that risk we accept as part of living in a free society that includes jackasses, fools and criminals, and that’s just one of many.

There is no “epidemic” of school shootings. Students in school are safe; if they don’t feel safe, it’s because of fear -mongering from activists and the news media.

“We support the right of law-abiding Americans to keep and bear arms, as set forth in the United States Constitution.”

No, you obviously don’t. This is a pure lie (or inexcusable stupidity.) A movement called “Never Again” is either lying in its title by implying that any public policy, laws or regulations will guarantee no more gun deaths, in schools or anywhere else, or it is telling us its real purpose in the name, while lying about the movement’s real intent.

Many, many, if not most mass shooters were “law-abiding” until they started shooting. This statement either endorses pre-crime measures, profiling citizens to decide if they are a risk to eventually abuse gun rights—unconstitutional—is magical thinking, or is, again, a lie. The statement—and while it is always a fine time to talk about guns, it is never a fine time to resuscitate this zombie tautology that the NRA has been knocking down for decades—is self-rebutting.  Laws only affect law-abiding people, as long as they obey laws. Restrictive gun laws are violated by criminals, because they don’t obey laws. Nobody has ever explained how a law will not infringe “ the right of law-abiding Americans to keep and bear arms” while somehow keeping the same kinds of arms out of the hands of those who are not law-abiding. This is because it’s impossible.

“But with that right comes responsibility.”

As an ethicist, I object to a cynical use of the language of ethics to deceive, which is what this is. If the topic is responsibility, then we are talking about law-abiding citizens again, as well as ethical ones. They usually don’t use guns irresponsibly, or if they do (like killing themselves), such irresponsible use is not addressed by the measures proposed here. If I am a law-abiding citizen, I won’t be more likely to abuse my gun ownership whether I have had a background check or not. Irresponsible gun ownership includes not keeping guns where children—you know, citizens the age of the people “leading” those who sign the petition—can find them and hurt themselves and others. It includes not learning how to use a gun safely and appropriately. This petition isn’t about promoting responsible gun ownership. It’s about replacing the right to own guns responsibly with the right to own sling-shots.

We call on all the adults in Congress elected to represent us, to pass legislation that will protect and save children from gun violence.

There it is: “Think of the children!” A pure, unadulterated, inexcusable appeal to emotion over facts and reason. Continue reading