Morning Ethics Heat-Up, 5/18/2022: More Judicial Review And Lies

Because I was otherwise obsessed, I missed noting yesterday a true landmark in law and ethics. It was that date in 1954 when a unanimous the  Supreme Court handed down the unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, ruling that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. Linda Brown, a young African American girl had been denied admission to her local elementary school in Topeka, Kansas, because of the color of her skin.

Written in 1896 as the KKK roamed the South, the SCOTUS ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson held that “separate but equal” accommodations in railroad cars conformed to the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection. Plessy was interpreted as justifying segregation in everything from buses to water fountains to elementary schools. The white school Brown attempted to attend was far superior to her the segregation-mandated alternative and miles closer to her home, so The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People  took up Linda’s cause. Thurgood Marshall led Brown’s legal team, and on May 17, 1954, Plessy was overturned after 58 years as “the law of the land” despite the siren call of stare decisus. The opinion written by Chief Justice Earl Warren declared that “separate but equal” was an unconstitutional doctrine in ringing terms: “We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”  A year later, the Supreme Court published guidelines requiring public school systems to integrate “with all deliberate speed.”

1. Prudent and responsible, if not courageous. Speaking of SCOTUS, newly confirmed Justice-in-Waiting Ketanji Brown Jackson sat for an interview by the Washington Post and was asked about the leak of Justice Alito’s draft opinion in the Dobbs abortion case. Conservative media was triggered by this section:

Q: What was your response when you when you saw the draft leak [of a Supreme Court opinion that would strike down Roe v. Wade]?

A: Everybody who is familiar with the court and the way in which it works was shocked by that. Such a departure from normal order.

Q: Do you think it was a good thing or a bad thing?

A: I can’t answer that.

Q: What do you think about peaceful protests outside of Supreme Court justices’ homes?

A: I don’t have any comment.

Charles Cooke at the National Review writes, “This ranges from somewhere between cowardly and sinister, much like the failure of the justices to issue a joint statement that echoes the chief justice’s condemnation of the leak and statement of determination to identify the leaker, and that condemns the protests, which violate federal law.”

Wrong. SCOTUS justices should not issue opinions on such matters. Her statement that the leak was a breach of the normal order was factual, and breaches of normal order in any institution are unethical. She was right to go no further. As for the demonstrators, some of them may be arrested at some point, and a statement by a Supreme Court Justice regarding their conduct could interfere with a fair trial.

Her responses give me more reason to trust Jackson’s judgment, not less.

Continue reading

This, Apparently, Is Ethical “Misinformation”…

The New York Time Book Review this week includes a review by novelist Mitchell S. Jackson of Elizabeth Alexander’s book “The Trayvon Generation.” I haven’t read the book itself, but it’s goals and orientation are clear from the review by Jackson. Jackson is, like Alexander, a Black Lives Matter and Critical Race Theory endorsing activist. If I were editing a book review supplement, I would think it mandatory to assign a reviewer to Alexander’s work who wasn’t so obviously predisposed to agree with her views and praise them, but that’s just not how the Times rolls these days. But this isn’t the point of my post.

This is: in the middle of his review, Alexander wrote—and the Times printed—

Never forget — on Feb. 26, 2012, a hella overzealous volunteer neighborhood watch captain named George Zimmerman stalked and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Never forget — on July 13, 2013, a jury acquitted Zimmerman, an egregious verdict that fomented the Black Lives Matter movement into being.

Continue reading

Rep. Cawthorne And The Cross-Dressing Future Congressman Principle Question

Yes, this is a funny controversy, but not entirely trivial. And you knew Ethics Alarms would be on it like hound on a hock of ham, because examining the Naked Teacher Principle [NTP]and its real or proposed extensions, sisters, cousins and aunts, have been a periodic obsession of both Ethics Alarms and its predecessor, The Ethics Scoreboard. Add to that the fact that that Madison Cawthorn (R-NC.), is both a Christian values-spouting politician and a mega-jerk, and the photo above, showing him cavorting in lingerie, cannot be ignored (or, once seen, unseen).

The Principle states that a secondary school teacher or administrator (or other role model for children) who allows pictures of himself or herself to be widely publicized, as on the web, showing the teacher naked or engaging in sexually provocative poses, cannot complain when he or she is dismissed by the school as a result.

It is important to remember that even the Naked Teacher Principle does not hold that teachers necessarily should be dismissed if old photos surface of them online that show more of them than parents and schools want students to see, but that it is their own carelessness that created their career crisis, and that the decision to dismiss them is ethically defensible. Most recent posts on the topic involve whether the NTP can be applied to other professions.The last time it was discussed, in 2012, involved a nurse who made money on the side by posing provocatively on a sexually themed website. The conclusion here was was that there was no “Naked Nurse Principle,” and that her firing was unjust.  The previous NTP-related post involved, almost a year before that one,  rebutting the argument that there are similar principles regarding police and firefighters. Some of the more interesting versions that have been explored on Ethics Alarms include The Female Bodybuilder Firefighter Principle, The Drag Queen Principal Principle, The Online Porn Star Teacher Principle, Naked Naval War College Professor Principle, and more.

So now we must ask, “Is there a Cross-Dressing Future Congressman Principle”? Continue reading

A “Nah, There’s No Mainstream Media Bias!” Pop Quiz (Don’t Worry, It’s Easy): What’s Unethical About This NYT Quote?

Here is a paragraph from yesterday’s news article by reporter Jonathan Weisman in the New York Times:

In Missouri, Georgia, Ohio and now Nebraska, Republican men running for high office face significant allegations of domestic violence, stalking, even sexual assault — accusations that once would have derailed any run for office. But in an era of Republican politics when Donald J. Trump could survive and thrive amid accusations of sexual assault, opposing candidates are finding little traction in dwelling on the issues…

Now think about that for 30 seconds. What’s missing? Cue the thinking music…

Ready? Got the answer? Continue reading

First Amendment Scholars Flunk An Integrity Test

Lawsuits have been brought in several state and federal courts accusing accuse Project Veritas, Fox News, The Gateway Pundit, One America News and other conservative news and commentary sources of intentionally making false claims of voter fraud after the 2020 election, harming innocent civil servants and businesses in the process. Apparently a lot of “legal scholars” who typically take the side of the news media in such cases, like Sarah Palin’s recent lawsuit against the New York Times which she lost last month, feel differently about these lawsuits. Many First Amendment lawyers are rooting for a finding of liability in the cases to make it possible to punish the intentional or extremely reckless dissemination of false information while protecting the press from lawsuits over inadvertent errors.

You see, false information disseminated by a conservative news source is intentional disinformation, while false information disseminated by a mainstream media news source is just an inadvertent error. Clear?

New York Times v. Sullivan established the “actual malice” standard for defamation, which requires that a suing public figure must prove a person or media outlet knew what it said was false or acted with “reckless disregard” for the high probability that it was wrong. The lawsuits against the conservative outlets argue that by uncritically presenting “disinformation” from guests (Like Sydney Powell, above) who questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 election, the news sources were endorsing defamation and became a malicious party to it. The Times writes,

Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Race-Based Job Interview Question

I think I know where I come out on this, but I may be wrong. Let’s see what you think…

Donna Johnston, a licensed social worker, said she was interviewing to teach sociology at Bridgewater State University in Connecticut last summer when she was asked by her interviewer to contemplate and defend her “white privilege” and told that “black students may not be able to relate” to her because of it. She took the questioning to mean that she had to defend being white, and alleges in a law suit that her “whiteness” cost her the job.

Johnston’s lawyer says that “If somebody had said to a black applicant, ‘let’s talk about your blackness, or how does your blackness affect something,’ there’d be outrage.” Yes, I think that’s a fair assumption. But the school claims, in its defense, that their questioning was appropriate as a way to give Johnston an “opportunity to show … how she would use her experience and teaching skills to overcome a common obstacle as a social worker and teacher.”

Continue reading

The Quest For The Perfect IIPTDXTTNMIAFB Continues, And Joe May Have Given Us A Winner!

The issue is mainstream news media double standards, which are unethical in general and especially revolting in the news media’s protective stance toward President Biden no matter how badly he screws up in contrast to its coverage of Donald Trump, who could literally do no right in their jaundiced eyes. Yesterday Biden handed the news media a flaming IIPTDXTTNMIAFB, the convenient Ethics Alarms initials for “Imagine if President Trump did X that the news media is accepting from Biden.”

One of the most damaging and despicable Big Lies pushed relentlessly by the “resistance”/Democratic Party/ MSM alliance from the moment Trump was elected in 2016 was that he was a racist. If you asked an adherent of this slander to name any evidence, the “best” they could come up with was inevitably that Trump had vocally embraced the Birther smear about Barack Obama. But this only stands as proof that Trump is an asshole and a troll, about which there has never been any doubt. He made similar claims about Ted Cruz in order to derail his efforts to beat Trump for the 2016 GOP nomination. Trump plays dirty against all rivals. He’s an equal opportunity jerk, but he’s not a racist (or a white supremacist, a related Big Lie).

But the idea of planting these idea was “priming”: make sure “Trump is a racist” is sitting around rotting in the brains of gullible Americans, and let confirmation bias do the rest. So imagine if Trump had ever looked out over a Fort Worth, Texas, crowd at a VA clinic, and, referring to three Texas members of Congress who looked like Rep. Colin Allred (D), Rep. Marc Veasey (D), and Rep. Jake Ellzey (R) (above) who were in attendance, said,

“The three congressman you have here, two of them look like they really could and did play ball, and the other one looks like he can bomb you.”

Continue reading

Still More Ukraine Invasion Ethics Points…Now With “The Trump Connection”!

1. How many times do I have to say that Twitter makes you stupid? Here’s a U.S. Senator publicly calling for the assassination of a foreign leader:

It is fine to think this or even to say it in private, as long as you are not Donald Trump and you know whoever you talk to will immediately leak it to the media. However, Executive Order 11905signed on February 18, 1976, by President Gerald Ford, banned political assassination.This EO was reinforced by Jimmy Carter’s Executive Order 12036 in 1978. It is still the law in the United States. Graham is a lawyer, and he knows that as a lawyer, it is an ethics breach to cause a third party to do what the lawyer cannot do himself.

Moreover, if such an act were to take place, Graham’s tweet would be justification for Russia to suspect, or even conclude, that the U.S. government was responsible. A foreign power assassinating or even attempting to assassinate a nation’s leader is an act of war.

2. Where’s Bandy Lee when you need her? It is unethical for a psychiatrist to diagnose anyone with mental illness without examining the patient in person. This is why the American Psychiatric Association’s  Principles of Medical Ethics state that its members should not give a professional opinions about public figures whom they have not examined in person, and from whom they have not obtained consent to discuss their mental health in public statements. Never mind: Bandy Lee of Yale, a Professor of Psychiatry, made a brief career out of breaking the rule regarding President Trump, because hating Trump suspends all ethical obligations and values. MSNBC and CNN flocked to her; eventually, Yale fired her. Now, if it was unethical for a psychiatrist to be diagnosing a political figure as mentally ill from afar, and it is, what is it called when a non-psychiatrist goes on Fox News and claims to be convinces that something has snapped in Vladimir Putin’s head? That what Condoleeza Rice has done twice already. Her opinion on the topic of Putin’s sanity is no more authoritative than that of anyone else who hasn’t spoken to Putin face to face in years. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/27/2022…”[#2]

Few read Ethics Alarms on weekends (I guess I should write, “even fewer”), and I may start Mondays with more comment highlights from the Dead Zone past. This weekend was unusually lively. This Comment of the Day by Null Pointer took off from item number #2 of yesterday’s warm-up, regarding the GOP’s Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Rep. Paul Gosar speaking at white nationalist event, in which I quoted The National Review’s David Harsanyi:

“ On social media, conservatives grouse that there’s a double standard. Democrats, they say, never condemn their extremists, they celebrate them. That’s a double standard worth living with. After all, any denunciation of Omar, Tlaib, or any other Squad member lacks credibility if House Republicans can’t publicly take the position that hanging out with (actual) white supremacists is deplorable.”

Here is Null Pointer’s Comment of the Day on “Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/27/2022…”:


White supremacy is bad. All forms of racial supremacy are bad. All forms of supremacy are bad.

Republicans need to jump on the “all forms of supremacy are bad” principle, hard. Otherwise you will see white supremacy taking off again.

No, you cannot have a double standard. If you have a double standard, you do not have a fair principle that addresses the problem equally across the entire spectrum of the problem. If you don’t have a fair principle, no one is going to listen to you. People will not agree to operate by unfair principles. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quote Of The Week: Naomi Wolf”

The caravan of protesting truckers is, we hear, now on the way to Washington, D.C., after thoroughly disrupting Calgary, Canada, and perceptions of Justin Trudeau as a relatively harmless boob. He is now being seen as a harmful boob. D.C., meanwhile, has established itself as a locale where disruptive and even violent protesters are honored by a giant painted endorsement on a public street by order of the mayor when their alleged cause is sufficiently “woke,” and violent protesters from the other side of the ideological spectrum are charged with felonies and held in prison for many months.

This should be interesting, in the old Chinese saying sense.

Here is Ethics Alarms veteran Glenn Logan’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Ethics Quote Of The Week: Naomi Wolf”


I think in the end, the best complaint available is the double-standards being applied. When protests are ostensibly in favor of a left-liberal position, they are protected speech no matter how much lawlessness is involved. That same protest involving the same level of lawlessness is considered worthy of an emergency act invocation if the protest is not favored by left-liberals.

I get your point about the trucks blocking traffic Jack, and I don’t disagree. I have always believed that interfering in lawful commerce is illegal (and tortious as well) and should be prosecuted both criminally and by civil action when it happens. The First Amendment, and whatever the Canadian equivalent is (however weakly codified) does not protect actions that interfere with lawful commerce or disturb the peace to the point of mischief. Continue reading