Tag Archives: due process

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.

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Ethics Hero: Justice Neil Gorsuch

The Supreme Court today struck down a law that allowed the government to deport legal immigrants who commit certain kinds of crimes, ruling that the law was unconstitutionally vague. The vote was 5 to 4, with Justice Neil Gorsuch voting with the court’s left-leaning block. The case was Sessions v. Dimaya, first argued in January 2017 before the  eight-member court left vulnerable to deadlocks by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. And a deadlock it was,  4 to 4. The case was reargued last October after Justice Gorsuch’s confirmation again gave the Court a full contingent of nine.

The dispute concerned James Dimaya, a native of the Philippines who became a lawful permanent resident in 1992, when he was 13. In 2007 and 2009, he was convicted of residential burglary. The government sought to deport him under a law that made “aggravated felonies,” which the immigration law defined to include any offense “that, by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense,” justification for deportation.

In concurring with the majority opinion, authored by Justice Elena Kagan, Justice Gorsuch wrote that the law violated due process requirements by being unconstitutionally vague. “Vague laws,” he wrote, “invite arbitrary power.”

The interest here at Ethics Alarms isn’t whether the decision was right or wrong. It is that Gorsuch decided the case on the law and his view of it, not partisan loyalties, not knee-jerk cant, and not as a cog in a ideological block. In other words, he did what  judges, and especially Supreme Court Justices, are supposed to do, but which the news media, politicians, activists and those who neither understand nor respect the law always assume they don’t do: analyze each case according to the law and the facts, and decide without being influenced by political agendas.

Judge Gorsuch’s vote demonstrates his integrity, and speaks for the integrity of the entire Court and the judicial system. There were countless articles, when Gorsuch was nominated by President Trump, that represented him as an automatic reflex vote for whatever future results conservatives lusted for. This was an insult to Gorsuch, judges, the Court, and the United States.

You can read Gorsuch’s opinion here. Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day, Rebuttal #1: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/4/2018:…A Presidential High Crime…”

Is Teddy looking down from Rough Rider Heaven and smiling at Trump’s Big Tweet?

Of course, I knew suggesting that President Trump’s deliberate attacks on Amazon via Twitter was an impeachable offense would set heads a-blowing. The resulting debate has been fascinating, with interesting historical parallels being proposed. This comment, by Chris Marschner, is the first of two erudite and well argued rebuttals.

Not to hold you in unnecessary suspense, I am not convinced or dissuaded. I do not see Teddy Roosevelt’s  policy-oriented attacks on the era’s monopolies, correctly leading a movement to reform an area of widespread capitalist abuses that eventually were agreed to be criminal, with Trump’s tweeting crudely phrased animus to the public. Nor do I find Obama’s general criticism of big money lobbying efforts by energy interests in general and the Kochs in particular at the same level of abuse of power as Trump taking aim at the owner of the Washington Post,

I am a lifetime fan of Teddy, but he crossed many lines, and could have been legitimately impeached himself. As I have stated before in multiple posts, the power of the Presidency is too great to be abused with casual wielding against individuals and named businesses. As always, there are exceptions.  I’ll concede that taking on the robber barons and the monopolists in the early 20th Century can be fairly designated as one.  Chris seems to feel that there is a close parallel in Amazon’s growing power, but that’s not the case the President chose to make, instead focusing on a deal Amazon forged with the Postal Service, as much to keep the latter in business as to benefit Amazon.

Basic lessons in POTUS leadership: if you are going to cross lines of appropriate uses of  power, 1) You better be right and 2) Be Presidential about it.

Other examples, like Obama designating Massey Energy as responsible for the Upper Big Branch mining disaster before the investigation was complete, can not be so easily excused, but can be fairly labelled a mistake. (Obama made many, too many, such mistakes.) Trump’s attack on Amazon is neither as limited as Obama’s mistake, not as carefully considered and justifiable as Roosevelt’s trust-busting. I would like to see future Presidents restrained from abusing power in this way, even if it takes a trail before the Senate to do it. If we don’t restrain it, we will be sorry.

But the other side has some good arguments: by all means, read them.

Here is Chris Marschner’s Comment of the Day on the #2 in “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/4/2018: Baseball Lies, A Presidential High Crime, And A Judge Makes A Panty Raid”:

I would like to point you to this in 2015:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2015/08/26/war-words-obama-v-koch-brothers/32423959/

“When you start seeing massive lobbying efforts backed by fossil fuel interests, or conservative think tanks, or the Koch brothers pushing for new laws to roll back renewable energy standards or prevent new clean energy businesses from succeeding, that’s a problem,” Obama said at the summit. “That’s not the American way.”

“Josh Earnest said the exchange illustrates the kind of president Obama set out to be.”

“This is exactly why the president ran for office, it’s why he ran for this office, is that for too long, we saw the oil and gas industry exert significant pressure on politicians in Washington, D.C.,” he said. And when Obama fights that influence, “the special interests, including the millionaires and billionaires that have benefited from that paralysis, start to squeal. And I guess in this case, at least one billionaire special interest benefactor chose to squeal to a Politico reporter.”

This type of rhetoric does not include Obama officials publicly stating (incorrectly and improperly) that one of the Koch brothers paid no income taxes. (http://freebeacon.com/politics/hazy-memories/)

Is it only an abuse of power when referencing specific individuals? Does it matter if you say the 1% don’t pay their fair share or is it an abuse of power only if you identify them by name?

I will concur with the Koch brothers that it is beneath the dignity of the president to go after a specific individual, but to suggest that it amounts to even a misdemeanor abuse of power is a stretch. If calling out a specific firm is an impeachable offense then why was there no call to impeach Obama when he routinely criticized and mocked Koch Industries, Fox News and others that did not line up with full throated support of his agenda.

But , Obama was not the first to chastise “punch down” on a business person. Who can forget the trust buster himself Teddy Roosevelt. JP Morgan was singled out for bad behavior. Continue reading

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#MeToo Ethics Fiasco In Colorado: The Vengeful Frankened Democrat

That’s Steve on the left, Faith on the right…

Colorado legislators last week voted overwhelmingly to kick out State Representative Steve Lebsock, a Democrat, after five women had accused him of eleven total instances of sexual harassment. To say Lebsock did not go gentle into that good night is an understatement.

One of the accusers was a colleague and fellow Democrat, Rep. Faith Winter, who claimed that Lebsock “acted aggressively” toward her when she turned down his sexual advances during an end-of-session party in 2016. She claimed that he grabbed her elbow, causing her to feel threatened. Lebsock denies the allegations of all of the women, and claimed that he was being railroaded out of his seat to help his accuser, Winter, win a state Senate seat in November. So vigorous was Lebsock in his defiance that two other Democrats, Assistant House Majority Leader Rep. Alec Garnett and Rep. Matt Gray, announced in speeches that they had been wearing bulletproof vests in the chamber for weeks in response to his threats.

No, Steve Lebsock didn’t order a hit. He was more creative. To enact his revenge on his party for making him Colorado’s Al Franken, he formally switched his party registration from Democrat to Republican just minutes before the state House expelled him. As a result, Republicans, rather than Lebsock’s original party, get to fill the vacancy left by Lebsock’s expulsion.

Of course, nothing says that the Colorado GOP couldn’t treat this technical maneuver as the petty payback it is, and in the interests of comity and fairness, let Democrats choose who will fill Lebsock’s seat by allowing Democratic governor John Hickenlooper to appoint his replacement.  Nah!  Colorado Republican Party Chairman Jeff Hays said a vacancy committee would meet later this month to pick Lebsock’s replacement, saying,

“Statute clearly assigns our vacancy committee the authority and responsibility to fill this seat. After careful consideration, we concluded it would be dereliction of duty to punt the appointment to Gov. John Hickenlooper. We owe it to the people of House District 34 to give them the experience of ethical representation, which the Democrats, when they controlled the seat, signally failed to provide.”

The rationalization for this argument is that the Democrats had known about Lebsock’s harassing conduct all along, and covered it up before the #MeToo fervor struck. Of course, if the Democrats knew, it’s likely that his Republican colleagues knew as well. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/9/18: Update On A Jerk, Deceptive Recycling, A Movement Becomes A Club, And The Future Is Abused

Good Morning!

1 Good! Billy Williams, that Derry, N.H. Used Apple Store owner who announced that Republicans weren’t welcome in his store, was evicted from his space. For weeks, a sign in the window has said that the store would re-open after renovations, which Williams’ former landlord says is not true. Williams rented the commercial space for $2,000 per month and owed $15,110 after neglecting to pay rent for seven months.

Williams, you will recall, said that he infallibly could recognize Republicans. His Facebook post announcing the GOP ban described members of the political party as “almost evil, and to be honest, usually evil.” [Pointer: Arthur in Maine]

2. Recycling Deceit: In Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, I was intrigued yesterday by the cylindrical re-cycling receptacles that had two deposit holes, a circular one on one side, into which we were told to put cans and bottles, and a long rectangular slot on the other side, for newspapers and other paper refuse.  I lifted off the top: sure enough, everything went into the same place, newspaper and cans alike. I don’t know what the term is for gratuitously demanding that the public do something pointless and trivial just to exert power, but this was it.

3. The problem with #MeToo. Commenting on yesterdays Comment of the Day, in which Carcarwhite wrote, while criticizing the #MeToo movement,

“I was kissed by Eddie Van Halen back stage in the 80’s, on the lips, a few times. He was tipsy and happy and took a selfie of us before seflies were selfies, and I’ve actually had friends on the Left tell me I should my story publicly. And they say I am ENABLING THIS BEHAVIOR by not going forward”

Commenting, Still Spartan said in part, “What you described is NOT “Me Too.” Just because some people take it too far, does not mean that it is not legitimate. Please take it from someone who had to leave a job and have her career derailed for multiple years because of this crap. It happens, and it happens every damn day.” Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “NOW Monica Lewinsky Says She Was Abused And Sexually Harassed”

[I’m in an Atlanta hotel, waiting for breakfast and needing to re-arrange my notes for a legal ethics and technology seminar later this morning. No time before the knock on the door to get the Warm-up going, but at least I can add one of the several Comments of the Day stuck on the runway, just like my plane was last night in D.C….]

Carcarwhite takes another step in our ongoing exploration of the confusing “it’s sexual harassment if the woman doesn’t like the unrequested sexual advance, it’s not if she does,but if she changes her mind over tbe next several decades or so she can rewrite history and maybe wreck a career or reputation” standard that has been on vivid display since the unveiling of The Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck.

Here is her Comment of the Day on the post, NOW Monica Lewinsky Says She Was Abused And Sexually Harassed:

I’m horrified at many of my gender who are crying for equal rights and then act like little whiny babies.

We want equality but we can’t pay 15 a month for our own birth control. We want equal this and equal that then we use (some of us) the flavor of the week to plead our victim case. Hurting our fellow citizens male and female because of this.

I was kissed by Eddie Van Halen back stage in the 80’s, on the lips, a few times. He was tipsy and happy and took a selfie of us before seflies were selfies, and I’ve actually had friends on the Left tell me I should my story publicly.  And they say I am ENABLING THIS BEHAVIOR by not going forward! This is laughable. Continue reading

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NOW Monica Lewinsky Says She Was Abused And Sexually Harassed

 

I called it!

Remember in December when I had this exchange on NPR during a panel about sexual harassment and political figures in the early states of #MeToo?

ME : A hostile work environment means that the recipient of this has to feel hostility. They don’t like it. So, for example, if somebody – I have a hypothetical that I’m sure has happened, where someone is grabbed by Donald Trump back when he’s a celebrity, and she comes home. And she’s kissed, and she tells her roommate, “That was cool! Donald Trump kissed me.” And then when everybody she knows detests Donald Trump, she suddenly says …”I was harassed.”

BUTLER: COME ON!

HOST MICHEL MARTIN: OK. Yeah, I think we’re going to go to a different…All right. All right, Jack, you’ve had your say on that. And I think there are a lot of people who would want to argue with – I’m going to let Paul speak his piece on this. What do you say to that?

But the professor didn’t go beyond his interjected cheap shot, and went on to his own agenda, leaving the impression that my exposition on the strangeness of sexual harassment law was off-the-wall. It wasn’t, though. I was 100% correct, and NPR listeners, thanks to a grandstanding law professor whom I suspect wasn’t up on sexual harassment (he’s a criminal law professor who concentrates on race issues), were left less-informed than when they tuned in.

My point was and is valid: nothing stops an object of sexual attention in questionable propriety and taste from treating it as welcome at the time, then choosing, months, years or decades later, when there are non-ethical motivations to vilify or harm her one-time suitor, to withdraw her consent and “welcome,” and claim, retroactively, that she was harassed and abused.

This is exactly what Monica Lewinsky has done. Continue reading

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