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

Ethics Quiz: Income-Based Legal Penalties

In an op-ed in the Times,  lawyer Alec Schierenbeck argues for “progressive fines”:

“For a justice system committed to treating like offenders alike, scaling fines to income is a matter of basic fairness. Making everyone pay the same sticker price is evenhanded on the surface, but only if you ignore the consequences of a fine on the life of the person paying. The flat fine threatens poor people with financial ruin while letting rich people break the law without meaningful repercussions. Equity requires punishment that is equally felt.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is..

Do you agree that “progressive fines” are a more ethical policy than having the same fines for the same violation, regardless of the offender?

Continue reading

Unethical Op-Ed Of The Month, Or Maybe All Time: Theodore R. Johnson In The Washington Post

Well, at least that would explain it...

Well, at least that would explain it…

The essay is titled, “We used to count black Americans as 3/5 of a person. For reparations, give them 5/3 of a vote.” Yes, it’s serious. There is so much wrong with it logically, ethically, historically, legally, and Constitutionally, that it would take more words, time and effort to fully rebut all the nonsense in the article than this oddity is worth. Go ahead, read it. If your first reaction is, “Hey! What a brilliant idea!,” it’s time to seek professional help, and I don’t care what color you are.

Rather than give this perverted, anti-democratic fantasy the dignity of a rebuttal, I’ll just offer a few observations: Continue reading

Governor Cuomo’s Selective Anti-Gun Fervor: And This Is Why So Many Americans Have No Respect for Laws Or Lawmakers

Guns are a public menace! We must not permit lawless, reckless gun possession! Unless its a member of my staff, of course, in which case, meh, no biggie.

“Guns are a public menace! We must not permit lawless, reckless gun possession! Unless it’s a member of my staff, of course, in which case, meh, no biggie.”

[UPDATE: Jerome Hauer disputes some of the reported facts in this post. I have yet to find any sources that have different facts, but I will revisit both the story and my conclusions, and make appropriate revisions, retractions, or clarifications if and when warranted. You will find Mr. Hauer’s comment, and my reply to him, below.]

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been the source of some of the most excessive anti-gun rants making up the sorry legacy of the Post Sandy Hook Ethics Train Wreck. It was a year ago that a unveiled a package of strict gun restrictions, saying that with “the senseless massacre in Newtown, Connecticut… New York must say enough is enough to gun violence.” Oh, Gov. Cuomo hates guns, believe you me.

So what do you think happened when it was revealed that Jerome Hauer, Cuomo’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner appointed in 2011, had not only been carrying a handgun to work ever since, but also, incredibly, took out the gun and used the laser sighting device attached to the barrel as a pointer in a presentation to a Swedish delegation on Oct. 24? Hauer was not only breaking the Cuomo-backed law barring state employees from packing a weapon at their workplace, but also was modeling the kind of ignorant and dangerous firearm misuse that undermines any claim that he was a safe, responsible, well-trained gun owner.

What happened appears to be this: as soon as the Governor got word that Hauer’s illegal and reckless conduct was about to be revealed in the press, the Homeland Security chief received a quick waiver from New York’s Office of General Services Commissioner RoAnn Destito. The waiver, of course, could not make his prior conduct legal. Continue reading

Ethical Quote Of The Month: Justice Richard Bossun of The New Mexico Supreme Court

First-Amendment-on-scroll1

[The quote that follows is from the concurring opinion in the just-decided case of  Elaine Photography v. Willock, which challenged the proposition, discussed and endorsed on Ethics Alarms in several posts, that a business could not and ethically should not refuse service to same-sex couples.]

“On a larger scale, this case provokes reflection on what this nation is all about, its promise of fairness, liberty, equality of opportunity, and justice. At its heart, this case teaches that at some point in our lives all of us must compromise, if only a little, to accommodate the contrasting values of others. A multicultural, pluralistic society, one of our nation’s strengths, demands no less. The Huguenins are free to think, to say, to believe, as they wish; they may pray to the God of their choice and follow those commandments in their personal lives wherever they lead. The Constitution protects the Huguenins in that respect and much more. But there is a price, one that we all have to pay somewhere in our civic life.

“In the smaller, more focused world of the marketplace, of commerce, of public accommodation, the Huguenins have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different. That compromise is part of the glue that holds us together as a nation, the tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us as a people. That sense of respect we owe others, whether or not we believe as they do, illuminates this country, setting it apart from the discord that afflicts much of the rest of the world.”

——- New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Bossun, concurring with opinion in Elaine Photography v. Willock, which rejected the claim that legally requiring a photography shop to take photographs of a same-sex marriage was a violation of the First Amendment.

You can read the Volokh Conspiracy take on the case here, and here; Ken White has his usual trenchant observations at Popehat.

From an ethics perspective, however, Justice Bossuns’s words need no enhancement. I could not agree more, nor say it better.

______________________________

Graphic: Illinois Family

 

Comment of The Day: The Same-Sex Marriage Wars

supreme-court-gay-marriage-demonstration

The Inquiring Mind left a plaintive and provocative comment on an earlier post regarding the gay marriage controversy, now once again above the fold, and it was apparently swallowed by my spam file. I haven’t see much of an uptick in Ethics Alarms comments lately (and tgt is on semi-hiatus), but the spam has gotten out of control: apparently this post was deleted, even though I try to check the spam comments (about 500 a day now) to make sure legitimate ones don’t get thrown out with the bath water. I apologize to IM, and am posting the recovered comment partially in compensation, and also because he expresses a sentiment that I have heard and read from others.

I’ll be back at the end; in the meantime, here is Inquiring Mind’s Comment of the Day regarding the tactics of gay marriage advocates:

“Jack, since the aftermath of Prop 8, I have always wondered – is the thuggery/coercion and thought control a “bug” associated with the push for gay marriage, or is it a “feature” that comes with the enactment of gay marriage?

“I just want to review the conduct of gay-marriage supporters: Continue reading

It’s Official: “Gore and the Masseuse” Is An Ethics Train Wreck

Ethics train wrecks, and readers of Ethics Alarms and the Ethics Scoreboard know, are controversies of escalating publicity and complexity in which so many participants engage in bad decisions and unethical conduct that it is difficult to extract any lessons or conclusions from the chaos and rubble.

“The Tale of Al Gore and the Masseuse” began last week as an inexplicably late revelation of a 2006 accusation of alleged sexual assault by Gore on a woman in his Portland hotel room. Initially, it was only unfair and unsubstantiated fodder for Gore’s enemies in the media to ridicule him and assail his character with innuendo. With the revelation, however, that the Portland police decided to re-open an investigation of the matter and the department’s admission of why that the masseuse’s complaint did not warrant a charge when it was finally made in January 2009, the incident can be officially upgraded (downgraded?) to the Ethics Train Wreck status. Continue reading