Tag Archives: Fifth Amendment

Comment Of The Day: “What Do You Get When You Add Anti-Gun Bias To Constitutional Ignorance To Anti-Trump Bias To Incompetent Journalism? THIS…”

Chris Marschner’s epic Comment of the Day arrived at 11:14 pm last night. My immediate reaction was that it validated all of the toil and time I have put into this blog since it was launched in 2009. I know I have indulged myself more than is professionally admirable of late, complaining about the traffic here, the lack of broader web circulation of essays that I believe are important and objectively superior to commentary elsewhere that routinely gets hundreds of thousands of clicks, likes and shares. In my lore rational moments I also know that, as Hymen Roth once pulled me aside and reminded me, “Jack, you idiot, this is the life you have chosen!” This is ethics. Most people don’t want to read about or think about ethics, and most people are bad at it and don’t want to get better. I make much of my living teaching ethics to lawyers who admit to me that if they didn’t have to get ethics credits to keep their licenses, they would rather be locked in a room with Slim Whitman recordings being blasted at them than sit through an ethics seminar.

Chris’s essay— “essay” doesn’t do it justice; perhaps “opus”–reminded me of what I set out to do here from the beginning, which was to create an online colloquy about applied ethics and ethics analysis, using events, issues, episodes and dilemmas from every aspect of our culture, national experience and daily life. As the 9th full year of Ethics Alarms begins, I can see that we have attracted, beyond the readership, which of course is hard to analyze, a remarkable, diverse, dedicated and passionate group of regular commentators whose output in the discussions and debates following the posts is the best it has ever been and getting better. I could not be more proud of that. I also complain about lost commenters, the many, many once regular and valued participants here who have fallen away, often without explanation. ( Spike Jones: Mary–“Bon soir, John. Prosit. Auf wiedersehen. Au revoir. Adios. Aloha.” John:  How do you like that? She didn’t even say ‘goodbye’! ) But this is the regular cycle of any blog; I know it. I just get attached to the faceless people I interact with daily, and take their exits personally, forgetting that lives and priorities change, and that I, too, am just a distant voice, who could, after all, be a dog.

I read many websites and blogs, and with the possible exception of the original Volokh Conspiracy before it moved to the Washington Post, no site’s comments approach the routine excellence I see here, in content, seriousness, and original thought. So you know just how excellent Chris’s comment is, when I say that it is among the very best that has been posted on Ethics Alarms.

Here is Chris Marschner’s Comment of the Day on the post,  What Do You Get When You Add Anti-Gun Bias To Constitutional Ignorance To Anti-Trump Bias To Incompetent Journalism? THIS…”

I suggest that you keep this link handy as you read it.

I wrote this for anyone willing to listen. Continue reading


Filed under Citizenship, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, History, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, U.S. Society

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/21/18: Good Bye Billy Graham, Wise Words From Mike Rowe, And Learning To Say No To Children…


1 Billy Graham has died. Graham is one of those towering figures who outlived his fame, and now most Americans neither remember nor understand what he was and what he did. I will be doing a thorough post on Graham and his cultural impact, I hope. (Note that I haven’t even finished the 2017 Ethics Alarms Awards posts.) Like most of you, I bet, I had forgotten that Billy Graham was still alive until an episode of “The Crown” on Netflix prompted me to check recently. In that episode, based on a real event, a troubled Queen Elizabeth was inspired by hearing Graham in one of his speaking tours in Great Britain, and invited him to Buckingham Palace to advise her.

It was not Graham’s fault that his remarkable and broad popularity sparked the deplorable TV evangelist fad that created mega-churches, Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart, Pat Robertson, The Moral Majority, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, Jessica Hahn, and other frauds and swine that made much of America cynical about all religion.  On Google, Graham’s photo is lumped in with many of these if you search for “evangelist.” He deserves better.  In the high-profile evangelical world, Billy Graham was, as one article put it today,“an exception – a leader who valued integrity over ego, a husband who lived in a full and thriving marriage, a man who offered not only words to learn by, but a life to admire.”

2. Updates:

  • By almost a 2-1 margin, readers voted that accusing Wes Anderson’s animated comedy “Isle of Dogs” of cultural appropriation was even stupider than Joan Walsh’s repeated use of the politically correct  and hilarious “strawpersons” on CNN. I thought it would be a lot closer.
  • Michael West gets his name on a Comment of the Day the very first time it appeared on an Ethics Alarms comment, with such a thorough examination of the rationalizations and logical fallacies exhibited in the Times op-ed defending the Nashville mayor’s unethical conduct that I won’t have to write one. I thank him, and Billy Graham thanks him. The Comment will be posted later today, but you can also read it here.
  • However,  if you haven’t gone through the exercise of reading Margaret Renkl unforgivable Times op-ed with the Ethics Alarms handy-dandy list of rationalizations by your side, you really should. Stupidly, I forgot that the Times is behind a paywall, frustrating many of you. I posted half the op-ed on the post last night. Posting the whole thing would have been unethical, but half, with a link, is fair use.

3. “Children’s Crusade” news and commentary

  • I almost made the Florida legislature an Ethics Hero for voting down an “assault weapons ban” with a throng of students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who had lobbied for te measure, in the chamber. I don’t have strong feelings about the measure one way or the other, but it is crucial that all lawmakers resist this organized effort at emotional blackmail. I don’t care what the kids are advocating. Parents spend years explaining to their children that they can’t go through life believing that demanding what they want is going to magically succeed, and now adults and the news media are telling adults that if these students shout, curse and cry enough, they should capitulate. Naturally, the news media tugged at our heartstrings by showing high school girls weeping after the vote. There’s no crying in politics, kids, and the most emotional advocates don’t always win, because, as Abe said, you can’t fool all the people all of the time.

Get serious, or get out.

If I were a legislator, I would announce that I would automatically vote against any measure where children are used as lobbyists, spokespersons, advocates, or props. Continue reading


Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Character, Childhood and children, Education, Ethics Heroes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Facebook, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Quotes, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, U.S. Society

Two Unethical And Unconstitutional Laws On Guns, One From The Right, One From the Left, Bite The Dust. Good.



As last year’s flat-out demagoguery about banning gun ownership for citizens placed on the FBI’s no-fly list proved, Democrats will never let the Constitution get in the way of an emotion-based attack on gun rights. A rule  implemented by former President Obama after the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting (“WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!!!”) would have required the Social Security Administration to report the records of some mentally ill beneficiaries to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Those who have been deemed mentally incapable of managing their financial affairs — roughly 75,000 people — would have then been prevented from owning guns.

The American Civil Liberties Union and advocates for the disabled opposed the restriction, which was so broadly drawn that an Asperger’s sufferer could have his Second amendment rights taken away. And what, exactly, is the link between not being able to handle one’s financial affairs and violence? Hell, I can barely handle my financial affairs.

By a 57-43 margin, the Republican-led Senate voted last week  to repeal the measure, and it now heads to the White House for President Trump’s signature.

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, a leading Republican critic of the rule, said that it was filled with “vague characteristics that do not fit into the federal mentally defective standard” that could legally prohibit someone from buying or owning a gun. “If a specific individual is likely to be violent due to the nature of their mental illness, then the government should have to prove it,” Grassley said

Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut where the Sandy Hook massacre occurred, and thus obligated to grandstand regardless of the fact that he’s on shaky 2nd Amendment, 5th  Amendment and also Equal Protection  ground, declaimed on the Senate floor,

“The [Congressional Review Act] we have before us today will make it harder for the federal government to do what we have told them to do for decades, which is to put dangerous people and people who are seriously mentally ill on the list of people who are prohibited from buying a gun….If you can’t manage your own financial affairs, how can we expect that you’re going to be a responsible steward of a dangerous, lethal firearm?”

Well, I guess nobody in Congress should own a gun either, right, Senator? Continue reading


Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Childhood and children, Citizenship, Ethics Train Wrecks, Facebook, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President, U.S. Society

Hillary Clinton: A Pre-Election Ethics Alarms Character and Trustworthiness Review: 2009-2016


The first Ethics Alarms post about Hillary Clinton ironically enough, in 2009, awarded her an Ethics Hero. (She has two.) “I know, I know. Truth and the Clintons have never been friends,” it began. And, looking back, it was a pretty generous award: all she did was describe how an ethical decision is made, and claimed that was how she decided to accept Obama’s invitation to be Secretary of State.  It didn’t prove she actually made the decision the way she said she did, and now, with the benefit of seven years’ hindsight, I think it’s likely that she was lying about it, as usual. Still, it proves that Hillary may know how to act ethically. This distinguishes her from Donald Trump.

Before heading to the voting booth, I decided to review all of the Ethics Alarms posts about Clinton. It is, I think it’s fair to say, horrifying. You can find them all here. 

There are unethical quotes of the week and month, Ethics Dunce designations, Jumbos, where Clinton denied what was in clear view to all, and KABOOMS, where the sheer audacity of her dishonesty (or that of her corrupted allies and supporters) made my skull explode skyward. If you have a recalcitrant Hillary enabler and rationalizer in your life, you should dare him or her to read this mass indictment—not that it will change a mind already warped, of course, but because the means of denying and spinning what they read will be instructive, confirming the symptoms of incurable Clinton Corruption.In July of 2015, I responded to complaints—including one from an ethics professor— that I was not objective regarding Mrs. Clinton, that I was picking on her. The response was a manifesto, stating my standards and objectives: Continue reading


Filed under Around the World, Character, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Quotes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Jumbo, Kaboom!, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership

Ethics Dunces (All-Star “Shut Up And Sing ” Edition): Cher, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Billy Joel, Paul McCartney, Jackson Browne,Nick Jonas, Sia, Zayn Malik, Barbra Streisand, Beck, Questlove, Pusha T, Ringo Starr, Sting, Ricky Martin, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Selena Gomez, Stevie Nicks, Michael Bublé, Melissa Etheridge, Trent Reznor, Kesha, Katy Perry, Tony Bennett, Yoko Ono…

Billborad letters

A couple hundred famous singers and musicians have banded together to sign a fatuous and misleading “open letter” to Congress dictating U.S. gun policy. The letter which is being used as a publicity gimmick by Billboard (and the stars, of course), reads:

As leading artists and executives in the music industry, we are adding our voices to the chorus of Americans demanding change. Music always has been celebrated communally, on dancefloors and at concert halls. But this life-affirming ritual, like so many other daily experiences—going to school or church or work—now is threatened, because of gun violence in this country. The one thing that connects the recent tragedies in Orlando is that it is far too easy for dangerous people to get their hands on guns.

We call on Congress to do more to prevent the gun violence that kills more than 90 Americans every day and injures hundreds more, including:

  • Require a background check for every gun sale
  • Block suspected terrorists from buying guns

Billboard and the undersigned implore you—the people who are elected to represent us—to close the deadly loopholes that put the lives of so many music fans, and all of us, at risk.

The letter is many things:

1. It is scaremongering nonsense. Gun deaths are way down, and the odds of any citizen being killed in a mass shooting is beyond minuscule. Based on 2015 statistics by the broadest definition, you have a 0.00000143% chance of getting killed in a mass shooting. These wealthy and privileged people, who often have bodyguards (with guns) have much less of a risk than that. Nothing is “now threatened.” We are safer from gun violence now than five years ago, ten years ago or 20 years ago. Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Marketing and Advertising, Professions, Rights

From The Man Who Would Be President, And Who Thinks That Rationalizations Are Cogent Arguments, A Perfect #22


Just two weeks ago, I breathlessly announced that Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, against all odds. had pulled into a lead over Donald Trump for the 2016 Unethical Rationalizations Championship by giving us a perfect #22, the worst rationalization of them all. That’s this one:

22. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.”

If “Everybody does it” is the Golden Rationalization, this is the bottom of the barrel. … It is true that for most ethical misconduct, there are indeed “worse things.” Lying to your boss in order to goof off at the golf course isn’t as bad as stealing a ham, and stealing a ham is nothing compared selling military secrets to North Korea. So what? We judge human conduct against ideals of good behavior that we aspire to, not by the bad behavior of others. One’s objective is to be the best human being that we can be, not to just avoid being the worst rotter anyone has ever met.

Behavior has to be assessed on its own terms, not according to some imaginary comparative scale. The fact that someone’s act is more or less ethical than yours has no effect on the ethical nature of your conduct. “There are worse things” is not an argument; it’s the desperate cry of someone who has run out of rationalizations.

Now, Donald Trump never runs out of rationalizations; as I wrote in the Albright post, “Trump is capable of hitting the entire list of rationalizations, all 68 of them (including the sub-rationalizations) given the opportunity.” He also rose to the challenge posed by Albright quickly, for he not only gave America a Full 22, he did so in the context of arguing for an unconstitutional government breach of First, Second, and Fifth Amendment rights on a massive scale! Bravo!

On Face the Nation  yesterday, talking about the Orlando shooting,  this idiot—sorry, sorry!—Mr. Trump said..

“Well I think profiling is something that we’re going to have to start thinking about as a country.Other countries do it, you look at Israel and you look at others, they do it and they do it successfully. [DINDINGDINGDINGDING! There are two more rationalizations right there:#1, Everybody Does It, and  #3, Consequentialism, or  “It Worked Out for the Best”! I mean,this guy is a rationalization machine! ] And I hate the concept of profiling but we have to start using common sense and we have to use our heads. It’s not the worst thing to do.” Continue reading


Filed under Character, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Religion and Philosophy, Rights

Unethical Quote Of The Week (And Nominated For Un-Self-Aware Quote Of The Year): Hillary Clinton


“If the FBI is watching you for suspected terrorist links, you shouldn’t be able to just go buy a gun.”

—–Hillary Clinton, forgetting all sorts of things in her speech in response to the Orlando massacre.

Cowabunga, Hillary!!! Do you think, while I am trying to explain why the only responsible course for an ethical citizen is to vote for a horrible candidate like  you in order to stop Donald Trump from becoming President Asshole, you might at least try not to make it harder by talking like an autocratic idiot yourself? Do you think you could do that, please?


Not for the first time, Hillary Clinton just made one of those boomerang assertions that applies to her as much as those she is supposedly criticizing. Her all-time classic, of course, was when she said that the victims of sexual abuse had the right to be believed (unless, of course, the sexual abuser is her husband and meal-ticket, in which case she personally will see that said victim is discredited and destroyed.)

Was the statement in her speech even worse? Hmmm, close one! Here is Hillary, herself under a criminal investigation by the FBI for violating a federal law or five and still running for President because, after all,  it’s just an investigation, and in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave one does not lose rights and privileges until one is actually convicted in a court of law. And yet here she is saying that an FBI investigation should suspend a Constitutional right.

Talk about throwing blood in the water. Talk about cynically appealing to low information voters. Talk about pandering. Talk about walking into a buzz-saw.

Talk about stupid…

I would not be the first to ask, fairly and accurately, if Hillary also believes that merely being investigated should suspend other rights, like the right to not to be subjected to unreasonable searches and seizures, the right to have a lawyer, the right not to have to incriminate oneself, and the right to free speech? Does she know that the right to purchase a gun is also as much of a right as any of these? Or is she really saying that she wants to eliminate that right?

Perhaps she was just speaking carelessly, irresponsibly and in vague generalities–like, oh, just to pick an example out of the air, Donald Trump.

You’re not making it easy for me, Hillary.

Not at all.


Filed under Character, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights