Tag Archives: First Amendment

From The Ethics Alarms Mail Bag: “Does It Matter If A Lawyer Is A Neo-Nazi?”

"Anyone who would hire this lawyer is evil! EVIL!!!"

“Anyone who would hire this lawyer is evil! EVIL!!!”

“…What if he’s hired for a government job?”

This is a great question, and I’m going to bedevil the lawyers in my upcoming ethics seminars with it. It’s not a hard question, though.

The answer is, “No, it doesn’t matter, just as it doesn’t matter if the lawyer is a Republican, a vegan, a libertarian, a creationist, a global warming denier, an Adam Sandler fan, a Donald Trump loyalist, a Muslim, an ISIS sympathizer, a Druid, a Celine Dion worshiper, a New York Yankee fan or anything else. Lawyers have First Amendment rights. Lawyers can think what they want to, believe what they want to, donate where they want to and spout whatever unpopular or offensive opinions they want to, as long as it doesn’t interfere with their representation of their clients.

What prompted the question was this post on the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) website, which attempts to use guilt by association and classic McCarthyism tactics to smear the City of Baltimore because of what the lawyer defending it in a law suit believes. The SPLC—which itself often resembles a hate group–writes, Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Citizenship, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Rights

Wow: A Whole Unethical TOWN!

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In Somers, Iowa, Homer Martz  flew his  U.S. flag upside down  to protest the future placement of an oil pipeline near his home.  He has been charged with desecrating Old Glory under Iowa code 718A , which makes it a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail  to “publicly mutilate, deface, defile or defy, trample upon, cast contempt upon, satirize, deride or burlesque, either by words or act, such flag, standard, color, ensign, shield, or other insignia of the United States, or flag, ensign, great seal, or other insignia of this state…”

The law, however, is unconstitutional. So said an  Iowa Federal District Court judge in 2004, when he ruled Iowa’s flag desecration laws violated the First Amendment. Martz, a U.S. Army veteran, has told anyone who will listen that the Supreme Court has ruled citizens can burn the American flag, so presumably flying it Bizarro World-style is also okay. He’s right, too. In 1989, the Supreme Court ruled in Texas v. Johnson491 U.S. 397 (1989), that prohibitions on desecrating the American flag were unconstitutional.. It reaffirmed the holding in  1990.

Writes an exasperated Jonathan Turley, a Constitutional law expert,  “The town of Somers appears to lack a single lawyer — or a telephone number for a single lawyer — to explain free speech protections to them.”

Is it too much to expect a municipality to absorb a First Amendment right that was settled almost a quarter century ago, and not persecute a veteran for exercising the rights he served to protect and preserve?

Apparently. They could google flag burning and learn that this law is void. Such incompetence in government, at any level, is unconscionable.

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Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Dunces, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights

Spectacularly Incompetent Candidate Of The Month: Paul Ryan Challenger Paul Nehlen

"This is Paul. Won't you help him? Paul, like millions of other victims across the land, suffers from Constitution Ignorance Syndrome. This dread malady causes its victims to advocate fascist  policies and to sound like idiots in their public statements. But there is hope for Paul, and those like him. Please give, and give generously, To "Educate Paul." a non-profit charity. Your gift is tax-deductible, and you will have made the United States a little less stupid with every penny you contribute to this vital cause."

“This is Paul. Won’t you help him? Paul, like millions of other victims across the land, suffers from Constitution Ignorance Syndrome. This dread malady causes its victims to advocate fascist policies and to sound like idiots in their public statements. But there is hope for Paul, and those like him. Please give, and give generously, To Educate Paul a non-profit charity. Your gift is tax-deductible, and you will have made the United States a little less stupid with every penny you contribute to this vital cause.”

This was the guy that Donald Trump was supposedly going to endorse as retribution for Speaker Ryan’s negative comments? It’s comforting, isn’t it, that Trump isn’t that irrational? Ann Coulter is, but Trump isn’t. (At least in this case.)

Paul Nehlen is the arch conservative and certifiable ignoramus who is challenging House Speaker Paul Ryan in Wisconsin’s First Congressional District’s Republican primary. Interviewed last week on “Chicago’s Morning Answer,” Nehlen said that he wonders why we have any Muslims in the country, and suggested that there should be a public debate about tossing Muslims out of the U.S.

Here’s a partial transcript of the relevant comments Nehlen made to hosts Amy Jacobson and Dan Croft: Continue reading

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Observations On The Gadsden Flag Controversy

Gadsden Flag

On the Volokh Conspiracy, now featured on the Washington Post website, Prof. Volokh applies his First Amendment expertise to a recent EEOC decision which ruled that a complaint from an African-American that a fellow worker who repeatedly wore a cap with the famous “Don’t Tread On Me” insignia from the Gadsden flag may have created a hostile work environment at the federal agency both worked for. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission called for further investigation, including an interview of the cap-owner’s intention in wearing the symbol, concluding,

“In light of the ambiguity in the current meaning of this symbol, we find that Complainant’s claim must be investigated to determine the specific context in which C1 displayed the symbol in the workplace. In so finding, we are not prejudging the merits of Complainant’s complaint. Instead, we are precluding a procedural dismissal that would deprive us of evidence that would illuminate the meaning conveyed by C1’s display of the symbol.”

Observations:

1. Now this is the slippery slope. Because murderous racist Dylan Roof posed with the Confederate flag, a tipping point was reached that resulted in the symbol and the flag being effectively and in some respects officially banned. The EEOC had already ruled the wearing a Confederate flag T-shirt constituted racial harassment,. Now the banning of historically significant symbols is threatening to spread to a flag that had no relationship to race whatsoever, in large part because of who has chosen to display it.

2. There is a whole website devoted to the Gadsden flag, from which we learn that…

  • It first appeared in October of 1775, as the British were occupying Boston and the desperate Continental Army was dug in in nearby Cambridge, lacking sufficient arms and ammunition.  In October, a merchant ship returning to Philadelphia from a voyage to England brought private letters to the Second Continental Congress informing it that  England was sending two cargo ships to America loaded with arms and gunpowder for the British troops.
  • Congress decided Washington’s troops’ plight required that those ships and their cargo be captured. It authorized the creation of a Continental Navy, then only four vessels, to take the ships. Congress also authorized the mustering of five companies of Marines. Some of the Marines enlisting that month in Philadelphia carried drums painted yellow, emblazoned with a  rattlesnake with thirteen rattles, coiled and ready to strike, accompanied by the motto “Don’t Tread on Me.”
  • That same December, a citizen calling himself  “An American Guesser,” anonymously wrote to the Pennsylvania Journal, saying in part:

“I observed on one of the drums belonging to the marines now raising, there was painted a Rattle-Snake, with this modest motto under it, ‘Don’t tread on me.’ As I know it is the custom to have some device on the arms of every country, I supposed this may have been intended for the arms of America…the Rattle-Snake is found in no other quarter of the world besides America….She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders: She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage. … she never wounds ’till she has generously given notice, even to her enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of treading on her..

I confess I was wholly at a loss what to make of the rattles, ’till I went back and counted them and found them just thirteen, exactly the number of the Colonies united in America; and I recollected too that this was the only part of the Snake which increased in numbers. …Tis curious and amazing to observe how distinct and independent of each other the rattles of this animal are, and yet how firmly they are united together, so as never to be separated but by breaking them to pieces. One of those rattles singly, is incapable of producing sound, but the ringing of thirteen together, is sufficient to alarm the boldest man living.”

It is generally agreed that the writer was really Benjamin Franklin. Ben had a hand in the design of the flag, since the first use of a rattlesnake to represent the colonies was his own “Join or die” cartoon,

800px-Benjamin_Franklin_-_Join_or_Die

…published years earlier. Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, History, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, Rights, This Will Help Elect Donald Trump, U.S. Society, Workplace

Ethics Hero (And Author Of Perhaps The Best Facebook Post Ever): Palm Beach Florida African-American Police Officer Jay Stalien

Jay Stalien

When I read published quotes from police officer Jay Stalien’s Facebook page post, now deservedly in the process of going viral, my immediate reaction was that it was a hoax, a measured and well-researched explanation of the racial unrest surrounding police shootings and the Black Lives Matter movement written by a professional pundit  and placed in the metaphorical mouth of a black police officer to give it added power and credibility. It was, in short, too good to be true.

It is true, however, as well as good. To be presented at this time is an act of courage and civic responsibility by Stalien, and his effort redeems the existence of Facebook and social media, not to mention the internet, as few posts have. In the past, someone like Stalien would have to submit a column to a newspaper editor, and agree to cuts and edits that reduced its effectiveness, if his important observations were to have any impact beyond his living room or workplace. Now he can publish himself. The First Amendment has seldom been better served.

The post is very long, but you should read it all, here.  I will only point out some highlights.

He begins, in part…

The following may be a shock to some coming from an African American, but the mere fact that it may be shocking to some is prima facie evidence of the sad state of affairs that we are in as Humans.

I used to be so torn inside growing up. Here I am, a young African-American born and raised in Brooklyn, NY wanting to be a cop. I watched and lived through the crime that took place in the hood. My own black people killing others over nothing….I used to be woken up in the middle of the night by the sound of gun fire, only to look outside and see that it was 2 African Americans shooting at each other.

It never sat right with me. I wanted to help my community and stop watching the blood of African Americans spilled on the street at the hands of a fellow black man. I became a cop because black lives in my community, along with ALL lives, mattered to me, and wanted to help stop the bloodshed.

As time went by in my law enforcement career, I quickly began to realize something. I remember the countless times I stood 2 inches from a young black man, around my age, laying on his back, gasping for air as blood filled his lungs. I remember them bleeding profusely with the unforgettable smell of deoxygenated dark red blood in the air, as it leaked from the bullet holes in his body on to the hot sidewalk on a summer day. I remember the countless family members who attacked me, spit on me, cursed me out, as I put up crime scene tape to cordon off the crime scene, yelling and screaming out of pain and anger at the sight of their loved ones taking their last breath. I never took it personally, I knew they were hurting. I remember the countless times I had to order new uniforms, because the ones I had on, were bloody from the blood of another black victim…of black on black crime. I remember the countless times I got back in my patrol car, distraught after having watched another black male die in front me, having to start my preliminary report something like this:

Suspect- Black/ Male, Victim-Black /Male.

Then Officer Stalien, in the same powerful style, proceeds to answer typical complaints from the black community by presenting  “FACTS” that too many African-Americans, elected officials, journalists and partisans refuse to believe, accept, or comprehend: Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Facebook, Law & Law Enforcement, Public Service, Race, U.S. Society

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

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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

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

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“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?

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.

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