From Idaho, Common Sense Measures Regarding Transgender Competitors In Women’s Sports

Naturally, the common sense measures are being condemned as bigoted and unethical.

Idaho is now Ground Zero in the controversy over the ethical and equitable treatment of transgender individuals. In addition to the newly passed and signed Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, which bans biologically male transgender athletes from competing in women’s sports events,  Idaho Governor Brad Little (a Republican, of course) signed a bill making it more difficult to change the sex designation on a birth certificate.

Ethics Alarms has discussed the transgender/women’s sports controversy in many posts. It’s admittedly a difficult ethics conflict that has played out in many strange ways across the country, including a female high school wrestler transitioning to male being forced to compete against females, and many instances of formerly male athletes competing as women crushing their double-X opposition while giving us photographs like this:

Female athletes who have protested the unfairness of this development, like Martina Navratalova, have been attacked as bigots, while some feminists have predicted that allowing trans athletes to continue to take advantage of their passing through puberty as males will destroy women’s sports, negating the salutary effects of Title IX, the law that made gender discrimination in sports illegal.  Idaho state Rep. Barbara Ehardt , who played basketball at Idaho State University and later coached Division I women’s teams, led the way in pushing the legislation through to law. “If I had had to compete against biological boys and men, I don’t think I would have had the opportunity to play,” she told reporters. “Honestly, I know firsthand that we simply can’t compete against the inherent physiological and scientifically proven advantages that boys and men possess. We simply can’t do it, regardless of any hormone usage.”

Intersex competitors, like Caster Semenya, pose a different ethical problem. Continue reading

A Bad Week For Puppies, Students, Human Beings…And Turtles.

“Mmmmm…puppies…”

Robert Crosland, a popular veteran science teacher at Preston Junior High School in Idaho, apparently fed a puppy to a snapping turtle in front of students after school last week. Apparently the puppy was infirm and not expected to live, justifying his conversion into Turtle Chow in the teacher’s view.

Crosland has not been criminally charged or placed on leave—yet—but the school is still investigating and considering its options, as is the Franklin County prosecutor.

Interviewed  students said Crosland is a well-liked, “cool” teacher at the school who kept snakes and other reptiles in tanks in his classroom, and had fed guinea pigs to snakes and snapping turtles in past classes. School officials describe him as a passionate, dedicated, gifted teacher. On the other side, Jill Parrish, an animal activist who filed a police report in connection with the alleged feeding, called Crosland’s actions  “sick” and “disgusting.”

“Allowing children to watch an innocent baby puppy scream because it is being fed to an animal … that is violence,” Parrish said. “That is not okay.”

While trying to sort all this out, officials took action: they killed the snapping turtle. Continue reading

From The “When Ethics Alarms Don’t Ring” Files: The Non-Sexual Coat-Hanger Rape

coat-hanger

What’s going on here? We may not  know enough to be sure, but one thing is certain: Deputy Attorney General Casey Hammer’s brain and mouth are not connected to his ethics alarms. Maybe the whole Idaho Attorney General’s office has the same problem.

In 2015, charges were brought against  three white Dietrich, Idaho high school football players alleging that they attacked and sexually assaulted a black, mentally disabled teammate. John R.K. Howard, then 18, was charged as an adult and accused of thrusting a coat-hanger into the anus of the boy while the others held him.

Now 19,  Howard was allowed last week to avoid jail time in exchange for an Alford plea, a device allowed in some states, in which he acknowledges that he would have likely been found guilty in trial but doesn’t admit his guilt.  He pleaded to a single felony count of injury to a child, for which he will be sentenced to only two to three years of probation and 300 hours of community service. In my state, serious traffic violations can get harsher punishment than that.

Deputy Attorney General Casey Hammer “explained” that while Howard’s behavior was “egregious” and caused the victim “a lot of suffering,” it was not a really a sex crime, and so his office agreed to dropping the charge to the lesser felony. This means that in Idaho, apparently, kicking a hanger into a male victim’s rectum doesn’t qualify as rape. I wonder if any object being kicked into someone’s rectum is similarly immune from the charge. Would someone who kicked a hanger into a woman’s vagina be called rape? How about if the assailant was black and the victim was white?

Incredibly, Hemmer’s commentary got worse. “We don’t believe it’s appropriate for Mr. Howard to suffer the consequences of a sex offender,” Hemmer said. “But he still needs to be held accountable.”

Heaven forbid that that a student who does this to a disabled team mate while he is being held by two other students should suffer. We can’t have that.

Continue reading

Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: Idaho State Representative Pete Nielsen (R-Mountain Home)

Now, do I think Pete doesn't look too bright only because I know he isn't too bright? I think so...

Now, do I think Pete doesn’t look too bright only because I know he isn’t too bright? I think so…

There are two reasons to deride Rep. Nielsen. First, by his own words he is marked as an idiot unworthy not only off high office but of public trust, and second, he either has  been paying no attention to epic, infamous, well-publicized catastrophes in his own party, or doesn’t have a brain pan of sufficient depth to comprehend them.

Surely you remember Todd Akin, the Missouri GOP Senate candidate in 2012, who blew his party’s chances of taking a eminently winnable seat from the horrible Claire McCaskill by uttering this nonsense on the issue of whether rape-caused pregnancies should be an exception to abortion restrictions:

“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down…”

He was ridiculed, he was attacked, he was mocked, and from all parties and ideologies, for his magical theory that a woman’s body knows the difference between “legitimate rape” and the nice kind of sexual intercourse. (Oddly, none of those “doctors” ever came forward, perhaps because they were wearing diapers and had turnips sticking out of their ears. Somehow, Pete Nielsen missed all of that, and so during a debate in the Idaho Legislature on bill that would require women seeking abortions to be given a list of providers of free ultrasounds, when it was noted that the measure makes no exception for victims of rape or incest, he piped up with this:

“Now, I’m of the understanding that in many cases of rape it does not involve any pregnancy because of the trauma of the incident. That may be true with incest a little bit.”

Now, if he had been immediately pelted with wadded up papers, soda cans and other things by his  horrified colleagues, may be would have had the sense to stop digging, but, being an idiot, he didn’t. Asked how he knew this absolute non-medical non-fact as reliable as the theory that you can catch AIDS from a toilet seat, Nielsen said, “That’s information that I’ve had through the years. Whether it’s totally accurate or not, I don’t know. “I read a lot of information. I have read it several times. … Being a father of five girls, I’ve explored this a lot.”

Wait, what? Never mind, I don’t want to think about that last part. Continue reading

Anti-Gun Zealots Must Reconcile Their Rhetoric With This, Or Concede That Their Adversaries, And All Citizens, Have A Right To Protect Themselves

In Macon, Georgia, a coordinated mob of teens attacked a Walmart like a scene out of “Dawn of the Dead.” Surveillance cameras revealed this:

The Macon Telegraph reports that a group of about 50 teens swarmed the store and began destroying property, apparently for the fun of it. A customer in a motorized scooter was pulled from his seat and dragged on the floor, police say.  17-year-old Kharron Nathan Green entered the store at about 2 a.m. last Sunday morning and flashed “gang signs.” At his signal, a group of about 50 people, apparently teens or a bit older, charged into the store. They departed when police arrived. Green, was the only one arrested, not because he was the ringleader, but because he is an idiot. He returned to the scene of the crime to fetch a dropped phone.

That nobody was seriously hurt or killed is moral luck, nothing more.

Is it relevant that all of the teens appear to be black? Sure it is, though many news outlets—like the Macon Telegraph, in fact— didn’t think so, because that creates inconvenient implications. For one thing, it was very relevant to any police officer trying to deal with the onslaught, as having to shoot one of the mob if he was aggressive would have the cop branded as a racist killer  and possibly railroaded into a murder trial by the Georgia equivalent of Marilyn Mosby. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: Prosecutor Ethics, “What The Hell Were You Thinking?” Dept: Dog-Whistling “Dixie” To The Jury

Dixie

I will introduce this fascinating Comment of the Day by one of the blog’s masters of the long form comment, Chris Marschner,  by saying that I think it is only tangentially related to the post, though he would disagree. Chris is writing about the history of “Dixie” and why it should not be associated with racism. Whether I agree with that analysis or not, the fact is that the public does overwhelmingly associate the song with a longing for the simplicities of the Old South, when the darkies were singing in the cotton fields and those Northern folks weren’t sticking in their noses where they don’t belong. This is the basis of an Idaho court’s decision to overturn the conviction of a black defendant after the prosecutor gratuitously and needlessly quoted the lyrics of the song in her closing argument.  That decision was correct, because the issue is whether the comment could reasonably have been an appeal, or seemed like an appeal, or have had the effect of an appeal, to racial bias. I don’t think that conclusion is arguable.

Here is Chris’s Comment of the Day on the post, Prosecutor Ethics, “What The Hell Were You Thinking?” Dept: Dog-Whistling “Dixie” To The Jury:

The prosecutor failed her client – the people- not because she used the words of an 19th century song but because she failed to come to understand that history and culture of the US has been so bastardized that even an appellate court has no understanding and context of the origins of the song and the history and culture of the south. And, because of its misunderstanding believes the lyrics to be racially prejudicial.

“Maybe Erica is so young, color blind and historically ignorant that she had no idea that “Dixie” has been played at Klan rallies and used as the campaign theme for states rights, segregationist, white supremacy candidates since the Civil War. Maybe she didn’t recognize the cotton reference as racial.”

This song was written by a northerner named Daniel Decatur Emmett and performed in New York in an 1859 minstrel show by Emmitt in blackface. The reference to cotton is geographic in nature because cotton represented the primary agricultural commodity and wealth creator of the southern states – nothing more unless one is predisposed to finding anything related to the antebellum south as racist

Many songs have been coopted by various groups but to suggest that lyrics of Dixie are inherently racial because they are used by White supremacists is faulty logic. If a white supremacist adopted the image of Leonardo D’Vinci’s David or Venus d’ Milo or other classical work of art on their flag that would not mean that any such depiction suggests racial superiority. Continue reading

Prosecutor Ethics, “What The Hell Were You Thinking?” Dept: Dog-Whistling “Dixie” To The Jury

"Wait...WHAT did you just say??"

“Wait…WHAT did you just say??”

Canyon County Deputy Prosecutor Erica Kallin wanted to make the point that the defense attorney for the African American defendant, James D. Kirk, was trying to lead the jury to ignore the evidence that pointed to his guilt in his trial for lewd conduct with a 17-year-old girl and sexual battery of a 13-year-old girl—making them, in effect,”look away” from the truth. How could she make that argument in a vivid way? Clarence Darrow used to use poems in his famous closing arguments; was there a memorable poem that used the phrase, “look away”?

“Eureka!” Erica thought. She found it! So she said to jury deliberating on the case:

“‘Oh I wish I was in the land of cotton. Good times not forgotten. Look away. Look away. Look away,’ And isn’t that really what you’ve kind of been asked to do? Look away from the two eyewitnesses. Look away from the two victims. Look away from the nurse and her medical opinion. Look away. Look away.”

The jury convicted Kirk, on both counts; the evidence against him was indeed strong. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Hard Lesson Of The Walmart Tragedy: Bad Ethics Kills”

First The Washington Post suggests that my commentary on the tragic shooting death of Veronica Jean Rutledge by her two-year old son in an Idaho Walmart as using “the accident as an excuse to grandstand on gun rights,” then the website Raw Story writes that my post is a talking point for both sides in the gun rights debate.”  Neither is true; neither is remotely true. The post wasn’t even about guns: the topic is accountability for reckless and irresponsible conduct by parents and their consequences. Do journalists even read the stuff they link to?

The comments to the post, however, are another matter. Naturally some of them opine on gun policy, and an interesting query arrived from a reader in India, who wrote:

Hello all… I’m from India and we don’t have such gun laws here.. but it looks like, the only news that I see concerning America are “school shootings” and “accidental ones” every week. I have nothing against America and I love your country .. but owning a gun, seems to be a sign of insecurity to me. and I repeat, the only news I see is a regular pattern: “kid goes on shooting spree” or “kid accidentally discharges weapon”.. Don’t you see what’s happening b’coz of these Gun laws ? anybody can be careless about anything… nobody is perfect. I’m only airing my views about this.

This prompted an excellent Second Amendment explanation from 2014 New Prolific Commenter of the Year joed68. Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, “Hard Lesson Of The Walmart Tragedy: Bad Ethics Kills”: Continue reading

Hard Lesson Of The Walmart Tragedy: Bad Ethics Kills

5-year-old-with-a-gun

A two-year old sitting in a shopping cart shot his mother dead at point blank range in a Walmart, after finding a loaded pistol in the mother’s open purse. It is such a horrible story that journalists are reluctant to call attention to its obvious lessons. Veronica Jean Rutledge engaged in grossly irresponsible conduct as a mother, a citizen and a gun owner. If her actions, which constituted child endangerment of all four of the children in her charge, as well as a public menace to unsuspecting shoppers in a public store, were to result in anyone’s death or injury, she was the best possible victim. This was all her fault.

The analogy might be a parent who leaves an infant locked in over-heated car, but this is far, far worse. Carrying a loaded gun in public without observing gun safety principles—safety off, for example— posed a threat to everyone around Rutledge. (UPDATE: It is apparently illegal in Idaho to carry a concealed, loaded gun.) Leaving any gun accessible to children is criminal negligence. She was lucky—yes, lucky—that her toddler didn’t shoot one or more of the three girls, all under 11, participating in the shopping trip, or himself. Now the boy will live with the trauma of knowing that he killed his own mother. He will be lucky not to be psychologically scarred for life.

Who knows how many times Rutledge had left her firearm, safety off, within reach of children? I find it hard to believe this was the first time. I find it difficult to believe that she didn’t regularly leave her child in peril, if she would do this even once. Allowing a child access to a loaded gun ready to fire is the equivalent of leaving an open bottle of rat poison within reach of an infant, allowing a child to share a home with a pet wolf, leaving a child alone without supervision while the mother partied and got stoned, or perhaps letting a toddler run free in a home meth lab. If any of these resulted in the death of the child,  public outrage against the parent would be merciless and deafening. It should not be any less intense in this case, simply because moral luck took a relatively merciful turn.

Veronica Jean Rutledge was an unforgivably unethical gun owner, citizen, caretaker and mother, and it killed her.

If there had to be a victim, she was the right one.

UPDATE: From the Washington Post 12/31:

Rutledge isn’t just sad — he’s angry. Not at his grandson. Nor at his dead daughter-in-law, “who didn’t have a malicious fiber in her body,” he said. He’s angry at the observers already using the accident as an excuse to grandstand on gun rights.

“They are painting Veronica as irresponsible, and that is not the case,” he said.

  • That link from Post reporter Terrence McCoy comes right back to this post. I’d like to know where “gun rights” are mentioned or even implied above, much less used to “grandstand.” I can’t even figure out what gun rights point McCoy thinks I’m trying to make (I’m for them, by the way.)
  • VERONICA WAS NOT IRRESPONSIBLE????? This is res ipsa loquitur: if you get shot by a toddler because you left your loaded pistol, safety off,  where he could get it while you are in a public place with 4 kids under your care, you ARE irresponsible: negligent, incompetent, reckless, ignorant of gun and safety obligations, careless. The facts speak for themselves; no further proof is necessary.

Update On “The Hitching Post,” The For-Profit Chapel Being Required To Hold Same-Sex Weddings

Emily Litella

“Never mind!”

From NPR in Boise:

The city of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, says the Hitching Post, a for-profit wedding chapel owned by two ministers, doesn’t have to perform same-sex marriages.The city has been embroiled in controversy ever since the owners of the Hitching Post sued the city. They say a city anti-discrimination law threatened to force them to marry same-sex couples now that gay marriage is legal in Idaho…Initially, the city said its anti-discrimination law did apply to the Hitching Post, since it is a commercial business. Earlier this week, Coeur d’Alene city attorney Mike Gridley sent a letter to the Knapps’ attorneys at the Alliance Defending Freedom saying the Hitching Post would have to become a not-for-profit to be exempt.

But Gridley said after further review, he determined the ordinance doesn’t specify non-profit or for-profit. “After we’ve looked at this some more, we have come to the conclusion they would be exempt from our ordinance because they are a religious corporation,” Gridley explained.

…Leo Morales of the ACLU of Idaho said the exemption makes sense as long as the Hitching Post primarily performs religious ceremonies. “However, if they do non-religious ceremonies as well, they would be violating the anti-discrimination ordinance,” Morales said. “It’s the religious activity that’s being protected.”

…The group that helped create Coeur d’Alene’s anti-discrimination ordinance says the Hitching Post shouldn’t have to perform same-sex marriages. The Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations says in a letter to the mayor and city council that the Knapps fall under the religious exemption in the law.

In other words, the result is as I said it would be, and as Professor Volokh opined that it should be.

The ethical thing, of course, would be for the Knapps to treat same sex couples as the loving human beings they are and marry them like they do any other loving couples. But when it comes to administering a religious ceremony, the State cannot force the Knapps to do what their beliefs don’t permit. Meanwhile, that’s some legal talent they are hiring in Idaho. “But Gridley said after further review, he determined the ordinance doesn’t specify non-profit or for-profit.” Upon further review? I’d think the city’s attorney would actually read the applicable statute before threatening a business and its owners without cause.

Oh, Mike? Upon further review, the Constitution doesn’t specify non-profit or for-profit either. But thanks for causing a thoroughly unnecessary controversy based on knee-jerk political correctness and sloppiness. Unless… you knew your theory was garbage all along, and were trying to bluff the Knapps into doing what you felt was the right thing, and their constitutionally guaranteed rights be damned. You wouldn’t do that, would you? I hope not. It would be unethical.