Finding His Country In The Jaws Of A Values Crisis, It’s Richard Dreyfuss To The Rescue! or, “This Was No Boating Accident!” [UPDATED]

Several episodes in the news this week had me pondering a post about whether the hysteria of “the resistance” has caused a critical mass of Democrats and progressives to lose their grip on basic ethical values, like decency, tolerance, respect, proportion, democracy and citizenship competence. These were all ethics alarms, perhaps especially for liberal Americans with integrity, warnings that their side of the ideological divide is not merely spinning off its axis, but spinning into insanity.

Ethics Alarm #1, and the worst by far, was this astounding scenario out of Newton Massachusetts.

Newton District Court Judge Mary Beth Heffernan freed a previously deported Uber driver accused of three charges of rape on minimal  bail even after a prosecutor insisted that federal immigration agents were drafting a detainer and asked for higher bond to hold him. Tapes of this week’s hearing revealed the judge cutting  arguments short, and before a defense attorney could even counter the prosecution’s $100,000 bail and GPS-monitoring demand, declalred, “Twenty-five hundred dollars cash.” She then set a follow-on court date  and asked, “Is he going to make the bail today?”

On the tape, someone in the courtroom is heard calling out, “Yes.” Heffernan then asked a court employee, “Can you take bail downstairs? Sometimes they won’t, they make them go back out to the House of Correction at 4 o’clock.” The defendant, Luis Baez, promptly disappeared, which was the evident goal of the judge. She was more concerned with allowing an illegal, already once deported immigrant avoid ICE arrest than  protecting the citizens of Massachusetts.

Baez was accused of raping a drunken Boston College student who had hailed his Uber car. Middlesex Assistant District Attorney Raquel Frisardi told the judge that Baez took the young woman to a parking lot and other sites, and raped her three times.. He then dropped his victim  at Boston College, where she reported she had been raped. Baez was introduced to the judge as “somebody known to the Boston police gang unit as having previous involvement in the Mozart Street Gang, someone who had been previously prosecuted and in fact previously deported.”

She didn’t care about any of that. Judge Heffernan, a judicial appointment of Obama pal, former Governor Deval Patrick, was a former public safety secretary in his administration who had resigned in the midst of a scandal. True to her party’s obsession, she was determined to help Baez avoid immigration enforcement.

Ethics Alarm #2 illustrates how warped some even previously warped hyper-partisans have become in their hatred of the President.

Talking on  MSNBC with Chris Hayes about the dangerous situation with North Korea, Hayes, a card-carrying Trump-basher if there ever was one, made the rather obvious statement that he’s “genuinely rooting for” Trump to “handle the North Korea situation well.” Good for Chris Hayes: he’s an American, and partisan hate hasn’t completely eaten his brain. Not Moore though.

“I don’t know if I agree with that,” Moore responded. Moore went on to explain that it is more important to him that Trump fail and thus lose power than for the United States to successfully defuse the rogue nuclear nation and its threat to the world.  “It’s like rooting for a 6-year-old who suddenly swiped dad’s car and figured out how to take it down the road,” the fool stated. “I’m not rooting for the 6-year-old to get on the highway and drive that car. I want the 6-year-old off the highway.”

This accurately expresses the message being broadcast by much of the anti-Trump forces, including the Democratic Party, since the election. They are willing to facilitate almost any damage —in Moore’s case, nuclear destruction—to the nation, its institutions, its stability and the public if it will somehow undo the election, and get Donald Trump “off the highway.” Moore is obviously an extreme case, but when you find yourself in the same camp as someone who thinks like he does, the ethics alarms should be deafening.

Ethics Alarm #3 came in the context of climate change, along with open borders the most intensely and irrationally held tenet of current progressive cant. Continue reading

Tesla’s Seat Belt Recall, Moral Luck, and Ethics Chess

Jaws victim

Ethics Alarms Chief Ethics Scout Fred found this one. Tesla was alerted to one seat belt failure in its Model S, and  recalled them all. This involved a huge cost, of course, and that cost will be eventually passed on to consumers and investors. Fred asks,

“Abundance of caution” is the phrase they used, one I gather is familiar to lawyers. Could they have justified some other response that was less catastrophically expensive? Would they have had a fiduciary duty to do so? Or would that duty lie in maintaining the brand image of meticulous quality at almost any short-term cost, building a reputation that could command premium prices for decades to come?
The issue was simply this: how much did the company want to bet on moral luck? Tesla was aware of a possible design or manufacturing flaw that could kill passengers. It could have been a fluke, and it could have been widespread. If the cars were not recalled—and I don’t know enough about Teslas to presume that there would be any other way to check every single car or replace the seat belts without the expense of a recall, so I will assume for this discussion that there is not—and one or more passenger was killed, then Tesla management would have suddenly become Sheriff Brodie and Mayor Vaughn in “Jaws,” as articulated, with a slap, by the mother of a little boy who became shark bait while playing on his yellow raft. They knew there was a possible danger, and decided that chancing it was a better call than risking the summer tourist business. They balanced the risks, and did nothing.

“Jaws” Ethics: A Real Life Larry Vaughn Models Rationalization #49, “It Would Have Happened Anyway”

Jaws

Wait, I’ve seen this movie!

From the Associated Press:

OAK ISLAND, N.C. (AP) — The mayor of a coastal North Carolina town where two young people were severely injured in shark attacks this weekend says she doesn’t think emergency workers had enough time between incidents to close the beaches. A 12-year-old girl was attacked just after 4 p.m. Sunday in Oak Island, and a 16-year-old boy was attacked less than two hours later about two miles away. The girl lost part of her arm and suffered a leg injury. The boy lost his left arm…

Beaches were open for the two-hour stretch Sunday but closed after the second attack.

Oak Island Mayor Betty Wallace told The Associated Press on Monday that she didn’t think that gave workers enough time to decide to close the beach between attacks. …Wallace says that even if the beach had closed after the first attack, the order might not have extended to the area of the second incident.

It was unclear whether the same shark attacked them…

The beaches were open Monday, with a boat and a helicopter patrolling the water.

OK, I know what happens next! The helicopters spot a fin in the water, and there’s a panic on the beach, and it turns out to be two kids with snorkels and a fake shark fin. The younger boy points to his brother and says, “He made me do it!” Meanwhile, the Great White goes over to the lagoon and bites the leg off a guy with a bad fake Boston accent.

If, as I suspect, Mayor Wallace is Amity Mayor Larry Vaughn come to life from “Jaws” and identifying as a woman as well as disguising herself accordingly to get another job as a resort town mayor—which means that she is a woman, of course—then old Larry sure has a flat learning curve. On the other hand, if Mayor Wallace isn’t Larry Vaughn, someone needs to make her watch “Jaws,” quick. Is it unethical—irresponsible, negligent, incompetent— for any Mayor of a coastal town not to be aware of the lessons of that film?

I think so. Continue reading

In Maryland, Tempting Moral Luck And The Barn Door Phenomenon In A Free Range Kids Ethics Conflict

Lyon Sisters

Just months after suburban Maryland parents Danielle and Alexander Meitiv were cited by Montgomery County’s Child Protective Services for “unsubstantiated neglect” for allowing their children Rafi, 10, and Dvora, 6, to walk home from a park close to home, the defiant parents let their kids to do it again. Again, someone called 911 (anonymously), and again the children were picked up by police.

This time, the police took the Meitiv children to Child Protective Services headquarters and for some reason didn’t tell the parents, who, naturally enough, freaked out. Five and a half hours later the agitated children and frantic parents  were reunited. You can read about the initial incident from the mother’s perspective here; and obviously Lenore Skanazy is in full battle array on her “Free Range Kids Blog.” Columnists everywhere are rushing to their keyboards to write columns like this one, by the Washington Post’s Petula Devorak, titled “Why Are We Criminalizing Childhood Independence?”

The ethics of this issue are more complicated than simplistic “We used to walk around freely all the time when we were kids and it was more dangerous then than now” reminiscences are equipped to explore.

Analyzing this ethics conflict (“when two or more ethical principles are in opposition”)  screams out for the useful starting point for ethics analysis:

What’s going on here?

Before I answer, let’s get a couple of ethics verdicts out of the way: Continue reading

Profiles In Expediency: Former San Diego Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña

"You knew!"

“You knew!”

If you have been wondering, as I have, how it could have been possible for his party and colleagues to nominate hands-on San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, serial sexual harasser, predator, and master of “the Filner Headlock,” without knowing of his ongoing War on Women (karma’s a bitch, Democrats!), so have I, and so have a lot of San Diegans. Sure enough, it turns out that indeed the party did have advance notice that Filner had a problem (though not as big a problem as any female staffer who came within his reach), but inflicted him on San Diego anyway.

So says former Democratic assemblywoman Lori Saldaña, who told the media that in the summer of 2011 six San Diego women prominent in local politics, business and education alerted her that Filner had physically or verbally harassed them.  Saldaña said she duly warned former party Chairman Jess Durfee about the evidence and Durfee was among a group of Democratic leaders who met with Filner to discuss the issue that summer. Nothing happened. Filner was nominated and elected, and the rest is history, headlocks, fanny pats, gropes, stolen kisses and mayoral solicitations of sex from subordinates and colleagues.

San Diego is such a friendly city.

“As disgraceful as Bob’s behavior has been, it’s been tolerated by our Democratic Party leadership,” Saldaña scolded. Continue reading

Sending in the Kids To Swim With “Jaws”: Roger Goodell, Mayor of Amity

Jaws-boy

One of the most disturbing moments in “Jaws,” at least for me, is the scene where the mayor of Amity island, whom we know is  in possession of strong evidence that a Great White shark is cruising the waters of his town’s beaches looking for snacks, persuades an elderly couple to take their grandchildren into the surf to show everyone else on the beach that the water is safe. The scene leapt immediately to mind yesterday morning, when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, in a Super Bowl Sunday interview on “Face the Nation,” emphatically told CBS’s Bob Shieffer that unlike President Obama, he would unhesitatingly allow his son to play football. I’m sure he would, too. After all, Mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) sent his own kids into the Amity surf.

Like his role model, Mayor Vaughn, Goodell has a terrible problem, as well as a conflict of interest. He is paid to do what is in the best interests of the National Football League, and admitting that the game the league plays and the way it play it kills or mains a significant number of its players would be seen by his employers as a breach of duty. So despite mounting evidence that every single NFL player is putting his brain, health, and life at grave risk by allowing the relentless head trauma that is an unavoidable part of the game, Goodell feels he must claim otherwise, which, assuming he is basically a good man (I was never sure about Larry Vaughn), means he must convince himself that what he says is true. This led Goodell to make a series of statements yesterday that will haunt him some day as much as Mayor Vaughn’s infamous interview quote on the day the little Kintner boy (above) became chum: “I’m pleased and happy to repeat the news that we have, in fact, caught and killed a large predator that supposedly injured some bathers. But, as you see, it’s a beautiful day, the beaches are open and people are having a wonderful time. Amity, as you know, means friendship.” Continue reading

The Penn State-Sandusky Disgrace: Time For Paterno Worshippers To Face Facts

Amity’s Mayor Larry Vaughn, a.k.a Joe Paterno

Yesterday CNN revealed that e-mails uncovered in Penn State’s internal investigation of the Jerry Sandusky scandal show that beloved, ever-so-ethical Jo Pa appears to have stopped the university from reporting the child-molesting ex-coach to authorities. The e-mail trail seems to show, the New York Times reported, that the university’s president, Graham B. Spanier; the athletic director, Tim Curley, and the official in charge of the campus police, Gary Schultz, were ready to report Sandusky in the wake of assistant football coach Mike McQueery’s eye-witness account of seeing Sandusky molesting a child in the showers.  Curley then wrote the group that talks with Paterno had persuaded him that it would be more “humane” to confront Sandusky, bar him from bringing his young victims on campus, and  urge him to get professional help. This, of course, freed Sandusky for a decade more of  child sexual predation, with the kids foundation he had founded serving as his hunting grounds.

Humane indeed. Continue reading

Ugly Consequentialism: The Daily Beast Backs Perez Hilton

I am developing a real dislike for the Daily Beast. Tina Brown’s slick news aggregating website has gone out of its way to slander innocent dog breeds, features self-promoting hypocrites like John Avlon, and generally displays the ethical instincts of Piers Morgan, which is to say, none. Today it gave us an update on Serene Branson, who was mocked by blogger Perez Hilton and others for having an obvious, and frightening, on-air neurological event that caused her to be unable to speak coherently. Entitled “Line-Flubbing Grammys Reporter Fine”—trivializing as “line-flubbing” what was clearly nothing of the sort; people don’t get checked out by physicians for flubbing lines—the Daily Beast’s commentary noted that paramedic could find nothing wrong, so “Laugh away.”

This is the ugly face of consequentialism, judging the ethical nature of conduct based on what happens afterwards. Perez Hilton’s cruel amusement at a reporter finding that she cannot form intelligible speech is now retroactively fine and dandy, because Branson hasn’t—so far—keeled over or gone blind. So laugh, jerks, laugh…until she does keel over, tomorrow, or next week, or next month, in which case the ridicule becomes unacceptible to The Daily Beast.

Another human being who is panic-stricken as her body turns on her is not funny, and it is a sign of callousness and a deficit of compassion to laugh at the sight of it, whether or not the apparent catastrophe turns out to be minor after all. But the Daily Beast is proving that it is a playpen, occupied by reporters, columnists and editors with the ethical sophistication of gradeschoolers.

______________

UPDATE 2/15/11 (From AOL News):

“Despite Branson’s insistence that she’s fine, doctors who have examined the now heavily circulated footage of the incident continue to express concerns.

“This is what we call a class neurological event,” Dr. Keith Black, director of the Neurosurgical Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, told NBC’s ‘Today’ show. “She was obviously aware that she was having difficulty.”

According to Black, Branson’s episode was likely the result of a transient ischemic attack, essentially a “blockage in blood flow going to the brain,” or a “mini-seizure located in the language area.”

The New York Post also spoke to doctors who viewed the tape, and they said that Branson’s garbled speech could have resulted from “aphasia, which affects the ability to articulate, and that it could have been brought on by a mini-stroke, a tumor or a circulatory issue.”

Ethics Dunce: Blogger Perez Hilton

There is snarky, and there is vicious and cruel. Perez Hilton, the over-the-top celebrity blogger who always amasses enough points to be in the running for Media Creep of the Year, hit rock bottom over the weekend, showing a level of humanity, empathy and caring we identify with the people who ridicule  ALS sufferers and terminal cancer patients, and who find watching heart attacks and strokes amusing.

“MUST WATCH!!!” “Grammy Reporter Fail!” wrote Hilton, about a frightening video showing CBS reporter Serene Branson suddenly finding herself unable to speak coherently on the air as she reported on the Grammys, and obviously experiencing some kind of neurological episode that was a lot more serious than being “tongue-tied.”

“Someone call an exorcist!” joked the blogger, who called Branson’s cisis “HIGHlarious.”

[This post originally included the video footage, but CBS has pulled it.] Branson gets a few words out, then you can see the fear and panic that starts to come into the young woman’s expression as she realizes that her thoughts are no longer being formed into words. She utters a stream of jibberish  very reminiscent of the sounds made by the swimmer at the beginning of “Jaws” who is being attacked by a Great White shark, and then the station cuts her off. If watching another human being in peril and terror is “HIGHlarious” to you, “Ethics Dunce” is an understatement.

Hilton quickly pulled his first post on the incident when it began drawing fire, and so far, doctors haven’t been able to determine what caused the incident…so Hilton obviously thinks he’s in the clear.

He’s not. Even if we never know what happened to Branson, she was frightened and something bad was obviously happening to her. I’m sure she’s still terrified, and should be: my law school room mate, last year, had a mysterious episode that seemed like a stroke, but the doctors found nothing, and sent him home. Two days later, he dropped dead.

Yuk it up, Perez.

Jerk.