Tag Archives: judges

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/29/2017

Good Morning!

1. There are several accurate and fair points in the New York Times overview of the Obamacare repeal and replace fiasco, as well as some details that all add up top one thing: the GOP, top to bottom, wasn’t prepared to follow up on the promises it was making during the campaign. To be responsible and honest, it should have had the substitute plan for the Affordable Care Act crafted, analyzed and ready before the 2016 campaign was even underway—you know, one that still dealt with pre-existing condition problem, capped mediacl negligence lawsuit awards. and took steps to lower health care cots while giving the public more choices rather than fewer and not adding to the national debt. Instead, they just used a false promise to stir up the base, like Harold Hill railing about the new pool table corrupting the youth in River City. It was a con job, in other words, all along. Incredibly, the Times reports—assuming that what it reports is true, and of that we can never be sure, remember—

“Vote yes, Republican leaders told the holdouts in their conference. We promise it will never become law. After seven years of railing against the evils of the Affordable Care Act, the party had winnowed its hopes of dismantling it down to a menu of options to appease recalcitrant lawmakers — with no more pretenses of lofty policy making, only a realpolitik plea to keep the legislation churning through the Capitol by voting to advance something, anything.”

That’s nauseating, and unethical governance and politics at its worst.

Other notes from the article

  • “A ruling party that never expected to win. A conservative base long primed to accept nothing less than a full repeal. An overpromising and often disengaged president with no command of the policy itself and little apparent interest in selling its merits to the public.”

It’s fine to face reality when you appear to be defeated. It is unethical to run for office without being as prepared to win as you would be if your were the frontrunner.

  • “Yet in private sessions…Republicans worried about being saddled with a politically toxic “Trumpcare,” with some acknowledging that their dual promises — repealing the law swiftly without pulling the rug out from Americans — could not be reconciled.”

This just occurred to them? Wasn’t this obviously a problem that could have been predicted since. oh, 2010?

  • “Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, assembled a working group of 13 senators to draft the legislation — all of them male — excluding Ms. Murkowski and Ms. Collins.”

What a moron.

2. J.K Rowling, Harry Potter’s mommy who hates our President with a passion, sent out a re-tweet of an edited video appearing to show President Trump snubbing a child in a wheelchair. She wrote, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.’ – Maya Angelou https://twitter.com/ansel/status/889596818383814656 …”

The tweet had gone viral, with more than 58 thousand retweets. It’s also carrying a lie. The actual, unedited video shows the President kneeling and talking to the boy. Now the tweet itself and the page of the tweeter has vanished.

Rowling has shown us that she is a foreign citizen using her influence to spread fake news in an effort to undermine our government. Someone should turn her into a newt. Continue reading

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From The “Law vs Ethics” Files: PETA Chooses To Harm An Artist On Behalf Of A Monkey Who Couldn’t Care Less, And Judges Think It’s An Amusing Legal Condundrum

“I’m baaaaack!”

When we last heard from  photographer David Slater, the U.S. Copyright Office had rejected his claim that he owned the  copyright for the famous series of selfies presumably taken unintentionally by a Celebes crested macaque.  In 2011,  Slater spent several days following and photographing a troop of macaques in Sulawesi, Indonesia, and the selfies were a lucky bi-product that quickly became a web sensation. Slater had asserted ownership over the photos, and had demanded that various on-line users, such as Wikipedia, either take them down or pay him as the copyright holder. The ruling of the Copyright Office was based on the theory that Slater had not taken the photo, so he was not the creator, and animals couldn’t own copyrights, so the photos were in the public domain.

Pop Ethics Quiz: Would it have been unethical had Slater simply released the photos without revealing that the selfies had been the lucky result of an  accident, snapped by the monkey wile it was messing around with his equipment?

About the Copyright Office’s ruling: I’m dubious. Slater owned the equipment, and had the sense to preserve the photos. A decision that if a photo is taken accidentally by a non-human or an act of God, the photographer who owns the equipment gets the copyright would have been fair.  Zapruder owned the film that inadvertently caught President Kennedy having his forehead shot off, and it made him rich. Slater’s claim just goes a step further: Zapruder left the street  to buy a hotdog, put his camera on on a trash can and asked a friend to “watch it,” and a dog turned the camera on, catching the grisly scene. So Zapruder doesn’t own the film anymore? Does that make sense to you?

Well, that was the ruling anyway. Then things got really ridiculous. Slater included the monkey selfies in a book, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)  brought a law suit against Slater on behalf of the monkey,which PETA claims is named Naruto, and asked that PETA be appointed to administer proceeds from the photos for the benefit of Naruto and other crested macaques in the reserve on Sulawesi. So PETA would suddenly be the de facto copyright holder. Continue reading

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Over At “The Ethicist,” An Off-The-Wall Ethics Question Gets An Even More Off-The-Wall Answer

I don’t have many opportunities to take issue with the current writer of The New York Times Magazine’s “The Ethicist” column, because he, unlike his predecessors, really is one, and doesn’t come up with whoppers like they used. Professor Appiah had some “Bonus Advice” this week, however, from a Judge John Hodgman. The judge reminded me of those halcyon days when “The Ethicist” was good for a couple of Ethics Alarms attacks a month. Good times!

First, the question:

My roommate takes long, casual phone calls while on the toilet. I have tried explaining why this behavior is creepy and rude to the person he is talking to, as they do not know they are talking to someone who is going to the bathroom. He thinks it’s actually rude when people don’t answer phone calls simply because they’re in the bathroom.

Wait…what? WHAT?

It is impossible to be secretly rude. It has no effect on the person on the other end of the line if you are naked, making faces, or writing “I hate this idiot!” in the mirror in blood. Nor is it “creepy” to have a phone conversation on the toilet. I’m typing this while I’m on the toilet and wearing a duck on my head, and it’s nobody’s business but mine.

Nor is it rude to refuse to answer phone calls when one is in the bathroom. In fact, it is almost never rude to decline a phone call.  That bell is an  invitation to have a conversation, not a command. I don’t answer calls when I’m taking a nap, a shower, having a live, face-to-face conversation, writing an Ethics Alarms post, cooking, eating a meal, enjoying an orgy, or chopping up my victim after a murder. It’s my option, my time, and my schedule.

These two roommates are made for each other.

Now the judge’s response:

“Your roommate is quite wrong: What’s actually rude is people making phone calls in the first place. We have so many better ways to communicate now that do not involve repeating yourself constantly, saying the wrong thing under the gun and then realizing you’ve been talking for five minutes to a dropped call. Even the ringing of a good old landline is the intrusive announcement that either a) someone thinks you don’t deserve to choose how to spend your time, or b) someone you know has been killed or injured. If only to protect the meditative solitude of the bathroom act, your roommate should stop this habit, never mind the fact that it is just plain gross.”

Think about it: someone with this level of judgment is a judge.

1. We have better ways of communicating than talking to each other?

2. If someone doesn’t want to talk on the phone, they can turn the phone off.  They can have an unlisted number, or a cell phone number they only share with people they won’t think are rude when they call.  They can not have a phone at all. If you make it possible for people to call you when you don’t have to do so, people reasonably assume that you don’t mind being called. Calling too late or too early is inconsiderate, unless there is an emergency.  Robocalls and solicitor calls are intrusions. But a friend or relative “reaching out to touch someone” as the old Bell  long-distance ad sang? That’s rude? What’s the matter with this guy?

3. Let me rephrase that: What the HELL is the matter with this guy? We have to obey his rules for what we do in the bathroom? I read my baseball books in the bathroom…is that a violation of “meditative solitude’? How about having long discussions with my wife through the bathroom door—not sufficiently meditative? What’s happening on the toilet isn’t gross, but talking to someone who has no idea where you are and what you are doing is gross? I can be as gross as we want when the only witness is me, and there is absolutely nothing rude, inappropriate or unethical about it.

As long as I clean up afterward.

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( PSSST! The Supreme Court Just Unanimously Pointed Out That The Courts Blocking The Trump Temporary Travel Ban Were Playing Partisan Politics, Not Objectively And Ethically Doing Their Jobs)

As many predicted (including me), the Supreme Court unanimously slappped down the lower court injunctions based on claims that the Trump temporary travel restrictions on six Muslim countries were unconstitutional, writing,

But the injunctions reach much further than that: They also bar enforcement of §2(c) against foreign nationals abroad who have no connection to the United States at all. The equities relied on by the lower courts do not balance the same way in that context. Denying entry to such a foreign national does not burden any American party by reason of that party’s relationship with the foreign national. And the courts below did not conclude that exclusion in such circumstances would impose any legally relevant hardship on the foreign national himself. See id., at 762 (“[A]n unadmitted and nonresident alien . . . ha[s] no constitutional right of entry to this country”). So whatever burdens may result from enforcement of §2(c) against a foreign national who lacks any connection to this country,they are, at a minimum, a good deal less concrete than the hardships identified by the courts below.
At the same time, the Government’s interest in enforcing §2(c), and the Executive’s authority to do so, are undoubtedly at their peak when there is no tie between the foreign national and the United States. Indeed, EO–2 itself distinguishes between foreign nationals who have some connection to this country, and foreign nationals who do not, by establishing a case-by-case waiver system primarily for the benefit of individuals in the former category. See, e.g., §§3(c)(i)–(vi). The interest in preserving national security is “an urgent objective of the highest order.” Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, 561 U. S. 1, 28 (2010). To prevent the Government from pursuing that objective by enforcing §2(c) against foreign nationals unconnected to the United States would appreciably injure its interests, without alleviating obvious hardship to anyone else.

…The Government’s application to stay the injunction with respect to §§6(a) and (b) is accordingly granted in part. Section 6(a) may not be enforced against an individual seeking admission as a refugee who can credibly claim a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States. Nor may §6(b); that is, such a person may not be excluded pursuant to §6(b), even if the 50,000 person cap has been reached or exceeded. As applied to all other individuals, the provisions may take effect.

Got that?

“To prevent the Government from pursuing that objective by enforcing §2(c) against foreign nationals unconnected to the United States would appreciably injure its interests, without alleviating obvious hardship to anyone else.” Continue reading

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The Most Unethical Sentencing Fallacy Of All: Lavinia Woodward Gets “The King’s Pass”

Oxford University student Lavinia Woodward, 24,  punched and stabbed her boyfriend in a drunken rage, then hurled a jam jar, a glass and a laptop at him. This, in the U.S., would be called a criminal assault, and maybe even attempted murder.  Ah, but British Judge Ian Pringle knows better. He agrees these acts would normally mean a prison term, but Lavinia is a star student, and wants to be a surgeon. He hinted that he would spare her prison time so that her “extraordinary” talent would not be wasted. As poor Lavinia’s barrister, James Sturman, argued, his client’s dreams of becoming a surgeon would be “almost impossible” if she had to serve time.

Well, we certainly mustn’t jeopardize a violent felon’s dreams.

This kind of reasoning is infused with The King’s Pass, also known as The Star Syndrome, the rationalization making the perverse unethical argument that the more talented, prominent, useful and important to society a miscreant is, the less he or she should be accountable for misconduct that nets lesser lights serious and devastating consequences:

11. The King’s Pass, The Star Syndrome, or “What Will We Do Without Him?”

One will often hear unethical behavior excused because the person involved is so important, so accomplished, and has done such great things for so many people that we should look the other way, just this once. This is a terribly dangerous mindset, because celebrities and powerful public figures come to depend on it. Their achievements, in their own minds and those of their supporters and fans, have earned them a more lenient ethical standard. This pass for bad behavior is as insidious as it is pervasive, and should be recognized and rejected whenever it raises its slimy head.  In fact, the more respectable and accomplished an individual is, the more damage he or she can do through unethical conduct, because such individuals engender great trust. Thus the corrupting influence on the individual of The King’s Pass leads to the corruption of others.

Judge Pringle is taking the King’s Pass/Star Syndrome to a new low: he’s arguing that Lavinia should receive special treatment based on how valuable to society she might be, given enough immunity from the consequences of her own conduct.  Continue reading

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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

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The Attorney General’s “Island In The Pacific” Gaffe

I guess we’re going to have to get used to this sequence over the next 4-8 years (yes, 8: at the rate the Democrats are disgracing themselves, President Trump may stick around):

1) President Trump and/or one of his surrogates, spokespersons or appointees make a carelessly worded statement

2) Democrats, activists and the news media intentionally, wilfully and maliciously interpret it in the worst way possible under the convetions of the English language

3) They widely represent the statement to the public as expressing malign thoughts intent and principles

4) The Trump-related speaker, being rhetorically-challenged to begin with, fails to clarify the confusion and makes himself or herself look worse the more he tries.

5) Nobody, almost literally nobody, bothers to examine the statement from an objective point of view.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said last week, referring to the Hawaii -chambered federal judge Derrick K. Watson, who last month blocked Trump’s revised temporary halt on travel from sslected terrorist-rich Muslim countries just before it was to go into effect,

“I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and Constitutional power.”

It was an off-hand remark on conservative talk show host Mark Levin’s radio program, but it immediately provoked ridicule and attack. Sessions didn’t know Hawaii was a state. Sessions doesn’t respect Hawaii.  President Trump doesn’t like Hawaii. Just a few minutes ago, I watched ABC’s George Stephanopoulos confront Sessions about the remark. Sessions’ humina humina reply: “Nobody has a sense of humor any more.”

I understood the meaning of Sessions’ statement to Levin the minute I heard it, because I thought the same thing at the time of the judge’s ruling: Hawaii is the weirdest place for Trump’s order to be litigated, since the state  is uniquely insulated from the illegal immigration problems facing the other 49 states, has never had anything close to a terrorism attack, and has a negligible Muslim population. The particular problems that the President’s order purports to address is an abstract one for Hawaiians, more than any other state. Sessions’ comment was rueful, intended as irony (to a friendly interviewer), and none of the vile things it was subsequently accused of being. Continue reading

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