Tag Archives: justice

“Don’t Breathe” Ethics

I just watched the 2016 horror/suspense thriller “Don’t Breathe,” in which Stephen Lang, always excellent, plays a blind veteran whose home is invaded by three self-righteous young sociopaths who intend to rob him. The movie is the latest genre movies with ethical mind-benders concocted in the House of Raimi, as Sam Raimi, the flamboyant auteur behind “The Evil Dead,” “Xena,” the first couple Spiderman movies and especially “Drag Me To Hell,” was the lead executive producer here and Raimi’s protege, Fede Alvarez, directed and wrote the script.

How do I do this without spoiling the film for someone who hasn’t seen it? I can’t. If you intend to ever see the hit 2016 movie but have not yet, then just wait for the next post. Otherwise, read on.

“Don’t Breathe” becomes one of those monster movies where you start rooting for the monster, and even that doesn’t encompass the  ethical morass the movie creates. Imagine “Wait Until Dark”except that the imperiled blind woman (Audrey Hepburn) is replaced by a blind Steven Seagal (the younger, thinner version), or maybe Billy Jack, and he beats the living daylights out of  or kills the three middle-aged male thugs—including a creepy evil mastermind played by Alan Arkin— who get into his house.

Got that? Okay, now replace the three thugs with three attractive twenty-somethings, including a troubled young woman trying to start a new life after an abusive childhood. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, U.S. Society

Did Apple Kill The Little Girl?

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A Christmas Eve tragedy from 2014 has sparked another ethically provocative lawsuit.

James and Bethany Modisette were driving through Denton County, Texas, on the evening of December 24, 2014, when they had to stop their car due to a traffic incident ahead of them on the Interstate. Their children, Isabella, 8, and Moriah, 5, were in the back seat, Everyone in the vehicle had a seat belt fastened.

Meanwhile, Garrett Wilhelm, idiot, was chatting away on his phone using the FaceTime app, and didn’t notice that the traffic ahead of him was stopped. His car rear-ended the Modisettes’ vehicle at 65 mph. Little Moriah was killed.

Now the Modisettes have filed a lawsuit against Apple, the maker of the app and the iPhone it was used with, citing a “failure to install and implement the safer, alternative design … to ‘lock out’ the ability of drivers to utilize the FaceTime application.” In the suit, the parents claim the company didn’t warn FaceTime users like Wilhelm that “the product was likely to be dangerous when used or misused in a reasonably foreseeable manner.” Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Law & Law Enforcement

Opening The Door, Tit-For-Tat, And The Drunk In The “Hamilton” Audience

opening-the-door

All right, all right, maybe this is the final word on the “Hamilton” controversy.

What do we make of this?

A supporter of President-elect Trump reportedly interrupted a Saturday-night performance of “Hamilton” in Chicago with profane shouts at the show’s cast. According to BroadwayWorld, somebody seated in the balcony shouted, “We won! You Lost! Get over it! Fuck you!” during the number “Dear Theodosia,” which is about Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr coming to terms with what being a father meant in the newly formed United States. The audience member was escorted out of the theater by security after a brief altercation.

Rueful thoughts: Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Popular Culture, Professions

Ethics Observations On The Financial Massacre Of The Aurora Massacre Plaintiffs

James Holmes’s 2012 attack on the Century Aurora 16 movie theater showing “The Dark Knight Rises” killed 12 people and wounded 70 others. Many of the survivors and relatives of those killed sued Cinemark, the theater’s owner, in state and federal court, arguing that lax security was the cause of the attack. Cinemark’s defense was that the shooting was unforeseeable. Two suits went forward, one in state court and one in federal court, with different plaintiffs. Cinemark prevailed in both. After the recent jury verdict for Cinemark in the state court case this summer, the company had sought nearly $700,000 from the victims under the “loser pays” Colorado law, which directs that the winning side in a civil case is entitled to recover its legal costs from the losing side. This is the predominant system in England and Europe. The litigation costs of Cinemark in the federal case are likely to be more than $700,000, maybe a lot more.

What’s going on here (the best question to begin any ethics inquiry)? Well…

1. The law suits were a terrible idea. This was the result, in part, of the increasingly popular ideological virus in our society that is slowly reprogramming previously functioning brains to believe that nobody should have to pay for their misfortunes, and that somebody with deeper pocket and more resources should always be obligated to pay instead. This is increasingly a staple of leftist thought: the government, insurance companies, corporations, people with more money, all of them should be potentially on the hook when misfortune strikes others, because that’s fair.

2. It’s not fair, though.  It is profoundly un-American and unethical.

If those parties have caused the damage, or had the power and responsibility to mitigate it, or promised to pay for it, then there are ethical arguments to support them paying some or all of the expenses. But if something terrible happens to you, those people should have no more obligation to be accountable for your harm than you should have responsibility for taking care of them. That’s not the message sent by the culture though. Lawyers love the message that if you are harmed, somebody else can be found to ease your pain. They love it, because they can share in the bounty if a lawsuit seeking damages prevails, and this attitude guarantees more lawsuits. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Scoreboard classics, Ethics Train Wrecks, Law & Law Enforcement, U.S. Society

Leading Candidate For Most Unethical Opinion Column Of 2016: Daily Beast Editor Goldie Taylor

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How a major U.S. news and public affairs website can produce an article like Daily Beast Editor-At-Large Goldie Taylor’s is a fertile subject for inquiry, as is the question of how much the ignorant, un-American, values-warping assertions it contains are reinforced throughout our rising generations’ education and socialization. Those investigations must wait for another day, when I have the stomach for it.

For now, let’s just consider what Taylor wrote. It is titled “Six Baltimore Cops Killed Freddie Gray. The System Set Them Free,” an unethical headline that kindly warns us regarding the awfulness to come. No, six Baltimore cops did not kill Freddie Gray, as far as we, or the system, knows based on the evidence. That Taylor would state such an unproven and unprovable statement as fact immediately makes her guilty of disinformation, and shows that she is willfully ignorant of the principles of American justice, as well as too hateful and biased to comprehend them. Damn right the system set them free. That’s because in the Freddie Gray cases the system worked spectacularly well, despite the best efforts of an incompetent and biased prosecutor to make it do otherwise.

And that was just the title. The rest is infinitely worse: if you are feeling sturdy, read it all here. If not, the selected highlights (lowlights?) to follow will suffice.

Taylor wrote early on, Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Race, Rights, U.S. Society

As The Fourth Officer Charged In Freddie Gray’s Death Is Correctly Acquitted, What Do African Americans Mean By “Accountable”? [ Partially Restored ]

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In Baltimore, Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams acquitted Lt. Brian Rice of all charges  related to Freddie Gray’s arrest and death. As he had with two other officers charged in the case (the trial of the third ended in a hung jury), Judge Williams cleared Rice, ruling that the prosecution hadn’t proved its case. This was the result widely predicted by legal ethics, because it was apparent that State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby had rushed the decision to prosecute and proceeded without sufficient investigation or evidence.

Williams said prosecutors failed to meet their burden of proving the charges against Rice beyond a reasonable doubt, and instead had asked  the court to rely on “presumptions or assumptions.” He said that the court “cannot be swayed by sympathy, prejudice or public opinion.”

The result spurred a predictable response from activists.”So far, nobody’s been guilty for this man’s death,” said protester Dornell Brown. “Nobody’s been held accountable. Verdict after verdict after verdict, they’ve been getting off. Who’s gonna be held accountable for that man’s death?”  “This is a man who had chain of command responsibility for Freddie Gray and so he should be held responsible and accountable for what happened to Freddie Gray,” Brian Dolge, another protester said. Protester Arthur Johnson, who has held a sign outside of each of the four trials of the officers  connected with Gray’s death, said,

“It’s just what I and the community expected. You’ve got an individual that interacts with six other individuals over something trivial and that individual ends up dead and we can’t even get reckless endangerment.”

[ NOTICE: This is all I could recover from the original post, which was up, then disappeared when some glitch crashed it with the last Melania post. More than a thousand words followed, and it was, I think, an important post, but I have neither the time nor the heart to try to reconstruct it. So, with apologies, I will summarize the main points

. I also apologize for the comments to that post, which somehow ended up with Melania, where they now make no sense. I had to delete them. Ugh. This has never happened before. I hope it doesn’t happen again., though because I don’t know why it happened at all, that is just a hope.]

In summation:

1. These statements represent a false definition of accountability and justice. The concept appears to be that any time a black citizen dies at the hands of a police officer without incontrovertible  proof that the citizen was threatening the life of the officer with a deadly weapon, accountability mandates criminal charges, a trial, and a conviction. Anything less is not justice or accountability.

2. This is not American justice, and should not be. No charges should be brought without probable cause and sufficient evidence to convict. No conviction should occur unless a fair trial finds an officer guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

3. The version of justice and accountability that black activists are promoting is ancient tribal justice, primitive justice based on “an eye for an eye” and vengeance. Unless blood pays for blood, there has been no accountability.

4.  Disgracefully, States Attorney Marilyn Mosby pandered to this dangerous and retrograde version of  accountability and justice, further entrenching it and validating it in Baltimore and the black community nationally.

5. In fact, there has been accountability for the death of  Gray. Baltimore paid a multi-million dollar settlement to Gray’s family for the acts of the city’s employees resulting in Gray’s demise. It is likely that some of the police officers, perhaps all, will face administrative discipline.

6. Why does the African-American community so widely reject the evolved justice system of modern America? Sociologists can argue about that. I believe it is a result of frustration, history, the problem of living in high crime areas, and confirmation bias. There is also great and dangerous ignorance across all segments of the public regarding how the justice system works, and why. Tribal justice, like gang justice, is simple: one of us has dies, so the killer must be punished. The details don’t matter. It takes no knowledge or understanding of jurisprudence to conclude that if “one of us” is hurt or killed, the responsible party has to suffer.

7. There will be no resolution to the current societal divide  and racial distrust until there is a threshold consensus on what accountability and justice means in this society. What has occurred in the Gray trials is justice. The prosecution failed its burden of proof. African Americans benefit from that standards of justice too.

8. Unless some eminent, trusted, respected, persuasive, and influential black leaders have the courage to confront black activists and make them understand that the versions of accountability and justice they are demonstrating for are destructive, divisive and wrong, the police/black and black/white conflicts will become more bitter.

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Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, U.S. Society

Ethics Observations On FBI Director Comey’s Statement Regarding The Clinton Investigation

James Comey

The transcript of FBI Director James Comey’s full remarks on the Clinton e-mail probe follow. I will highlight important sections in bold, and in some cases, bold and red. My  observations will follow.

Good morning. I’m here to give you an update on the FBI’s investigation of Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal e-mail system during her time as Secretary of State.

After a tremendous amount of work over the last year, the FBI is completing its investigation and referring the case to the Department of Justice for a prosecutive decision. What I would like to do today is tell you three things: what we did; what we found; and what we are recommending to the Department of Justice.

This will be an unusual statement in at least a couple ways. First, I am going to include more detail about our process than I ordinarily would, because I think the American people deserve those details in a case of intense public interest. Second, I have not coordinated or reviewed this statement in any way with the Department of Justice or any other part of the government. They do not know what I am about to say.

I want to start by thanking the FBI employees who did remarkable work in this case. Once you have a better sense of how much we have done, you will understand why I am so grateful and proud of their efforts.

So, first, what we have done:

The investigation began as a referral from the Intelligence Community Inspector General in connection with Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal e-mail server during her time as Secretary of State. The referral focused on whether classified information was transmitted on that personal system.

Our investigation looked at whether there is evidence classified information was improperly stored or transmitted on that personal system, in violation of a federal statute making it a felony to mishandle classified information either intentionally or in a grossly negligent way, or a second statute making it a misdemeanor to knowingly remove classified information from appropriate systems or storage facilities.

Consistent with our counterintelligence responsibilities, we have also investigated to determine whether there is evidence of computer intrusion in connection with the personal e-mail server by any foreign power, or other hostile actors.

I have so far used the singular term, “e-mail server,” in describing the referral that began our investigation. It turns out to have been more complicated than that. Secretary Clinton used several different servers and administrators of those servers during her four years at the State Department, and used numerous mobile devices to view and send e-mail on that personal domain. As new servers and equipment were employed, older servers were taken out of service, stored, and decommissioned in various ways. Piecing all of that back together — to gain as full an understanding as possible of the ways in which personal e-mail was used for government work — has been a painstaking undertaking, requiring thousands of hours of effort.

For example, when one of Secretary Clinton’s original personal servers was decommissioned in 2013, the e-mail software was removed. Doing that didn’t remove the e-mail content, but it was like removing the frame from a huge finished jigsaw puzzle and dumping the pieces on the floor. The effect was that millions of e-mail fragments end up unsorted in the server’s unused — or “slack”— space. We searched through all of it to see what was there, and what parts of the puzzle could be put back together.

FBI investigators have also read all of the approximately 30,000 e-mails provided by Secretary Clinton to the State Department in December 2014. Where an e-mail was assessed as possibly containing classified information, the FBI referred the e-mail to any U.S. government agency that was a likely “owner” of information in the e-mail, so that agency could make a determination as to whether the e-mail contained classified information at the time it was sent or received, or whether there was reason to classify the e-mail now, even if its content was not classified at the time it was sent (that is the process sometimes referred to as “up-classifying”).

From the group of 30,000 e-mails returned to the State Department, 110 e-mails in 52 e-mail chains have been determined by the owning agency to contain classified information at the time they were sent or received. Eight of those chains contained information that was Top Secret at the time they were sent; 36 chains contained Secret information at the time; and eight contained Confidential information, which is the lowest level of classification. Separate from those, about 2,000 additional e-mails were “up-classified” to make them Confidential; the information in those had not been classified at the time the e-mails were sent.

Continue reading

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