Ethics Zugswang And The Vicissitudes Of Moral Luck: The Rutgers Prof’s Scary Tweet

Careless tweets matter...

Careless tweets matter…

Rutgers University lecturer Kevin Allred tweeted,

“Will the 2nd amendment be as cool when i buy a gun and start shooting at random white people or no…?”

The University had him arrested and sent to Bellevue mental hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.

His defenders, and of course Allred, say that his tweet was just a rhetorical question to make a point. The University says that he left them no choice, or no good ones, anyway.

They both are right. This is what comes of being in Ethics Zugswang, when one is thrust into  a position where no course of action is fully responsible, fair, and ethical.

The university decided that it could not responsibly assume that the tweet was benign and not a threat. What if the school did nothing, and Allred then  took high ground and became Charles Whitman 2016? Having him arrested, however, looks unfair and like a punitive reaction to free speech. There was literally no course the university could take that was completely ethical. Rutgers sacrificed its  teacher’s dignity for the safety of the students and to protect the institution’s liability.

The other alternatives—talking to him, shrugging it off as a poorly considered social media gaffe—placed the fate of the school and perhaps many students at the mercy of moral luck. These would seem like reasonable  decisions only if the moral luck dice did not come up snake eyes. Allred didn’t say “if” I buy a gun, he said when. He added race to the equation, and there are a lot of people who seem to be losing their grip in the wake of the election. What were the odds that he meant what he wrote? 100 to 1? 1000 to 1? 5000 to 1? Is it worth the remote chance that this was a warning of an impending catastrophe not to take the safe route, and have him arrested and examined? Is it worth gambling with students’ lives? Continue reading

The Seventh Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2015, Part 1

Donald and Hillary

Sigh.

Watching the (encouraging) Iowa Caucuses results drip in last night, I was reminded that I hadn’t finished the task of completing the Seventh Annual Ethics Alarms Awards for 2015’s Worst in Ethics. There are two reasons for my tardiness: a lot of other ethics issues have arisen of late, and this job makes me physically ill. It is depressing and discouraging: 2015 was much worse than 2014, which was considerably worse than 2013. What am I doing here? What is the point of spending all of this uncompensated time—it is more profitable bagging groceries—trying to nurture a more ethical culture and a more ethically competent public when all evidence points to utter futility as the result? Well, that way madness lies, I guess. I’m just going to grit my teeth and do my duty.

Last year I began by saying that 2014 was the year of the Ethics Train Wreck. There were far more of them in 2015, and they were more serious and damaging. That should give you sufficient warning of the horrors to come…

Ethics Train Wreck of the Year

trainwreck

The Illegal Immigration Ethics Train Wreck

One reason 2015 was a train wreck fest was that last year’s winners, the Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck, which begat the Freddie Gray Ethics Train Wreck, both begat by the 2012 winner, The Trayvon Martin- George Zimmerman Ethics Train Wreck, and The Obama Administration Ethics Train Wreck, were still running amuck this year as well. The latter managed to run head-on into the immigration mess, with the President over-stepping his Constitutional limits to decide unilaterally not to enforce the law, and the Middle East foreign policy fiasco, causing Democrats to bury their heads in the sand and deny that admitting unvetted Syrian refugees into the country was unacceptably dangerous, and Republicans to start talking like 1930s Germans. Then everyone was demonizing the issue, including the President and all of the Presidential candidates. Runners-up: The Donald Trump Presidential Campaign Ethics Train Wreck and the Hillary Clinton Presidential Campaign Ethics Train Wreck

Fraud of the Year

Rachel Dolezal, the militant, angry, anti-white NAACP official who, we discovered, was lily white and had magically become black by “identifying” so.  This ridiculous episode neatly encapsulated the entire year, which included sexual predator-enabler Hillary Clinton becoming a feminist champion by identifying as one, Bruce Jenner turning himself into herself by just saying so (and cashing in as a result), and President Obama making failed policies successful by repeating over and over that they were. RUNNER-UP: The Illinois Lottery, which first lures poor citizens into paying millions they can’t afford for a distnat chance at a jackpot, and then doesn’t pay up when one of them wins.

Incompetent Elected Officials of the Year

Every elected official involved in the Flint, Michigan water disaster. Plenty of unelected officials were accountable too, but I don’t have a category for them.

Sexual Predator Of The Year

 Bill Cosby. He won this category handily in 2014, and added about 20 more alleged victims to his total this year. Who know how long he will hold the title? Meanwhile, his own Ethics Train Wreck sucked in Walt Disney World, the Smithsonian, and Claire Huxtable, among others.

Runner-up: Bill Clinton. Karma’s a bitch. Continue reading

Ahmed Mohamed, Justin Carter, And White House Priorities

Wrongly accused Texas kid on the left goes to the White House; wrongly accused Texas kid on the right goes to jail. Explain.

Wrongly accused Texas kid on the left goes to the White House; wrongly accused Texas kid on the right goes to jail. Explain.

Let us stipulate that Ahmed Mohamed, the 14-year-old Texas high school student who was the latest victim of public school cruelty, police incompetence, child abuse, and school-attack hysteria, resulting in an arrest for the Kafka crime of making a “hoax bomb”—that is, a thing that isn’t a bomb and the maker didn’t say was a bomb, but some idiot teacher thought looked like a bomb, and thus assuming  it must have been intended to make idiot teachers think it was a bomb even though even the idiot teachers knew it wasn’t— deserves every kindness and compensatory trip, photo op, meeting and accolade imaginable as a societal apology for being treated like a mad bomber by unethical adults no more qualified to teach the young than they are to fly to Gibralta using their arms as wings.

BUT…

…So do all the other teens (and younger) who have been treated this badly or worse in recent years—the kids punished for gun-shaped pizza and pastries….or the students who were punished after taking weapons away from fellow students and turning them over to teachers, only to find that they were the caught in the Catch 22 of  “no tolerance” madness, seeded in part by the fear-mongering inflicted on our society by President Obama and his political allies.

Like Ahmed, Justin Carter particularly warranted high-level official mea culpas—remember him? He was another Texas teen who languished in jail for months because he made a joke on Facebook about school shootings. Nobody lifted a finger to help him, because, you see, he wasn’t one of the favored minorities to this administration. Don’t you dare argue that the distinction is that Justin made his “terroristic” comments in the context of a computer game, while Ahmed’s home-made clock was proof of special talents. Typical kids deserve fair treatment as much as budding geniuses.

Don’t

You

Dare.

In a 2013 post titled, If Only Justin Carter Were Black…Or Muslim…, I wrote Continue reading

Jim Ardis, Mayor of Peoria, Uses The Police To Crush A Social Media Critic, But Never Mind, It’s Not Important Because He’s Not Racist

"OK, we know you have tweets in there! We're coming in..."

“OK, we know you have tweets in there! We’re coming in…”

This story is obviously trivial, because the news media doesn’t think it’s worth getting upset about. After all, it doesn’t involve race:

PEORIA — Police searched a West Bluff house Tuesday and seized phones and computers in an effort to unmask the author of a parody Twitter account that purported to be Mayor Jim Ardis. The account — known as @Peoriamayor on the popular social media service that limits entries to 140 characters — already had been suspended for several weeks when up to seven plainclothes police officers executed a search warrant about 5:20 p.m. at 1220 N. University St. Three people at the home were taken to the Peoria Police Department for questioning. Two other residents were picked up at their places of employment and taken to the station, as well. One resident — 36-year-old Jacob L. Elliott — was booked into the Peoria County Jail on charges of possessing 30 to 500 grams of marijuana and possessing drug paraphernalia, but no arrests were made in connection with the Twitter account.”

The Twitter account was obviously a parody, if not an especially deft or clever one. After all, one would have to be a hopeless doofus, and an unusually dim one at that, to believe that the mayor of any city, even Toronto’s ridiculous Rob Ford, would happily tweet about his own drug use, crimes and corruption like the Twitter avatar of the Peoria mayor did.

Yet here was Mayor Ardis’s justification to reporters for his jaw-dropping abuse of power:

“I still maintain my right to protect my identity is my right. Are there no boundaries on what you can say, when you can say it, who you can say it to? You can’t say (those tweets) on behalf of me. That’s my problem. This guy took away my freedom of speech.”

Uh-huh. Show me a how “this guy” broke any law that justifies a police raid, you unbelievably arrogant, incompetent fascist.

Some observations: Continue reading

Bergen Community College Shows Us Why Justin Carter Is Being Persecuted

Can't have this. Terrifying. Dangerous.

Can’t have this. Terrifying. Dangerous.

Remember Justin Carter? Last I checked, he was being tried for making a joke on Facebook, because of the culture of fear and speech monitoring created by the irresponsible hysteria over guns and terrorism.  He faces prison time. That this is a freedom-suffocating societal illness that threatens any and all of us is chronicled in Ken White account, and accompanying commentary, on the astonishing mistreatment of Bergen Community College Professor Francis Schmidt by the school, which was sent into a frenzy of terror because he posted to Google+ “a cute picture of his young daughter wearing a Game of Thrones t-shirt in a yoga pose next to a cat.”  Inside Higher Ed reports what happened next: Continue reading

Another Day, Another Web Hoax: The Web Hoax Scale

Fake Wolf

That mad wag, Jimmy Kimmel, is doing another victory lap. This time, the biggest jerk on late night TV managed to fool news services, panic families of Olympian athletes and insult Russia (not that that bothers me very much) by his latest internet gag—convincing American luge athlete Kate Hanson to relay, via Twitter, his fake video of what appeared to be a wolf roaming the halls of the Olympic Village accommodations. Any collateral damage is irrelevant to Kimmel, because his objective is to cause trouble, then mock everyone who was fooled for allowing the trouble to be caused, since if they weren’t so dumb, trusting and gullible—it’s all their fault, not his, you see—nothing would have happened. (Yes, Kate Hansen is a jerk too.)

Here is what this relatively harmless (as opposed to harmless, which no web hoax is) misrepresentation accomplished:

  • It took up thousands of valuable minutes of news broadcasts throughout yesterday which could have been used productively to educate the public about all manner of things they actually need to know about—what’s happening to Justin Carter, for example—remember him? Maybe a well-produced segment on why a teen shouldn’t be facing terrorism charges for an obvious joke he made on Facebook could spark some much-needed public outrage. Instead, serious news broadcast time, a finite resource, was used to further a prank.
  • It made the media a party to a lie. It doesn’t matter about what. It’s a lie.
  • It wasted the time, thought and energy of every person who talked about the wolf, expressed concern about it or thought about it.
  • It further increased cynicism and doubt about news reports, feeding the tendency to adopt conspiracy theories and fear of sinister manipulation. How do we know the moon landing wasn’t a Jimmy Kimmel hoax?

Most of all, this will encourage other, bigger, more reckless asses than even Kimmel to go further and further with their web hoaxes, because such pranks mean viral videos and fame, no matter what harm they cause. Continue reading

Why Are The Core American Rights Ethics Alarms Malfunctioning?

The spark for this post is the recent fiasco engineered by Modesto Junior College in California, which told a student that he could not pass out copies of the United States Constitution outside the student center on September 17, 2013, which happens to be Constitution Day. College police and administrators demanded that student Robert Van Tuinen stop passing out Constitution pamphlets and told him that he would only be allowed to pass them out in the college’s tiny free speech zone, and only after scheduling it several days or weeks ahead of time. Fortunately, as is almost always the case in such campus outrages, The Fire, The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (and what does it tell us that this indispensable champion of individual rights is widely regarded as a “conservative” organization?) was at the ready, and ripped off a letter to the school administrators that served the dual purpose of warning it to back off and holding it up to national ridicule. Continue reading

The Persecution of Paul Ogden, The Justin Carter Of Legal Ethics

When you become a lawyer, Justin, don't do it in Indiana. Ask Paul Ogden why.

When you become a lawyer, Justin, don’t do it in Indiana. Ask Paul Ogden why.

He hasn’t been jailed like his teenaged, online-gaming counterpart, but Indiana attorney Paul Ogden is also facing government sanctions for what was an unequivocal First Amendment communication. In Ogden’s case, he may lose his right to practice law. His offense is insulting a judge…in a private e-mail.

Ogden represented a client before Superior Court Judge David H. Coleman, and was not happy with Coleman’s handling of the case. Neither were Coleman’s supervisors, who removed Coleman from the case for failing to act within an appropriate period of time, under the so-called “lazy judge” act.  Attorney Ogden, who also blogs about politics, commented to a fellow attorney in a private email that Coleman “should be turned in to the disciplinary commission for how he handled this case. If this case would have been in Marion County with a real probate court with a real judge, the stuff that went on with this case never would have happened.” 

Somebody, perhaps the original recipient of the e-mail, forwarded it to the judge (lawyers can be a back-stabbing bunch), and the judge, insulted, demanded an apology. Ogden refused (lawyers can also be stubborn and have a tendency to stand on principle even when it is going to get them in trouble). Because Ogden declined to grovel, Judge Coleman invoked Indiana Rule of Professional Conduct 8.2 and filed a grievance against him to the Indiana Attorney Disciplinary Commission. The Rule, which is essentially identical to the American Bar Association version, prohibits a lawyer from… Continue reading

Reminder: August 1 Is “Quote Justin Carter On Social Media Day”

justin-carter-1

This is  sad.

We last heard anything about Justin Carter two weeks ago, when he finally was released from prison after an anonymous donor covered his absurd $500,000 bail amount. Since then, nothing has changed. He’s still charged with making terrorist threats based on an obvious joke he put on Facebook. He still represents the apotheosis of the fanatic fear of guns and violence against schools in the wake of the post-Sandy Hook hysteria, cynically fed by Democrats, anti-gun zealots and the media. Carter’s plight still shows the continuing erosion of First Amendment rights in the fearful and paranoid culture nurtured by the Obama administration and turned into an offense to liberty by its natural partner, the abuse of government power. It’s just that nobody is paying attention.

The news media, which should have an interest in protecting the same amendment that (theoretically, these days) protects them, gave some fleeting coverage to the story but quickly dropped it in favor of gushing over infant foreign monarchs, finding ways to vilify George Zimmerman and making bad Weiner puns. The blogosohere has been pretty silent too, with some notable exceptions.

I am generally opposed to pointless demonstrations. My pathetic gesture to try to generate some fight in this somnolent nation as its common sense, ethical priorities and sense of justice drains away was never a threat to catch on, and didn’t. Essentially, few understand what is so wrong about what Texas is doing to Carter, and fewer still care enough to protest it. That is sad, and it also is frightening.

Nonetheless, those of us who do care should try to show it, and this was the best that I (or anyone else) could come up with. So challenge the fearful, the bullies,  the Constitutionally ignorant, the arrogant abusers of power “if it will save just one child,” and post the harmless, facetious and sarcastic statement that young Justin Carter posted for a friend, never realizing that America, or at least the part of it where he, and quite possibly you, live, doesn’t really believe in free speech anymore. Post it on your blog, on Facebook, on Twitter. Let’s see if they come for all of us, however many it is. And let’s see how many people care anymore.

August 1 Is “Quote Justin Carter On Social Media Day.”

And Justin’s words, which got him arrested, imprisoned, and soon will have him being tried for his freedom, were these:

“Oh yeah, I’m real messed up in the head. I think Ima shoot up a kindergarten and watch the blood of the innocent rain down and eat the beating heart of one of them.” lol. jk.”

 

 

If Only Justin Carter Were Black…Or Muslim…

Justin2

Maybe people would care if he looked like the President’s son, and not mine…

If Justin Carter were black or Muslim….

  • maybe the news media would take an interest in a Texas teenager being imprisoned and charged with a terrorist threat for an obvious joke on Facebook;
  • maybe progressive and civil rights organizations would question whether his prosecution was the result of an abuse of power by prosecutors, and fearful paranoia by the his community;
  • maybe pundit and commentator accusations of official bias against his race or religion would result in authorities questioning the wisdom of their actions and the cruelty of Justin’s persecution;
  • maybe professional activists and race-hucksters would use their influence to focus attention on his plight, the miscarriage of justice, and its dangerous implications for the rest of us;
  • maybe the ACLU would deem his case worthy of its intervention and support;
  • ...maybe Al Sharpton would organize demonstrations protesting law enforcement ruining the life of an innocent young man  because he was insufficient sensitive to irrational public fearfulness, instead of organizing protests against a jury’s just and unimpeachable acquittal of a defendant based on inadequate evidence to convict.
  • maybe the President of the United States would feel that his case was worthy of a lecture to the nation about the importance of free speech, and why fear of guns, violence and terrorism shouldn’t turn the U.S. into a censorious police state.

But unfortunately for Justin Carter and the First Amendment, he isn’t black or Muslim, so the serious criminal charges against him for daring to express himself remain, the news media has been silent on the case for more than a week, the ACLU ignores him, the President’s attentions and priorities remain elsewhere, and most of the public has never heard of him, or doesn’t give a damn.

Please join me in trying to get this terrible injustice noticed and rectified, and by participating in “Quote Justin Carter On Social Media Day,”

August 1, 2013.

Remember, the words that made Justin a criminal are these:

“Oh yeah, I’m real messed up in the head. I think Ima shoot up a kindergarten and watch the blood of the innocent rain down and eat the beating heart of one of them.” lol. jk.”

Post them on Facebook, Twitter, Link’d In, or your own blog, and let’s see if they can arrest all of us.