Evening Ethics Catch-Up, 2/26/2020: Goodbye Baby Peggy And Baby “Whoops!”

Sorry, this is later that I intended…

I’ve been working on accounting ethics, which always slows down my metabolism to Galapagos tortoise levels…

1.Worst lie of the year (so far)…In Winter Park, Florida, Jorge Torres was found dead , zipped into a suitcase. Suspect Sarah Boone insisted that it was all a tragic mistake. They  were playing hide and seek, she said, and he just hid too well. A cellphone video, however, caught his cries for help from inside the suitcase, as she said, “That’s what I feel like when you cheat on me!” Boone, however, told police that the wacky couple thought it would be funny if he got inside the suitcase. They were drinking at the time and who hasn’t zipped up a loved one in a suitcase when spirits run high? Unfortunately, Sarah passed out on her bed, and when she woke up hours later, poor Jorge was dead.

That’s her story, and she’s sticking with it.

2. Remember “Baby Peggy”? Probably not, but she was probably the last living link to the silent movie era, and she died this week at 101. She was also one of the earliest examples of the child abuse that became routine in Hollywood. Baby Peggy, real name Peggy-Jean Montgomery, had made about 150 movies by the time she was five-years-old, and was a multi-millionaire at four. As has been the norm with child stars from Peggy through Jackie Coogan to Gary Coleman, Peggy’s parents stole her money and spent it all. They also let her risk life and limb in pursuit of her “art” that she was too young to understand. During her silent-film career, “Baby Peggy”  was thrown from a speeding pickup truck, narrowly escaped a horse trampling and survived near-drownings and incineration. Continue reading

Worst Anti-Gun, Anti-Gun Violence Activist Ever

The one thing I can admire in activists, even those whose agendas I find wrong-headed and irresponsible, is integrity. Are they genuinely passionate about what they advocate? Do they really believe the arguments they put forth? Will they adhere to their stated principles even when it becomes profitable or convenient to reject them? I may think an activist is ill-informed, addicted to demagoguery and not very bright (Rep. Octavia-Cortez comes immediately to mind), but I will always, perhaps grudgingly, appreciate his or her passion, dedication, and persistence, if they are accompanied by integrity.

And then we have activists like Ashley Auzenne, 39, a Texas mother who fought for stricter gun control laws and an end to gun violence until last week, when she used a gun to kill herself and her three young children,  Parrish, 11, Eleanor, 9, and Lincoln, 7.

I think it’s fair to call someone who says she wants to  to end violence (Auzenne’s Facebook profile pictures were accompanied with the hashtags #Enough and #EndGunViolence) and then engages in it herself a hypocrite, a liar who publicly pretended to hold one view while personally being capable of engaging in the exact conduct she condemned when it suited her own perceived needs.

Perhaps, on the other hand, we should regard her as the real life equivalent of the villains in various TV shows and movies like 2007’s “Live Free or Die Hard,” the third installment of the Bruce Willis “Die Hard” franchise. In that movie, a tech whiz who had failed in his efforts to persuade the government that crucial systems were vulnerable to hacker attacks sets out to prove his point by becoming a cyber-terrorist who takes control of government and commercial computers across the United States to launch a “fire sale” disabling  the nation’s infrastructure. Continue reading

Insomnia Ethics Dump, 8/19/2019 (at 3:16 am): What Keeps Me Up At Night

Hi.

So depressing to observe the reactions of the Facebook Borg to my post about Elizabeth Warren’s self-outing as a lying demagogue. They couldn’t process it; they put their metaphorical fingers in their ears and hummed; they attacked the messenger (me); they channeled the generally-derided Politifact whitewashing of the “Mike Brown was murdered” lie. One lawyer friend apparent deep-dived Ethics Alarms to try to  find a post that would contradict my position regarding Warren (and Kamala Harris). She couldn’t, but pretended she had by metaphorically waving an essay in which I applauded a man acquitted of murder by reason of insanity who later admitted to others that he had killed someone when he was younger and insane. (I can’t find the damn thing myself.)  She then called me a liar and a hypocrite, because I had described the man as a murderer when he was innocent in the eyes of the law. A lawyer made this argument, mind you. I explained, not too nicely, that her analogy was idiotic, since there was no murder and no crime in the Brown case, so law prof Warren’s calling it either was dishonest and indefensible, while in the case of the recovered madman, there was a murder, a crime, and a murder victim. Though the acknowledged killer he was fortunate enough to have committed his crime in a state that holds the insane unaccountable, that fact didn’t change the act or the  crime.

I don’t know why I bothered. Warren fans, like Bernie Bros, appear to be completely immune to facts and reality.

1.  Why is there such a compulsion to corrupt the innocent, even the fictional innocent? I was hardly an admirer of those late 60s and 70s Sid and Marty Kroft Saturday Morning TV shows with people dressed in huge, garish thing-costumes and being relentlessly cheery. You know the ones: “H.R. Puffnstuff,” “The Banana Splits Adventure Hour,” “Lidsville”—those. In addition to being assaultive and unfunny, they also inspired Barney, for which the Krofts should never be forgiven.

Still, lots of kids loved the shows and characters, and they should be able to cherish those memories. Hollywood, however, seems determined to debase everything it can, especially fond memories, either by sexualizing them or making them dark, or both. (The re-boot of “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” and “Riverdale,” the series based on the “Archie” comics, are cases in point.) Now we have the new in which are re-imagined as murderous psychopaths.

Nice. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/13/2019: Rhode Island On My Mind Edition

 

Providence, Rhode Island

Good morning!

I’m heading up to Little Rhodey in a few hours to once again collaborate with my brilliant Ethics Rock musician Mike Messer before the Rhode Island Bar, as well as to try to back about 7 hours of legal ethics and technology commentary into a 75 minute break-out session.

1. Once again, law vs ethics.The Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld those lame duck laws the GOP legislature passed to hamstring the new Democratic Governor. It is the correct decision. The measures were unethical, but legal, just like Mitch McConnell’s gambit to refuse giving Merrick Garland a hearing, just like Harry Reid’s “reconciliation” maneuver to get the amended Affordable Care Act passed without having to send it  back to the House.

2. Correct, but futile.  From the Washington Post: Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Comment Of The Day: ‘SCOTUS: There is No Right To Be Executed Painlessly'”

Hayes and Komisarjevky, the Cheshire, Conn. killers

Steve-O-in NJ’s Comment of the Day on my post about the recent SCOTUS capital punishment opinion spawned another COTD. The immediate catalyst was my answer, within the post, to Steve’s query about what crimes I think warrant executions. One of my answers referenced the Cheshire, Connecticut home invasion and murders, which I wrote about extensively here.

Here is Rich in Ct’s Comment of the Day on the post,Comment Of The Day: “SCOTUS: There is No Right To Be Executed Painlessly”:“SCOTUS: There is No Right To Be Executed Painlessly”:

“The Cheshire, Conn. murders.” This is the crime that broke my opinion of the death penalty. I was initially ultra-liberal on this issue, thinking that the death penalty was just not acceptable today, but moderated considerably.

My initial view was a rather unexamined belief, essentially unchanged from what I had expressed in a middle school essay a few years before the home invasion. In that middle school essay, I decried the state of Connecticut for “murdering” Michael Ross, a jolly good chap who killed 8 souls before the age of 24. (Stipulated, even in middle school, I conceded wooden jails of the Wild West, etc, could not reliably contain dangerous individuals, necessitating the death penalty.)

My main argument was that killing was WRONG. This was axiomatic, not allowing counter argument. The only mitigating factor for execution, the need to protect the public, was adequately addressed with modern maximum-security prisons.

Ross was the last criminal successfully executed by Connecticut, making the opportunities to reflect on an actual case study vanishingly rare. However, Connecticut had several placed on its death rolls, each hopelessly tied up in appeals (mostly by design). A distressing number of capital indictments came from prosecutors in Waterbury, the major city in northwestern part of the state. Waterbury has a unique reputation for corruption second to none (in a state with Hartford, New Haven, and Bridgeport, mind you); disgraced ex-governor Rowland was employed by the city when he was released from prison. Continue reading

The Bioethical Dilemma Of The Mother’s DNR Revisited, And More Fetal Rights Ethics Confusion [UPDATED]

In Part 2 of the New York Times editorial board’s examination of the ethical and legal complexities of conflicting laws protecting the right to kill a fetus, the rights a fetus does have, and the mother’s rights, the question is posed:

Katherin Shuffield was five months pregnant when she was shot in 2008. She survived, but she lost the twins she was carrying. The gunman, Brian Kendrick, was charged with murdering them. Bei Bei Shuai was eight months pregnant and depressed when she tried to kill herself in 2010. She was rushed to the hospital and survived, but her baby died a few days later. Ms. Shuai was charged with murder.

Both cases are tragedies. But are Ms. Shuai and the man who shot Ms. Shuffield really both murderers?

It is an ethical question, a legal one and a logical one. Unfortunately, and typical of the entire series, the Times cannot play straight, or begin with basic principles. No, the questions is asked with an assumption in hand: the right to abortion must trump everything, even logic and justice The editors go on:

“Ms. Shuai is one of several hundred pregnant women who have faced criminal charges since 1973 for acts seen as endangering their pregnancies, according to National Advocates for Pregnant Women, which has completed the only peer-reviewed study of arrests and forced interventions on pregnant women in the United States. In many cases, the laws under which these women were charged were ostensibly written to protect them. Ms. Shuai, for instance, was charged under a law that was stiffened after the attack on Ms. Shuffield.

These criminal statutes are results of a tried-and-true playbook, part of a strategic campaign to establish fetal rights, reverse Roe v. Wade and recriminalize abortion. The sequence begins with anti-abortion groups seizing upon a tragic case in which a woman loses her pregnancy because of someone else’s actions. Public outcry then helps to strengthen a state feticide law that recognizes such lost pregnancies as murder or manslaughter. It’s a backdoor way of legally defining when life begins.”

In other words, the Times relies on ideology to duck an ethics conflict that points in a direction that radical abortion advocates don’t like, and thus refuse to acknowledge, because they don’t have a good answer for it. Here’s my answer: Yes, they are both murderers. If a mother who is gestating a child that she and her husband intend to have, and the child is killed by the act of a third party, a human being has been murdered, and charges are just. In the Sheffield case, her twins were within the protection of abortion limitations, though I would hold that this doesn’t matter, if they were both going to be delivered. If you don’t call this a murder, then a manic could perform an involuntary abortion on a 9 month’s  pregnant women, ripping her fetus out of her with murderous intent, and still face no murder charges as long as the mother recovered. Were it not that all obstacles to abortion must fall, even logical ones, no woman, no human being would call such an act anything but murder. Once any rights are assigned to the unborn at all, however, such logic is impolitic. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/18/2018: One Week To Christmas Edition (Including Nothing About Christmas, Almost)

Good Morning.

A beautiful, naked Frasier Fir is standing in my living room like an unpaid debt.

1. Speaking of Christmas...The first installment on the Ethics Alarms ethics guide to “Miracle on 34th Street” went up late yesterday, and was immediately blocked on Facebook for violating community standards. Nice. It appears my Facebook “friends” took revenge for my chiding their juvenile and unending “Orange Man Bad” posts.

2. Speaking of being ticked offProfessor Turley:

In a surprising admission, the author if the controversial dossier used to secure the secret surveillance on Trump officials admitted that it was paid for by Clinton campaign as a type of insurance to challenge the election.  At the same time, the reporter who helped break the story, Michael Isikoff now says that many of the specific allegations remain unproven and are likely false. 

The Washington Times reported that Steele stated in a declaration in a defamation case that the law firm Perkins Coie wanted to be able to challenge the results of the election based on the dossier.  In an answer to interrogatories, Mr. Steele wrote: “Fusion’s immediate client was law firm Perkins Coie. It engaged Fusion to obtain information necessary for Perkins Coie LLP to provide legal advice on the potential impact of Russian involvement on the legal validity of the outcome of the 2016 US Presidential election. Based on that advice, parties such as the Democratic National Committee and HFACC Inc. (also known as ‘Hillary for America’) could consider steps they would be legally entitled to take to challenge the validity of the outcome of that election.”

In his typical fashion when he is in mealy-mouth mood, Turley says this is “concerning,” since this document was used to get judicial leave to spy on the Trump campaign. The news is only surprising if you had your fingers in your ears and were shouting “Nanananana” for the past year. This issue, you will recall, is what led a previously well-regarded commenter from the Left here to noisily withdraw as a participant because I was, he said, obviously in the throes of irrational Right Wing conspiracy mania because I posted this.

Certain exiles, if they have any integrity at all, owe me a large, effusive, groveling apology—and I still might not accept it.

Concludes the Professor: “The Steele admission only magnifies the concerns over the purpose and the use of this dossier, but has received little media attention.”

Gee, I wonder why THAT is!

3. “And now for something completely stupid” Department. I guess former “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” star Alfonso Ribeiro’s  career isn’t going so well. He is suing the makers of the video game Fortnite for allegedly stealing his “Carlton dance.” You know, this…

It was a big deal at the time because Ribeiro’s character was a geek, and ignorant viewers didn’t know that the actor was professional dancer who had starred in “The Tap-Dance Kid” on Broadway as a child. The fact that a video character does similar moves…

…is no basis for a lawsuit. Choreography copyrighting is a murky intellectual property area, and suing because of an animated figure’s moves is pathetic, as well as an abuse of the civil justice system. The has-been star is angling for a nuisance suit settlement. He should try “GoFundMe” instead. Continue reading

No, It Isn’t Hypocrisy When A Gun Control Advocate Shoots Someone

In 2017, Kellie Collins (above, left) ran as a Democrat against incumbent Rep. Jody Hice, a Republican, to represent Georgia’s 10th District. She ultimately dropped out of the race, but while she was running, her major theme was gun control and responsible gun ownership.

Now her former campaign treasurer, Curtis Cain (above, right, in better days), has been found dead inside her apartment, apparently the victim of a gunshot wound. Collins turned herself into the McDuffie County Sheriff’s Office just as authorities in Aiken County, South Carolina found Collins, who had been dead for at least four days.

She must have noticed him.

The conservative news media is implying that this constitutes hypocrisy on Collins’ part. It isn’t. If she had shot him while she was campaigning for responsible gun ownership, then it might have been hypocritical. She might have changed her mind about guns in the intervening months, however. Hypocrisy is when you advocate a principle while you are violating it in a manner that proves you don’t believe in the principle at all. That’s not what happened here.

Even if she had shot him in 2017 in Georgia, though, it wouldn’t necessarily have been hypocrisy. She could still have been a responsible gun owner. Maybe she was acting in self-defense. She did not argue in 2017 that it was irresponsible for gun owners to ever fire their weapons; that would be ridiculous, not that gun control zealots don’t often say ridiculous things.  It isn’t even correct to call this ironic. Responsible gun owners kill people.

It may well be that the evidence will show that Kellie is a murderer.  Base on what we know, however, its is unfair to call her a hypocrite.

I just wanted to clear that up.

Messy Case, Messy Issues, Messy Commentary: The Trials of Curtis Flowers

The basic facts of the Curtis Flowers murder case are these: On the morning of July 16, 1996, someone walked into a furniture store in downtown Winona, Mississippi, and shot four employees in the head. Police charged  Curtis Flowers with all four murders. After 22 years of trials, mistrials and reversals, Flowers has faced juries six times for the same crime. He has been on death row since the first conviction, and the most recent one is being appealed. Many believe he is innocent.

I think it can be stipulated that this has been a badly botched prosecution, whether Flowers is innocent or not. There is no limit on how many times someone can be tried for the same crime, as long as the trials end in mistrials or convictions. The Flowers case suggests that we need a limit. If the system can’t get a conviction properly after a reasonable number of attempts—I don’t know what a reasonable number is, but I am confident that it is less than six—then the accused should go free. So far, Flowers has been in prison for over two decades without being convicted. That’s wrong.

It would be nice and reassuring if a knee-jerk liberal columnist like the New York Times’ David Leonhardt, whose background is in journalism and mathematics, not law, could inform the public about an outrageous case like this without mucking it up with ideological leaps of logic, unwarranted conclusions and progressive talking points. He can’t help himself, though.

Pity.

For his entire op-ed, he relies on this podcast about the case. A podcast about a legal case is like a documentary: it has a point of view baked into it. I admire the podcast, but it isn’t evidence. It isn’t the trial transcripts, or the decisions overturning the three convictions that were found to be flawed. Never mind: the Times writer sees “no good reason to believe that Curtis Flowers is guilty.” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/13/18: Bad Quotes, Faithless Speakers

GOOD MORNING!

1 O.J. was guilty??? I’m shocked! I was going to run a quiz about whether Fox broadcasting the 12-year-old O.J. Simpson interview in which he “hypothesizes” about what really happened—when Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman ended up with the lives stabbed out of them and a trail of O.J.’s blood leading from the scene to his home—was unethical or just icky, as in “revolting taste.”

Never mind: I’m willing to say it was unethical. Fox was aiding and abetting a murderer’s efforts to cash in on his crimes. Yes, yes, I know: in the eyes of the law, Simpson is innocent. But Fox, and you, and I, and O.J.’s lawyers and certainly O.J. all know beyond a shadow of doubt that he did it, and Simpson deserves a full shunning from the culture in every respect.

Fox, many forget, produced this interview as part of the promotion for O.J.’s book, “If I Did It,” written by a ghostwriter after interviews with Simpson. Simpson got $600,000 in the deal, denying later that he had anything to do with the project, and saying, “Hey, they offered me $600,000 not to dispute that I [wrote] the book…Everybody thinks I’m a murderer anyway. They’re not going to change their mind just because of a book.”

The consensus is that the Simpson’s statements in the Fox interview amount to a confession to double murder. I saw the key portion in a promotion,, where O.J. says that he remembers being at Nicole’s home, grabbing a knife, then seeing lots of blood…but not remembering what happened in between. But Simpson is a liar and a sociopath, and because of double-jeopardy, he can say that he watched Nicole and Ron get attacked by an army of zombies he recruited and it wouldn’t make any difference.

The degree to which Fox debased itself by running this offal cannot be exaggerated, and anyone who watched it without being paid to do so is an accessory after the fact to the unjust enrichment of O.J. Simpson.

2. Bonus O.J, ugliness: Read this hateful, racist, biased and legally ignorant essay by Michael Herriot at “The Root.” Herriot is another of many contributors to CNN whose anti-white racism is palpable, but deemed acceptable mainstream punditry. How deep and widespread is this kind of blind, unreasoning hatred of white Americans in the black community? How can anyone read something like this and wonder where the upsurge in white nationalism comes from?

3. And speaking of CNN’s  race-baiters…Here is Van Jones on his newly minted CNN show, whining and grovelling to Oprah Winfrey:

“It meant so much to us, and, you know, I have to let you know how it is for us now. We had you. We had the Obamas in the White House. Even on a bad day, you had a north star. You had some hope. And then it was like the universe looked just said, psych! And threw us in the toilet and closed the lid and now we’re just stuck in this crazy situation, swirlingHelp us, though, help us though!…I go out there and I try to tell people, let’s not become what we are fighting. Let’s not be what we’re fighting. They tell me, shut up, Van, because we got bigots out here, we got Nazis out here, we’re getting bullied, we are tired of going high. We want to go low and kick them in the private parts!”

There is disturbing evidence that “the resistance” and the anti-Trump mob, including the news media, is heading into a new and even more deranged stage, which is scary, since the previous stage has been putting unprecented stress on the nation’s mental and political health. We saw this deterioration with Jill Abramson’s open admission that she keeps a totem of Barack Obama in her purse to stave off despair. We are seeing more and more alternate-reality rants, like this one by David Remnick in “The New Yorker.”

The rhetoric is getting more shrill and hyperbolic every day, even when the news is good. At least Paul Krugman is consistent: his rhetoric about Trump has been shrill and hyperbolic from the start. Here he is this morning:

“Now, it’s a commonplace, but also a euphemism, to say that Trump has authoritarian instincts. A more accurate statement would be that he expects the kind of treatment tin-pot dictators demand, free from any criticism inside or outside his government and greeted with constant hosannas of praise. And everyone who isn’t willing to play the full game, who has tried to play by something resembling normal democratic rules, seems to be fleeing the administration. Soon only the shameless sycophants will be left. This will not end well.”

Sigh. All of America’s strong Presidents have had autocratic instincts, with the arguable exception of George Washington. Jackson, Polk, Lincoln, Cleveland, Teddy, Wilson, FDR, Truman, Ike,  LBJ, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton. Obama did as well, though he wasn’t a strong President. It’s just that people like Krugman are so offended by Trump being President that when he behaves essentially like the rest, they think it’s sinister. The complaining about this President surrounding himself with yes-men is especially hypocritical, since there were few complaints from the same critics about President Obama’s dangerously deferential inner circle, bolstered by a worshipful rather than properly objective press.

Krugman’s title is “Springtime for Sycophants.” Trump is Hitler, get it? Continue reading