Last week, Congressman Suozzi participated in the student walkout for gun control outside the US Capitol, and called on the youth of his district to back gun ownership restrictions. “I think we should engage the high school students of #NY03, and all of Long Island, to promote gun violence prevention legislation,” he tweeted earlier.
This week, however the gun-grabbing Congressman endorsed the concept of an armed citizenry prepared to overthrow the government…specifically, the current one. This, of course, requires more than rocks and slingshots. It requires guns. Citizens opposed to President Trump had to consider the option of resorting to “Second Amendment,” Suozzi said in March 12 talk to constituents, saying in part,
“It’s really a matter of putting public pressure on the President/ This is where the Second Amendment comes in, quite frankly, because you know, what if the President was to ignore the courts? What would you do? What would we do?”
After an audience member called out, “What’s the Second Amendment?” (I know, I know. Sigh), Rep. Suozzi answered, “The Second Amendment is the right to bear arms!”
Afterwards, Suozzi’s office tweeted out one of the Thomas Jefferson quotes often cited by the NRA and Second Amendment defenders:
“What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance. Let them take arms!”
OK, audience, are you ready? We’ve heard the evidence: this isn’t like John Kerry saying that he was for the Iraq War before he was against it. This is like Kerry saying that he was for the Iraq War WHILE he was against it! So it’s time to play the popular new political game show that’s sweeping the nation, “Unethical, Confused, Shameless, Or Just An Idiot”!
Here’s your challenge! Is Congressman Suozzi…Unethical, Confused, Shameless, Or Just An Idiot?
1 A Not Exactly Hypothetical… A family member is getting married, and the social justice warrior spouse has decreed that no gifts should be sent, just contributions in the happy couples’ name to designated charities and causes, all political, partisan, and ideological. Does this obligate guests to give money to causes and organizations they object to or disagree with? One might be tempted to teach a life-lesson in abuse of power, and pointedly give a contribution to, say, The Family Research Counsel, the NRA, or Paul Ryan’s re-election campaign, but that would be wrong. Wouldn’t it?
2. “Progressive fines” poll update. The percentage of readers who regard so-called “progressive fines” as fairer than fining all law violators the same amount regardless of resources is about 6%, in contracts to 40% who think this is less fair. As I suspected, the schism is driven by the long-standing (and resolvable) arguments over what constitutes “fair” government policies, and whether it is the government’s job to try to make life less unfair. Is it “fair” to treat everyone the same, when we know that life doesn’t treat everyone the same? Are those who argue that life’s unfairness should be addressed by individuals, not society, taking that position because they are winners in life’s chaotic lottery? Can society and governments be trusted to address “unfairness” and inequality without being influenced by the conflicts and biases of the human beings making and carrying out laws and policies. I don’t generally care to spend a lot of Ethics Alarms time or space on abstract ethics questions, but some of them can’t be avoided. You can take the poll, if you haven’t already, here.
“For a justice system committed to treating like offenders alike, scaling fines to income is a matter of basic fairness. Making everyone pay the same sticker price is evenhanded on the surface, but only if you ignore the consequences of a fine on the life of the person paying. The flat fine threatens poor people with financial ruin while letting rich people break the law without meaningful repercussions. Equity requires punishment that is equally felt.”
Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is..
Do you agree that “progressive fines” are a more ethical policy than having the same fines for the same violation, regardless of the offender?
While the Alamo was under siege, the provisional Texas government organized at Washington-on-the-Brazos. On March 2, the convention declared independence and the Republic of Texas was born, at least on paper. The Alamo’s garrison showed its support for independence from Mexico by sending its own delegates to the convention.While they were unaware that Texas had declared independence, the roughly 200 Alamo defenders stayed at their post waiting on help from the settlements. Among them were lawyers, doctors, farmers and a former congressman and famous frontiersman from Tennessee named David Crockett. While the youngest was 16 and the oldest defender was Gordon C. Jennings, age 56, most defenders were in their twenties. Most were Anglo, but there were a handful of native Tejano defenders as well. Legendary knife fighter and land speculator James Bowie was in command before falling ill and sharing duties with Travis. Several women and children were inside the Alamo, including 15-month-old Angelina Dickinson. Just before the final battle, Travis placed his ring around her neck, knowing she would likely be spared. One of the last messages from the Alamo was a note from Travis asking friends to take care of his young son Charles.
The final attack came before dawn on March 6, 1836. As Mexican troops charged toward the Alamo in the pre-dawn darkness, defenders rushed to the walls and fired into the darkness. Travis raced to the north wall but was soon killed. Bowie was most likely killed in his bed, while reports differ as to Crockett’s death. Many believe Crockett survived the initial attack but was put to death by Mexican soldiers soon afterward.
Mexican soldiers breached the north wall and flooded into the compound. The fierce battle centered on the old church, where defenders made a last stand.
BEXAR, Texas, March 6, 1836 — Alas, alas! Forever more, the name of the Alamo shall stand alongside that of Thermopylae in the annals of history as a tale of unmatched bravery to be handed down from generation to generation.
The bastion of Texas Liberty has fallen, and to a man, Lt. Col. William Travis and his fellow defenders — like the immortal 300 Spartans — have been martyred.
After withstanding an unrelenting siege of twelve days’ duration by one of the mightiest armies ever assembled on this continent, the walls of the old mission that had housed Travis (a man as brave as the fabled King Leonidas), Col. James Bowie, the Hon. David Crockett and some 200 other defenders were breached before the sun rose to-day.
Savagery was unleashed therein as a juggernaut orchestrated by the modern-day Xerxes, Mexican Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna, swept over the Alamo….
Since I was a small boy, this episode in American history moved me more than any other. It still does. I first learned about the Alamo when I watched Fess Parker as Davy Crocket, swinging his rifle like a baseball bat at Mexiacn skulls, the last man standing as behind him we could see more of Santa Anna’s soldiers pouring over the wall. We never saw Davy fall—my dad explained that this was appropriate, since nobody is sure how or when he died, unlike Travis and Bowie, and the last verse of the Ballad of Davy Crocket played…
His land is biggest an’ his land is best from grassy plains to the mountain crest He’s ahead of us all meetin’ the test followin’ his legend into the West Davy, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier!
The politics and complexities of the Texas war of independence don’t alter the essential facts: a group of men of different backgrounds, under the command of three prototypical American figures—the pioneer (Crocket), the settler (Bowie), and the law-maker (Travis), all of whom were trying to recover from dark periods in their lives—chose to make the ultimate sacrifice for a cause they believed in fervently enough to die for, in the company of others who felt the same. It was, after all, the perfect ethical dilemma, the choice between an ethical act for the benefit of society and a non-ethical consideration, the most basic one of all: staying alive. They all had the same choice, and rejected life for a principle.
Your professional theater company has limited funds, so it offers its actors an option. They may choose a flat fee for their roles, or get a percentage of the show’s profits, if there are any, on top of a much smaller base fee.
The company just completed an extremely profitable production, the biggest hit your theater has ever had. Nine of the show’s ten cast members chose the percentage of profits option, a gamble, because most of the shows lose money. One, the star, who you know could not afford to gamble, took the flat fee for the role. After the accounting for the production is complete, you realize that every member of the cast will make $1000 more than the star, because of the show’s profits.
Question 1: What do you do?
Give him the extra $1000. It’s only fair.
Pay him the flat fee. A deal’s a deal.
You can weigh in:
Question 2: You remount the production, and the exact same thing happens. The actor chooses the flat fee, the show is again a huge money-maker,,and the rest of the cast will make much more than him because they chose the percentage. Do you give him the extra amount again?
No. Now he’s taking advantage of me.
Yes. Nothing has changed.
As before, the approximately 50 11- and 12-year old boys were astute, serious, thoughtful, and gutsy, and their ethical instincts were superb. Continue reading →
1 One of my favorite Hollywood ethics scenes. I watched “Mrs. Miniver” again last night, the 1942 WWII drama starring the magnificent Greer Garson. It has a wonderful ethics moment late in the film, when Lady Beldon, the wealthy town battleaxe (and the grandmother Mrs. Miniver’s recently minted daughter-in-law, soon to die tragically) presides over the English village’s annual flower show, in which she has won the coveted “Best Rose” prize every year. But beloved old stationmaster Mr. Ballard has developed a magnificent new rose (named after Garson’s character) and desperately wants to win as well. The Minivers tease their elderly relative about the near certainty that she will win as always regardless of the relative merits of her entry and “The Miniver” entered by Mr. Ballard, since the judges are terrified of her, and Lady Beldon has made it clear to all that she regards the annual prize as a virtual entitlement. After all, the prize is even called “The Beldon Challenge Cup.” Sure enough, the judges, who seemed to be having a harder time than usual concluding that Lady Beldon’s rose deserved the award, hand her a slip that places her rose in first place, and Mr. Ballard’s in second.
Lady Beldon shows the slip to Mrs. Miniver with an air of triumph.
MINIVER: This is really important to you, isn’t it?
LADY BELDON: Yes. It’s stupid of me, but there it is. I’ve won that cup for as long as I can remember.
MINIVER: Mr. Ballard’s terribly keen too.
BELDON: Well, he’s had his chance. Hasn’t he? You have such a way of looking at people. What do you expect me to do? Reverse the judges’ decision?
MINIVER: I wouldn’t put it past you. If you happened to disagree with it.
“But I don’t!” she harrumphs. She keeps looking at the two competing roses, though, and also at old Mr. Ballard (played by Henry Traverse, later to portray Clarence the Wingless Angel”in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” His look of anticipation and hope approximately mirrors the expression of a six-year-old on Christmas morning. And when it comes time to announce the winner, Lady Ballard pauses, looks at the two roses again, ponders, crumples up the judges’ slip, and announces that “The Miniver” wins the prize.
Dame May Witty, one of the best character actors England ever produced, shows us with her face that she realizes she did the right thing as soon as she sees Ballard’s reaction to winning. And the assembled crowd gives her an even louder ovation than they give the winner. They didn’t even have to see the slip like the Minivers: they know what she did. And she knows they know.
I had a Lady Beldon moment many years ago, before I had even seen the movie. Continue reading →
1 The kids are all right! Ethics Alarms has recently been graced with comments by some intrepid and articulate high school students on the guns and schools issue. I salute all of them, as well as the teachers who sent them our way. Some of the students also encountered the tough debate style and sharp rhetoric that our regulars also engage in. One of the students who found himself in a particularly spirited exchange, mostly with me, just sent me a long, self-flagellating and abject apology. My response in part..
Relax. Apology accepted, and I am grateful for it, and admire you for writing it. But you impressed me in many ways. I wish I could meet you.
When I was growing up, there was no internet. I just managed to earn as reputation as a clown, a master of sarcasm and insults, and someone who would never back down from an argument the old-fashioned way—by talking. I made a million gaffes along the way. I made an ass of myself. I hurt people. I also scared some people, but eventually I learned some boundaries. Meanwhile, the skills I acquired being a jerk sometimes have served me well, in college, in law school, in management, in theater, in ethics. (I’m still a jerk sometimes. You have to keep that edge.)
You are welcome to comment on Ethics Alarms any time, my friend. Just remember we’re all human beings, nobody hates anyone, and no mistake is final.
I do hope that any time young readers who identify themselves as such come here to argue, Ethics Alarms commenters will keep in mind that the best result, no matter what they might say while testing the waters here, is to keep them coming back.
2. Packaging designed to make you feel stupid…I’d do a whole essay on this again, but there have been a lot of “yelling at clouds” posts lately. The common practice of generics intentionally imitating the packaging of the original product they derive from is per se unethical. (I’m sure I have written about this before, but cannot find it. I know I criticized the practice of cheap kids animated videos of stories like “Beauty and the Beast” copying the artwork and color scheme of the corresponding Disney version to fool inattentive purchasers.) My wife just got caught by a CVS scam—the company is a long-time offender—that fooled her into buying for my use an inferior knock-off of Pepcid A-C which I need because the Parkland shooting deception and agitprop is giving me ulcers. It is intentionally packaged with a red fez-shaped cap to look sufficiently like the good stuff to deceive consumers.
Of course, as with the video, it isn’t exactly like the original: the shade of red is different, the cap shape isn’t quite the same, giving them plausible deniability.
There should be some kind of law or regulation to discourage this. I’m going to go into the store and complain to some nice clerk or manager, who will shrug and say she’s sorry, which is to say that, once more, I will be yelling at clouds . Continue reading →
1 The Indispensable Man...This is George Washington’s birthday, and every American alive and dead owes him an unmatched debt of gratitude. A useful assessment of why this is true can be found here.
Not only was Washington indispensable as the military leader who won the Revolution, he was also, it seems likely, the only human being who could have navigated the impossibly difficult job of being the first President of a new nation attempting an unprecedented experiment in democracy. The precedents he set by his remarkable judgment, presence, wisdom, character and restraint continue to be a force today. Washington was also perhaps the most ethical man who has ever been President. The principles that guided him from his youth and that resulted in his being the only man trusted by the brilliant but often ruthless Founders who chose him to lead their new country can be reviewed here, but two of them tell us what we need to know about Washington’s ideals…the first,
Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present.
…and the last,
Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.
Revoltingly, the average American is largely ignorant regarding the great man whose face adorns the one dollar bill. For example, a recent YouGov survey asked respondents who was the best President in U.S. history. 16% of Americans selected Ronald Reagan, and 16% selected Barack Obama. Abraham Lincoln took third place with 15%. Washington finished fourth,but only 10% of those surveyed named him as the best President, 14 percent of Republicans, and only six percent of Democrats. I assume that Reagan, and I hope even Obama, would find these results ridiculous. They tell us that citizens can not distinguish politics from virtue. They tell us that the schools teach neither history nor critical thought effectively. They tell us that Democrats regard the fact that Washington was a slaveholder more notable than the fact that he made the United States possible. They tell us that the nation is losing a connection to its origins, heroes and values. It tells us that most of the public is ignorant of things that competent citizens must know.
It tells me that when an advocate cites a poll that says, “Americans want this,” the proper response is “Why should anyone trust their judgment? They think Regan and Obama were better Presidents than George Washington.”
2. Children’s Crusade update: Both CNN and HLN are flogging the high school student protests virtually to the exclusion of any thing else. The total commitment to aggressive and emotional advocacy on the part of the mainstream news media was disgraceful after the Sandy Hook school shooting, but this is worse; just when I think our journalism has hit the bottom, it finds a way to go lower.
This morning on HLN, I was greeted by an extremely articulate Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School survivor who said, confidently and radiating certitude, “These episodes are completely preventable.” Putting such nonsense on the air, even when spoken by an attractive, sympathetic, youthful idealist who perhaps cannot be blamed for not knowing what the hell she’s talking about,is irresponsible and incompetent. It is no different from saying “The Holocaust never happened,” Barack Obama was born in Kenya” or “The world is ruled by the Illuminati.” “These episodes are completely preventable” is, from the mouth of anyone qualified to be on television talking about gun policy, a lie, and from someone like this young woman, as naive as professing a belief in Santa Claus. Such statements should not be presented in a news forum as a substantive or serious position. A news organization has an ethical obligation either to correct the misinformation, or not to broadcast it without context, like “Here is the kind of arguments these child activists are making, making serious and coherent debate impossible.”
When the crawl across the bottom of my screen added another argument from one of the activist students—has there ever been a time when the policy analysis of people lacking high school diplomas has ever been given so much media attention and credibility?—that read, “Student protester: “People are buying guns who don’t need them,” I switched to the Cartoon Network
Right, kid, let’s pass laws that prohibit citizens from buying what the government decides they don’t need.