Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quiz: The Paintball Attack”

This is a record for Ethics Alarms; johnburger 2013’s Comment of the Day on the paintball shooting ethics quiz is being honored before it has gotten out of moderation. (Too many links will do that.) It’s also jumping ahead of several other COTD’s on the runway, and the reason is—in addition to the fact that I’ve been feeling lousy recently and catching up requires more time and energy than I’ve had left after trying to keep up with paying work and the daily personal catastrophes—that I find the story of the paintball siege and resulting death raises fascinating and perplexing issues that transcend easy answers in ethics and law.

Some will find jb2013’s (that’s my nickname for him; I hope it’s not presumptuous of me) post provocative. He was reacting to commenter Alizia’s speculation that such episodes are inevitably populated by citizens who are not, shall we say, the sharpest knives in the drawer. It is a topic that Americans are not supposed to talk about of think about: democracy means letting a lot of really, really, dumb, ignorant people having power over your life and influence over your culture and society. As in the short story : “The March of the Morons,” it is the duty of the minority that is not semi-literate, crude, ruled by passions and emotions and lacking the critical thinking and problem solving skills of my Jack Russell Terrier to keep the rest from hurting themselves and lousing up the country beyond repair, but to do so without infringing on their rights and liberty. In today’s dangerously polarized public, both sides regard the other as over-stocked with dolts, and both are, sadly, correct. A majority of Republicans think Barack Obama is a  Muslim. A majority of Democrats think we have just 12 years to address climate change or we are all doomed.  A majority of both believe in ghosts.Most can’t name ten Presidents, or identify half of the Bill of Rights, or tell you the significance of today and tomorrow to world history. No, I don’t think such people are qualified to vote, and the fewer of them who do, the better off we are. Sill, the Founders articulated principles that ensure them the right, and we have to respect that and do the best we can, relying on the “wisdom of crowds,” the phenomenon, unknown to George, James, Ben, Tom and the rest, that seems to make group decisions wiser that the composition of the groups would predict.

Contrary to all the Democratic Presidential candidates, Michelle Obama and others who maintain that America was never great, this has worked out rather well so far.

Watching cable TV is both educational and terrifying—just binge on true crime shows and listen to the interviews with family members and friends of the victims and perps. Observe the cretinous plots and actions of the adulterers, sociopaths, psychopaths,  and petty thieves, thugs, pugs, mugs and Methodists. I literally don’t know people like these, and never have; I’ve never had a relationship of any kind with someone who regularly uses “ain’t no..,”  or who mixes up statue and statute. That’s my bubble: I have to constantly remind myself that my mini-world is the outlier, and my responsibilities lie in the real one.

Here is johnburger2013’s comment on Ethics Quiz: The Paintball Attack:

You raise an interesting point. I live in Houston – where it is frickin’ hot and humid (PLEASE MAKE IT STOP!!!) – and I saw this story on the news. It happened in South Houston. A little bit about South Houston: Stay the hell out of there. At all costs. It is as close to a Hell Hole as one can get without actually being in a Hell Hole. It is an unincorporated area of Harris County, Texas, at the southern edge of the City of Houston. It is politically independent of the City of Houston and is a major petrochemical center in the region, with atmospherics to show for it. It is about 78% Hispanic, where Spanish is the primary language spoken. The median income is $42,615 (as of 2016). It is above the state and national averages in property and violent crimes.* Gang activity is a problem. Just for grins, read through this report from the Texas Department of Public Safety from 2018 to see what gangs operate in here. It’s a fun read. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Paintball Attack

19-year-old Brian Solis’ was one of a group of 15 teens that attacked a home in east Houston with paintball guns. Their objective: bring the teenager inside the house outside to fight, police say. After the house was hit with several of the missiles, which typically explode with red paint upon contact, the homeowner and father of the boy fired back, but with a real gun.

This is Texas, after all. If the boys were surprised, they hadn’t been paying attention.

Solis was hit, and killed.  Solis’ family told reporters that they don’t understand why he’s dead. The oldest of six kids  was full of life, and had plenty still to live, they say

Well, not to be unkind, but it’s pretty clear to me why he’s dead: he took part in an attack on a home that had a gun owner inside at the time. That’s why. Continue reading

“Ethics Dunce” Doesn’t Do Justice To Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot…Ethics Virus, Perhaps?

“Should All Thefts Be Prosecuted?” the headline asks rhetorically. Is the Pope Catholic? Does a bear…never mind, you get the point. Of course all thefts should be prosecuted, just like all laws should be enforced. It is a stupid question, and should be immediately recognized as such, yet, that headline goes on tell us, “Dallas County’s District Attorney Says No.”

Really? Then he is unqualified for office, an ethics corrupter, and a carrier of ethics rot. That DA—his name is John Creuzot–should resign, or be impeached. A prosecutor who doesn’t believe in enforcing laws is an unethical prosecutor, an untrustworthy prosecutor, biased and dangerous to society.

Creuzot has announced several measures of varying levels of justification and controversy to reform the justice system, which is certainly not without need to reform. However, one of them is unethical in multiple ways…

Study after study shows that when we arrest, jail, and convict people for non-violent crimes committed out of necessity, we only prevent that person from gaining the stability necessary to lead a law-abiding life. Criminalizing poverty is counter-productive for our community’s health and safety. For that reason, this office will not prosecute theft of personal items less than $750 unless the evidence shows that the alleged theft was for economic gain.

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/25/18: Kavanaugh-Free Zone

Good morning!

Regrettably, I’ll have to be writing about the Brett Kavanaugh Nomination Ethics Train Wreck at length,  since it is deteriorating further has clearly merged with the  Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck AND the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck (the most dangerous of them all). To begin this day without a primal scream , however, let’s speak of other things, of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings, and why the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wings.

You know. Ethics.

1.Sentencing ethics and the Coz. The judge in the Bill Cosby case signaled that the comic-turned-serial rapist would probably get less than three years behind bars for raping Andrea Costand in 2004, by announcing that the defense and prosecution had come to an agreement to merge the counts. Looking at the state sentencing guidelines, the judge said,  and that the actor has no prior history (heads exploding all over the courtroom, but though 60 or so of Bill’s other victims have come forward, in the eys of Lady Justice, they don’t exist), he declared that once Dr. Huxtable was looking at a total jail time of 22 to 36 months.

Ah, the things lawyers have to say while defending their horrible clients! Defense team leader Joseph Green argued that Cosby’s poor upbringing and battles against discrimination in his climb to success should be mitigating factors in sentencing him. This is an old Sixties argument that was dumb then and dumb now, a non sequitur. Millions of men who grew up poor and who experienced discrimination don’t take up drugging women and molesting them as a hobby. “Eighty-one year old blind men are not dangerous,” he added, apparently forgetting the fact that Bill has the assets and the enablers—like his complicit wife, Camille–do continue his avocation should he choose.

Countering all of these desperate arguments was this observation, from D.A. Kevin Steele:  “He seemingly doesn’t think he has done anything wrong. No remorse.”

Cosby deserves to die in prison, and any less of a sentence is just one more unethical nod to “The King’s Pass.”

2. Oh, great, Murphy Brown is back. Don’t these two look like fun folks to spend some light-hearted family TV time with?

That’s Candace Bergen, aka Murphy Brown, and series creator Diane English. As the New York Times explains it, the show’s creator and star feels the resurrection of the insufferably smug, liberal  broadcast media-cheering sitcom from the 90’s was needed, so someone could be bashing President Trump on TV. After all, nobody else is…just all Saturday Night Live, the late night shows, about six cable shows, and the real news media.  And there are all those shows that mock the senile House Minority leader, the pathetic angry Presidential election loser, the socialist documentary-maker who abuses his employees, the Senator who claims to be Spartacus, the other Senator who says she’s a Native American, and people who wear pussy hats. Wait–there aren’t any of those, are there? Never mind: English says that the “resistance” needs more support on TV. As for the other half of the country, “They’re not going to watch us anyway,” she says, referring to American who think an elected President has the right to govern. “I don’t think we’re looking to bring them into the tent.”

Yes. let’s divide the nation further. That should be fun. Here is my favorite quote, from the show’s producer: “If Hillary Clinton was elected there’d be no artistic reason for this show to be on the air.” Discuss, if you like. Personally, I think that one is too easy.

The hypocrisy and dishonesty of the original show seems like it will be intact. Oh, goody. My wife and I bailed permanently on “Murphy Brown” after the star “bravely” had her  fatherless baby (thus encouraging non-millionaire, real single women to do so), and the child literally disappeared except for brief moments when Murphy returned home to check in with her live-in male nanny. Amazingly, being a single mother didn’t affect Murphy’s schedule or career at all!

In the new show, we are told, Murphy will embrace #MeToo. Meanwhile, Bergen is defending Les Moonves, who was just jettisoned from CBS after many women revealed that he had Weinsteined them. Says Bergen, “I think Les’s behavior was — it was a different time. He was a different man. Is it behavior unbecoming? Yeah. But I go back with CBS, with the first ‘Murphy.’ I have great respect for Les. I would really hate to see Les go.”

Oddly, I have no respect at all for men who abuse their power and position to harm women, yet I was called a misogynist a couple of days ago, and Candace is a feminist hero.

“Murphy Brown” deserves to bomb. Where’s Charlie McCarthy when you need him? Continue reading

Presenting Rationalization #63, “Yoo’s Rationalization,” And How It Missed Getting On The List This Long, I’ll Never Know

no-means-yesRationalization #63, the eighty-first rationalization overall when you add up the sub-rationalizations on the Ethics Alarms Rationalizations List, is a major one, and should be near the top. (One of these days I’ll re-arrange and renumber them.) It is in evidence almost every day, and embodies the human fallacy of denial, as well as confirmation bias and contrived ignorance. Named after John Yoo, the Bush lawyer who wrote the infamous memo declaring that waterboarding, an “enhanced interrogation technique,” wasn’t technically torture, Rationalization #63, Yoo’s Rationalization or “It isn’t what it is,” is one of the most effective self-deceptions there is, a handy-dandy way to avoid logic, conscience, accountability and reality.*

I saw a prime example of it this morning, in former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s op-ed about the “Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals Program,” a euphemism for “amnesty for illegal immigrants who arrived as kids with their parents, so they can grow up and vote Democratic.”

She writes,

“This narrative about an initiative that has given temporary haven and work authorization to more than 700,000 undocumented minors, the so-called Dreamers, still has critics howling about presidential overreach, about brazen nose-thumbing at the rule of law and about encouraging others to breach the borders of the United States. But there’s a problem with this take on the program. It is dead wrong.”

What the program really is, she explains, is “prosecutorial discretion,” like the case by case discretion prosecutors have to use to avoid misusing resources.  This is Rationalization #63. Continue reading

Ethic Quiz: The Jean Valjean Rule

There are no good pictures of Jean stealing a loaf of bread, but here's Yogi Bear stealing a picnic basket...

There are no good pictures of Jean stealing a loaf of bread, but here’s Yogi Bear stealing a picnic basket…

News from Italy, via the BBC:

Judges overturned a theft conviction against Roman Ostriakov after he stole cheese and sausages worth €4.07 (£3; $4.50) from a supermarket.Mr Ostriakov, a homeless man of Ukrainian background, had taken the food “in the face of the immediate and essential need for nourishment”, the court of cassation decided.

Therefore it was not a crime, it said.

A fellow customer informed the store’s security in 2011, when Mr Ostriakov attempted to leave a Genoa supermarket with two pieces of cheese and a packet of sausages in his pocket but paid only for breadsticks.

In 2015, Mr Ostriakov was convicted of theft and sentenced to six months in jail and a €100 fine.

For the judges, the “right to survival prevails over property”, said an op-ed in La Stampa newspaper (in Italian).

In times of economic hardship, the court of cassation’s judgement “reminds everyone that in a civilised country not even the worst of men should starve”.

An opinion piece in Corriere Della Sera says statistics suggest 615 people are added to the ranks of the poor in Italy every day – it was “unthinkable that the law should not take note of reality”.

It criticised the fact that a case concerning the taking of goods worth under €5 went through three rounds in the courts before being thrown out.

The “historic” ruling is “right and pertinent”, said Italiaglobale.it – and derives from a concept that “informed the Western world for centuries – it is called humanity”.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz for today, involving  the eternal confusion between law and ethics::

Never mind legal: was this an ethical ruling?

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The Sexting Persecution Of Cormega Copening

sexting

Charging kids with crimes for sexting themselves to a fully consenting fellow kid always seemed excessive and cruel to me. This story is the reductio ad absurdum that settles the matter.

In Fayetteville, North Carolina, 17-year-old Cormega Copening and his girlfriend Brianna Denson, also 17, began exchanging naked photos of themselves in text messages when they were 16. They were the only ones who saw the pictures, but someone somehow tipped off local authorities, who searched Copening’s phone and discovered them.

Copeling and Denson were charged with sexual exploitation. The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office concluded that Denson had committed two felony sex crimes...against herself. A warrant cited her as both the adult perpetrator and the minor victim of two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, second-degree exploitation for making her photo and third-degree exploitation for having her own nude photo in her possession. A conviction could have put Denson in prison and would have required her to register as a sex offender for the rest of her life. Denson pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was given 12 months of probation.

Her sexting partner Copening, however, is still facing as much as ten years prison time for two counts of second-degree sexual exploitation and three counts of third-degree exploitation. As with Denson, the third-degree charges arise out of the pictures Copening had of himself.  That’s not the worst of the mind-twisting logic of this prosecution, however. North Carolina is one of two states in the country (the other: New York) that makes 16  the age of adulthood in the criminal system. The state’s consent laws consider anyone 16 and under a minor, but allows minors 16 or over to be charged as adults.

Gilbertian result: Copening is facing conviction, as an adult, for exploiting a minor—himself. Continue reading