Tag Archives: registered sex offenders

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: Through The Teeth Of The Storm Edition

Good Morning!

Just flew to Florida on pressing business. Ethics knows no obstacles…

1. From the  “The Ends Justify The Means” Files, Democratic section: Led by Sen. Cory Booker, Democrats are releasing confidential documents willy-nilly, in breach of Senate rules.  The Washington Post calls this “civil disobedience.” Elected officials aren’t allowed to engage in civil disobedience, because their duties include maintaining civil order and the Rule of Law. This isn’t civil disobedience. This is Democrat Senators violating rules when they think it’s to their advantage to do so. Chuch Schumer, whose reputation and level of public trust should be in freefall for anyone paying attention, tweeted,

“I stand w/ Judiciary Committee Democrats who are well within their rights to release these very important documents that a former Kavanaugh deputy designed as “committee confidential.”

This is apparently another convenient Democratic Party rule change: restrictions don’t count if Democrats don’t like the official who has the power to issue them.

2. This is  pure bigotry and discrimination. Why isn’t that obvious? Why isn’t the news media pointing it out? From the LA Times:

Twentieth Century Fox was just days away from locking picture on “The Predator” when an urgent note came in: Delete the scene featuring Steven Wilder Striegel. Striegel, 47, didn’t have a big role in his longtime friend Shane Black’s reboot of the sci-fi thriller — just a three-page scene shared with actress Olivia Munn.But last month, Munn learned that Striegel is a registered sex offender who pleaded guilty in 2010 after facing allegations that he attempted to lure a 14-year-old female into a sexual relationship via the internet. When Munn shared the information with Fox on Aug. 15, studio executives quickly decided to excise him from the movie.

This reminds me of the scene in “Ship of Fools” when a passenger is exiled from the captain’s table on a German ship because a Nazi complains that he is Jewish. Continue reading

36 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Marketing and Advertising, Rights, Workplace

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/20/17

1. It isn’t just the President’s boorish role modelling and the misbehavior and incivility of his opposition that makes me fear for the ethics alarms of our rising generation. The long-term results of people being able to isolate themselves from social contact—and the social skills and sensitivities that direct, face to face contact nurture—by constant attention to electronic devices is a matter for concern. Yesterday, I became aware of another danger.

I heard, on the new Sirius-XM Beatles channel, a recording of Paul McCartney singing my favorite song from “Guys and Dolls,” a sweet ballad sung in the musical by an elderly father to his grown daughter during her romantic crisis.

McCartney has a foot in two cultures and always has. As much as a rock and pop innovator as he was, Paul was also steeped in the traditional love songs of his parent’s generation, including Broadway. Today both of McCartney’s feet are planted where nobody under the age of 30 is likely to tread, and that is natural. Yet it seems that popular music is increasingly devoid of tenderness, empathy and compassion. Hip-Hop, particularly, seems immune from being able to express a sentiment like that in Frank Loesser’s nearly  70-year-old song that Paul McCartney obviously understands. I wonder, and worry. how many of today’s young Americans understand it, or will grow up with the capacity to do so.

Here’s Bing crooning the same song…

You know I love ya, Bing, but the Moptop wins this round.

2. There was some discussion on a thread here yesterday about the ethics of interests outside the state putting so much money into Georgia’s 6th congressional district’s special election. The House was designed to give communities a say in the national government, so to the extent that a local election is warped by interests outside the community—the Democrat, Jon Ossoff, is a carpetbagger who doesn’t live in the district—it’s a violation of the spirit of the Constitution and the ideal of American democracy. Some have even made an analogy to foreign governments interfering in U.S. elections. On the other hand, all this outside “interference” consists of are words, ads, and marketing. The district’s residents still are the ones who vote. If they are so easily swayed by slick ads and robocalls, that’s their responsibility. (There may even be a backlash.) Continue reading

54 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Rights

Australia Embraces Pre-Crime

It is crucial to understand is that if you are willing to discard ethical values as soon as they become inconvenient, you never really accepted them in the first place.

Thus  Australia’s looming decision to take away the passports of previously convicted pedophiles because officials are sure that some of them are taking child sex “vacations” to Asian nations active in the illegal trade tells us that when it is crunch time down under, ethics is disposable.

Under a proposed new law backed by the Prime Minister and the judiciary that still needs to be approved by the Australian Parliament, registered child sex offenders will lose their Australian passports as a draconian measure aimed at preventing  pedophiles from abusing children in foreign lands. Advocates proudly call the policy a “world first” in the fight against child sex tourism.

They don’t get it, but then, many people don’t. Many American communities continue to oppress registered sex offenders after they have paid their debts to society, restricting their access to public places like libraries and parks. Vigilante groups publish their addresses so they are subject to harassment and worse. The Constitution, however, limits the extent of the abuse, though that still doesn’t make what many registered sex offenders endure just or fair. Australia has no such limitation.

“The Australian” reports that the law would affect an estimated 20,000 registered offenders who have served their sentences but are still under supervision. Last year, approximately 800 Australian registered child sex offenders traveled overseas. Half of them went to Southeast Asia, where child sex-trafficking is epidemic. Nobody knows how many of the 400 or so travelers actually engaged in the criminal activity, but never mind: Think of the children! Undoubtedly some of the past offenders were traveling to do disgusting things to innocents, and if even one child is saved….well, you know the rationalizations.  Here are the ones the Australians appear to be relying upon:

  1. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause”
  2. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.”
  3. The Coercion Myth: “I have no choice!”
  4. The Revolutionary’s Excuse: “These are not ordinary times.”
  5. The Altruistic Switcheroo: “It’s for his own good” 
  6. The Troublesome Luxury: “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now”
  7. Victim Blindness, or “They/He/She/ You should have seen it coming.”
  8. The Maladroit’s Diversion, or “Nobody said it would be easy!”
  9. The Desperation Dodge or “I’ll do anything!”
  10. TheApathy Defense, or “Nobody Cares.”
  11. The Universal Trump, or “Think of the children!”
  12. The Golden Rule Mutation, or “I’m all right with it!”
  13. The Ironic Rationalization, or “It’s The Right Thing To Do”

The primary theory here, however, is “the ends justify the means.’

“This new legislation represents the toughest crackdown on child sex tourism by any government, anywhere,” Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said, while noting that Australia is “determined to prevent the sexual exploitation of vulnerable young children overseas.” The “crackdown” means that over 20,000 law-abiding Australian citizens will have their right to travel taken away because of what some of 400 travelers to Southeast Asia might have done.

This is pre-crime. The proposed law, and there is little chance that it won’t pass, punishes people who might commit a crime before they do, taking away the basic human right to go where they want to go because they have a particular history or characteristic in common with actual offenders. Maybe some child trafficking will be curtailed.

This end does not justify the means. The fact that the culture in Australia has come to believe it does should constitute a warning that human rights are not sufficiently safe there.

 

23 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Childhood and children, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights

Ethics Quote Of The Day: Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer

breyer

“The state has a reason? Yeah, it does. Does it limit free speech? Dramatically. Are there other, less restrictive ways of doing it? We’re not sure, but we think probably. . . . Okay. End of case, right?”

—-Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, during oral argument in the case Packingham v. North Carolina, describing how state laws are traditionally seen by the Court as infringing on freedom of speech.

Lester Packingham was registered as a sex offender in 2002 after pleading guilty to statutory rape with a 13-year-old girl (he was 21). He served his time and probation, and then, in  2010, Packingham posted on Facebook to thank the Lord for a recently dismissed parking ticket, writing, “Man God is Good! How about I got so much favor they dismissed the ticket before court even started? . . . Praise be to GOD, WOW! Thanks JESUS!”

Jesus, however, did not stop him from being prosecuted for that message under a 2008 North Carolina law that prohibits registered sex offenders from accessing social media, on the theory that it gives them access to minors.

Packingham appealed the resulting conviction, arguing that the law violated his First Amendment rights. The Supreme Court accepted the case, which could  determine whether access to social media sites like Facebook, Youtube, and others are a fundamental right.

In oral argument this week, observers got the distinct impression that this is where the Court is headed. At least five justices, a majority of the temporarily reduced court, suggested during argument that they would rule against North Carolina and for Packingham , whose lawyer says that more than 1,000 people have been prosecuted under the law.

Reading various reports of what was said, I am stunned by how out of touch everyone involved sounds. The Washington Post story describes Justice Kagan like she’s a web-head because she’s “only” 59.  “So whether it’s political community, whether it’s religious community, I mean, these sites have become embedded in our culture as ways to communicate and ways to exercise our constitutional rights, haven’t they?” Kagan asked North Carolina Deputy Attorney General Robert C. Montgomery, who was defending the law.

Do we really have to ask that question today? The law was passed in 2008, which in technology and social media terms makes it archaic. Legislators can be forgiven for not understanding the central role of social media in American life nine years ago, but in 2017, when we have a President tweeting his every lucid thought (and many not so lucid), how can anyone defend the argument that blocking a citizen from social media isn’t an extreme government restriction on free speech? Laws related to technology should all have sunset provisions of a couple years (a couple months?) to ensure that they haven’t been rendered obsolete by the evolving societal use of and dependency on  the web, the internet, and new devices. Continue reading

31 Comments

Filed under Childhood and children, Facebook, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, Science & Technology, Social Media, The Internet, U.S. Society

Statutory Rape Case Study: The Ethical Necessity Of Prosecutorial Discretion

animal-house-1

Reason tells the troubling story of computer science majoring college student Zach Anderson, 19, who made the acquaintance of a girl  on the “Hot or Not?” app. He was in Indiana, she was in Michigan, a short drive away. They arranged a sexual liaison, a one-time hook-up. The girl lied about her age, though, in person and on her website profile: she was really just 14, just like innocent Larry “Pinto” Kroger’s seductive girl friend in “Animal House” (shown above in her last-second moment of candor*) and thus unable to legally consent to sex. Unlike Pinto, Zach’s fate wasn’t amusing. He  was arrested and tried.

The girl admitted that she lied about her age, and her parents didn’t blame Zach. They asked that the case be dropped. It wasn’t. Without a defense on the facts of the case, Zach made a plea bargain, pleading guilty in exchange for the prosecutor’s promise not to oppose his request for leniency under a Michigan provision for first-time sex offenders under 21 that allows them to avoid off the sex offender registry. The prosecutor then double-crossed him, technically not opposing leniency but reminding the judge that he had rejected such appeals to the leniency provision in the past. (Yes, that is opposing it. Yes, that’s unethical. Yes, the prosecutor is an asshole.)

Then Berrien County District Court Judge Dennis Wiley sentenced Anderson to 90 days in jail and placed him on the Sex Offender Registry for 25 years, lecturing him: Continue reading

31 Comments

Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Law & Law Enforcement

Ethics Quiz: Peter’s Problem

40 years from now, would you book Kaitlyn Hunt for your Congressional campaign fundraiser? Should you...if she's become a famous and beloved singer?

40 years from now, would you book Kaitlyn Hunt for your Congressional campaign fundraiser? Should you…if she’s become a famous and beloved singer?

Shelly Stow, an occasional commenter here who blogs provocatively at With Justice For All about the harassment and persecution of former sex offenders, raised the topic of today’s Ethics Quiz. She  posted about the plight of Peter Yarrow, the Peter in Peter, Paul and Mary, now, thanks to cruel mortality, just Peter and Paul. I was not aware of this, but in 1970, when he was 30 and a rather significant star, he had sexual relations with a 14-year-old girl. Shelly is wrong to call this “consensual,” for 14 is statutory rape territory. The law declares that a 14-year girl is a child and not capable of meaningful consent, and fans of  Roman Polanski, Woody Allen and Kaitlyn Hunt notwithstanding, it is quite right. He pled guilty to something less than rape, and served a three-month sentence; he is also, as a result, a registered sex offender. President Jimmy Carter pardoned him in 1981.

Yarrow, as Sixties folk singers tend to be, is a social activist, and is politically active as well. Not for the first time, his child molesting past became an issue recently when he  agreed to sing at a campaign event for Martha Robertson, a Democrat running for Congress in New York against incumbent Republican Tom Reed. A spokesman for the RNC told the media,

“It is absolutely deplorable that Martha Robertson would kick off her congressional campaign by having a convicted sex offender headline her fundraiser. If Robertson’s judgment is so bad that she would even entertain the idea of raising money with a man who molested a 14-year-old girl, she has no business representing the people of the 23rd District of New York in Congress.”

He also said Robertson should cancel the fundraiser and return any money she raised with Yarrow’s support.

Shelly writes,

“What is wrong with this scenario? Our criminal justice system is comprised of one part punishment and one part rehabilitation. The purpose of the punishment is to bring about rehabilitation. Sometimes it works like it is supposed to. Mr. Yarrow committed a crime in 1969. That is over 40 years ago. He served his court ordered punishment, and in light of the fact that there has been no re-offense in over 40 years, I think we are safe in declaring him rehabilitated. Everything worked just like it is supposed to. What then is the problem? Is rehabilitation not good enough for some? Is there some other standard of measure needed?”

This launches the Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz for this weekend, which I will phrase this way:

Is it unfair for Peter Yarrow to still face criticism, suspicion and condemnation based on his crime of 40 years ago, for which he has been both punished and pardoned?

For this one, I am not at all certain of the answer, and will be very interested in your responses, not that I am not always.

Here are some of the considerations that have me, to paraphrase the title of one of the hit pop songs Mr. Yarrow helped to write, “Torn Between Two Answers.Continue reading

49 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society

Comment of the Day: “The Kaitlyn Hunt Affair: Upon Further Review…”

And if Kaitlyn Hunt looked like this, would we be having this discussion?

And if Kaitlyn Hunt looked like this, would we be having this discussion?

John Garrison’s incisive Comment of the Day decisively adds Kaitlyn Hunt’s parents to the Kaitlyn Hunt Ethics Train Wreck, which has already enlisted them, the vigilante group Anonymous (itself a self-perpetuating ethics train wreck), the lazy news media, which apparently misreported the essential facts of the case, and the social media as passengers since my first post on the debacle.

Here are his comments on the follow-up post, The Kaitlyn Hunt Affair: Upon Further Review:

“There are a number of things that concern me about this case. First, I do agree that the law is very harsh in Florida. But we never seem to get the actual story from Kaitlyn’s parents. At first, they said that they were 17 when they started dating, and that the parents vindictively waited until Kaitlyn turned 18. That story seems to have changed around the time the police report was released stating that actual ages of the girls. At that time, the family claimed that the police not redacting the address was retaliation against them going to the media, even though it is not remotely unusual for the police not to redact the address of the accused.

http://www.examiner.com/article/kaitlyn-hunt-arrest-record-released-free-kate-family-disgusted-with-sheriff Continue reading

46 Comments

Filed under Character, Comment of the Day, Family, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society