Tech And Terrorism Ethics: Apple Is Right. The Government Is Wrong.


If, in some future nightmare scenario come true, the FBI needs to break the encryption on a private i-phone to find the secret code to defuse the Doomsday Machine  President Donald Trump set up after his mind finally snapped and he thought he was the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, I assume that Apple won’t stand on principle and will do what needs to be done to save the world. The current dilemma, however, is not that dire.

Although President Obama announced last year that he had decided not to pursue legislation requiring tech companies to give law enforcement access to users’ encrypted data, he proved once again that if you don’t like Obama’s promises, just wait a minute.  For last week, the FBI persuaded a judge to order Apple to create software that would help federal investigators crack into the iPhone 5C that terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook was using before he and his wife slaughtered guests at his company Christmas party in San Bernardino last December. Apple has vowed to defy the order.

Good. Continue reading

FACT: The New York Times’ Front Page Anti-Gun Editorial Was Misleading And Deceitful, And Here’s Why

silencers and guns

I already posted on the ethics deficits in the New York Times front page editorial (First time since the 1920s! AHHHHHHH!!!) that was gaining such embarrassing hosannas from liberals and anti-gun zealots over the weekend. To sum up that post, the Times wrongly connected its hype to a terrorist incident irrelevant to its argument, simply to gain emotional traction; made an impossible and largely symbolic demand, focused on a class of guns that has minimal impact on national gun deaths; and, like most calls for “gun control” of late, including the President’s, was aimed at gaining incremental public acceptance of gun confiscation and banning, while pretending otherwise.

That post did not point out, however, that the Times intentionally neglected to inform its readers and those it hoped to persuade (or mislead, panic, or stampede) of the above essential news that is not only “fit to print,” but that must be printed if a newspaper is going to claim that “the attention and anger of Americans should also be directed at the elected leaders whose job is to keep us safe but who place a higher premium on the money and political power of an industry dedicated to profiting from the unfettered spread of ever more powerful firearms.”

The fact is that per-capita murders in the U.S. are at their lowest level since FBI records began (in 1960), and they are trending downwards. There is no “crisis,” at least no gun crisis. Terrorism is another story.

The Times makes the point that “motives do not matter to the dead” (a failed attempt to justify piggy-backing the grandstanding editorial on a terrorist attack that no plausible gun regulations would have stopped), but it is just as true that lethal weapons “do not matter to the dead.” If it is, as the Times piously says in accusing them of callousness and corruption, the job of elected leaders “to keep us safe,” our elected leaders, by the evidence of the statistic, are doing an excellent job. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Fick Calls Loretta Lynch’s Bluff


When I read that our Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, made this provocative statement—

“The fear that you have just mentioned is in fact my greatest fear as a prosecutor, as someone who is sworn to the protection of all of the American people, which is that the rhetoric will be accompanied by acts of violence. Now obviously this is a country that is based on free speech, but when it edges towards violence, when we see the potential for someone lifting that mantle of anti-Muslim rhetoric—or, as we saw after 9/11, violence directed at individuals who may not even be Muslims but perceived to be Muslims, and they will suffer just as much—when we see that we will take action…I think it’s important that as we again talk about the importance of free speech we make it clear that actions predicated on violent talk are not America. They are not who we are, they are not what we do, and they will be prosecuted.”

…my first thought was “oh-oh” and my second thought was, “Boy, Obama’s appointees are as careless with their rhetoric as he is, or Hillary.

For what really was she saying? It sounds like a threat, but is it?  What does “edges towards violence” mean? Violence? Calling for violence? Or rhetoric anti-gun progressives will blame if there is violence? What does…let me rephrase that…What the HELL does “the potential for someone lifting that mantle of anti-Muslim rhetoric” mean? For that matter, what are “actions predicated on violent talk”? Does an action that would not be a crime without violent talk become one based on the rhetoric that inspired it? You’re a lawyer, Ms Lynch, how about speaking precise English? What exactly are you trying to say?

So my third thought was, “Well, we better find out, since is this our top law enforcement official talking and if she is really saying, as one might reasonably interpret her vague and convoluted statement to mean, that she’ll be arresting anyone who dares to venture a harsh judgment of Muslims, it would be good to know.

Donald Trump, I’m sure, would like to know.

And  lo and behold, here comes former GOP tea party congressman turned radio talk show host Joe Walsh to settle the issue! He provides a rant on his Facebook page: Continue reading

Observations on the New York Times Front Page Editorial Advocating Gun Confiscation


The New York Times, in a dramatic action that it has not engaged in since the 1920s, has published an editorial on page one. At such a moment, a newspaper subjects itself to a very high standard, since it is temporarily turning a news source into an organ of advocacy.  Though the Times’ editorial is motivated by good intentions, passion and (I hope) serious and careful thought, it fails that high standard.


1. Early on, the Times says, “It is a moral outrage and a national disgrace that civilians can legally purchase weapons designed specifically to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency.”

Well, from that position, the Times cannot be doubted or criticized. It believes that citizens (the casual switch to civilians assumes that only police and military have a right to deadly force. The Constitution, thankfully, disagrees), apparently, should only be able to avail themselves of weapons that kill slowly and undependably. I don’t agree with that, and I think to agree with that premise undercuts the entire theory of constitutionally guaranteed individual rights.

2. Using the San Bernardino shooting as the launching point for such as editorial is emotional manipulation and unethical. This was almost certainly a terrorist killing. It is doubtful that any legal measures short of confiscating and banning all firearms would have prevented it. As has been the case with other shootings, why is this incident used to justify advocating laws and regulations that couldn’t stop a similar shooting? It’s simple: because people are upset, fearful, and not thinking straight; all the better to mislead them. By the very act of publishing its editorial now, the Times is making the implicit statement that its policy recommendations are germane to this episode. They are not, however. That’s unethical.

3. Reason has headlined its story about the editorial, “New York Times Calls for Immense Expense and Political Civil War To Maybe Possibly Hopefully Reduce Gun Violence by a Tiny Amount.” That is absolutely fair and accurate, and the Times had an obligation, even in an editorial, to reveal what it is really asking for. I know this was ideological advocacy, but even while acting as activists, the Times still has a duty to inform and be transparent.

4. The Times advocates banning and the confiscation of the weapons used in San Bernardino, even though doing this would not have prevented that massacre. Moreover, Slate estimated in 2013 that about 3.5 million such rifles or substantially similar ones are in in the U.S., so what the Times is demanding would require the government buying, confiscating, and searching residences to find all of those.  Notes Reason, with complete accuracy,

What the Times is calling for is, beyond its countable costs in money and effort and the likely further erosion of civil liberties, also (as they surely know) calling for a massive political civil war the likes of which we haven’t seen in a long time. The “assault weapon” ban of 1994-2004, though pointless, just barred the future making and selling of such weapons, and didn’t try to confiscate existing ones.

Is this really a responsible policy recommendation, or just an emotional one? The latter, certainly. As such, it takes the editorial out of the category of public service and places it in the range of partisan warfare. Continue reading

RETRACTED: Unethical (And Head Exploding! ) Quote Of The Month: Atty. General Loretta Lynch

head large


I’m pulling this post. It was based on bad information; I didn’t check it correctly; I cited the original source without making sure the secondary source had quoted it accurately, and my commentary ended up completely misleading and unfair in every way. Stupid. Incompetent. Careless. Inexcusable.

I’m the Ethics Dunce here.

The Loretta Lynch statement that I was under the impression that she made was not what she said. Thanks, so much, to commenter Zanshin for flagging my error.

I’m pulling this down rather than leaving it up with a correction because as of now the post constitutes web pollution of the sort I rail about regularly. It is the equivalent of a hoax. Those who come to read it should be told immediately that the miscreant in this case was me, and the source that misled me, but mostly me. I’m not even going to mention that source either, though it has been reliable in the past. This is my fault, and nobody else’s.

I offer my apologies to Ethics Alarms readers, and anyone they may have misled as a result of my carelessness. I also apologize to Attorney General Lynch, who did not say, for the most part, what I criticized her for saying.

Frankly, I’m relieved about that.

This is the phenomenon of being so focused on a trend–in this case, anti-gun forces enthusiastically using gun-related tragedies to advance their agenda—that I was primed to accept a pretty outrageous example that was so outrageous it should have sparked skepticism. I allowed confirmation bias to dull my judgment, and let that be a lesson to me, and everyone else.

Also: never write a post right after your head explodes.

I’m sorry, angry at myself, and embarrassed.

You deserve better, and I will intensify my efforts to ensure that you get better going forward. You have to trust me, and this time I let Ethics Alarms down.

 UPDATE (12/5): As of 2 PM today,both Instapundit and the National Review are sticking with the   misrepresentation of Lynch’s remarks, either because, like me, they relied on an inaccurate source, or because they want to.


Ethics Observations On The San Bernardino Massacre


1. Curse you, Moral Luck. Unless this attack turns out to have been coordinated with ISIS or other international terrorists, its timing and the fact that at least two of the suspects are Muslims and American citizens could easily be the result of random chance. Ethical analysts, pundits, advocates and politicians should resist any temptation to make this incident part of any larger narrative or use it to support any political agenda.

2.  Unfortunately, if the ethical analysts, advocates and politicians shut up until they know something, all we will hear from is the unethical ones, who are far more numerous. Anti-gun zealots will immediately say, “See? Now we’re having a mass shooting every day! Ban guns!” Donald Trump will say, “See? Muslims are dangerous and out to kill us! Ban Muslims!”

3. We have yet to hear from Trump, but President Obama, as is his habit, already proclaimed the root cause of the shooting that has cost 14 lives so far. It’s all the guns. This is certainly the canny argument to make in order to mobilize the anti-gun forces while emotions run high; it signals the Post Sandy Hook Propaganda Push, Part II. That doesn’t make it right or responsible. Continue reading