Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/17/2018: Mockingbirds, Headlines, And Reasonable Doubt

Good Morning, Scout!

1 Assorted blog stuff. I’m going to have to fly to Boston next month for the hearing on my motion to dismiss the specious defamation suit against me by an Ethics Alarms  commenter to whom my responses were no more defamatory than what I have said to many of you when provoked…Every now and then some blog or social media participant with a huge following links to an old post here, and I am swamped with visits from a lot of individuals with no serious interest in ethics. They almost never comment, and if they do, the comments typically don’t meet my posting standards. Still, they swell the traffic stats, and I’ll take ’em. In 2017 I had none of these fluky hit avalanches, after a 2016 that had several. This time, the post suddenly drawing interest is a 2014 essay about a letter written to director Terry Gilliam in 2005. You just never know…Expect a lot of Comments of the Day this weekend: I am way behind, and I’m sorry. Tough week.

2. Keep hope alive! Yesterday’s New York Times front page headline perfectly embodied the fake news-by-innuendo tactic that has marked the mainstream media’s efforts to pander to the “resistance.” The Special Prosecutor’s fishing expedition just subpoenaed the business records of the Trump organization relating to its dealings in Russia. Says the Times headline: “Investigation nears President.” Ooooh! Scary!

Hype, and unprofessional. This is the “He’s getting closer! And closer!” narrative the anti-Trump journalists have been flogging for a year. Yeah, I guess any time an investigation involves someone’s business it is “near” the owner, but why would that obvious fact justify a headline?  The reality is that Trump’s organization had business dealings in Russia (legal and unremarkable), the fact that Mueller is looking does not prove or suggest that those dealings had any connection to the campaign, and Mueller could have asked for these records a year ago. There is nothing ominous about the request from the President’s perspective at all, unless, as this whole fiasco has presumed from the moment Democrats seized on Wikileaks and fake Facebook news as the designated excuses for Hillary’s inexcusable defeat, there really was “collusion.”

That an investigation has been launched does not imply, suggest, or indicate wrongdoing. The news media’s reporting continues to suggest otherwise because they want the President to be guilty of something heinous. Imagine that: there are Americans who want their elected President to be proven guilty of wrongdoing.

3. To kill a “To Kill A Mockingbird.”  Harper Lee’s estate filed a complaint last week in federal court in Alabama, arguing that a Broadway bound stage adaptation of “To Kill A Mockingbird” by “The West Wing” creator and “A Few Good Men” writer Aaron Sorkin violates a contract, between Harper Lee and the producers that stipulates that the characters and plot must remain faithful to the spirit of the book. (I wrote about the complexities surrounding Atticus Finch’s character in a 2015 post.) Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “On The Anti-Gun “Weapons Of War” Talking Point”

Second Amendment authority Chipper Jones. He’s an expert because he had a .303 lifetime batting average, and shoots deer….

It was gratifying that the weekend post about the “weapons of war” anti-gun rhetoric attracted a  great deal of thoughtful commentary here. I was thinking about the post again today when, as is increasingly the case, a sportswriter gratuitously injected politics into sports commentary. Baseball season is fast-approaching, and while one of the many reasons I follow the game so passionately is its ethics content, I look forward to the game to get away from politics, and incorrigible social justice warrior agitators like NBC’s Craig Calcaterra, lapsed lawyer, can’t resist misusing their sports platforms as a political soap box. 

Today he gleefully informed readers that Hall of Fame third baseman Chipper Jones had “denounced assault weapons,” telling Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

“I believe in our Constitutional right to bear arms and protect ourselves,” Jones said. “But I do not believe there is any need for civilians to own assault rifles. I just don’t.

“I would like to see something (new legislation) happen. I liken it to drugs – you’re not going to get rid of all the guns. But AR-15s and AK-47s and all this kind of stuff – they belong in the hands of soldiers. Those belong in the hands of people who know how to operate them, and whose lives depend on them operating them. Not with civilians. I have no problem with hunting rifles and shotguns and pistols and what-not. But I’m totally against civilians having those kinds of automatic and semi-automatic weapons.”

Calcaterra makes sure that we knew that the ex-Braves player is an avid hunter and owns a rife, because he apparently wants us to think that owning a gun makes an athlete an expert on the Bill of Rights. (It doesn’t, and I’m pretty sure Calcaterra knows that.)

Concludes Craig,

“While debate, often acrimonious, will no doubt continue about these matters indefinitely, it’s striking to see someone like Chipper Jones come out so strongly on the matter in the particular way that he has. It has to make people at the NRA and those who support it wonder if, when you’ve lost Chipper Jones, you’ve gone too far.”

Thus we have a lawyer appealing to the authority of a man who played baseball all through highs school, and signed a contract to be a pro baseball player at te age of 18. Call me skeptical, but I question whether he has devoted much research to the history and philosophy underlying the Second Amendment, or has read any of the judicial opinion and scholarship analyzing it. I especially question Jones’ flippant “denouncement”  given the tell-tale signs that he doesn’t understand the right to bear arms at all, beginning with the misnomer “assault rifles” and the assumption that the most popular civilian rifle in the U.S. is a “weapon of war.” He also makes the offensive assumption that he is qualified to decide what kind of fire arms other citizens “need,” a commonly expressed  attitude sharply discredited in this essay by playwright and screenwriter David Mamet.

I find myself increasingly impatient with uninformed opinions on important matters relating to our personal liberty, expressed by celebrities with no more understanding or special expertise than the typical semi-informed citizen, and often less. I am even less tolerant when I am told by journalists that attention must be paid.

Here is the Comment of the Day by Glenn Logan, who is informed on this issue, on the post On The Anti-Gun “Weapons Of War” Talking Point: Continue reading

Observations On The Acquittal Of Police Officer Philip “Mitch” Brailsford For The Fatal Shooting Of Daniel Shaver

  • What a terrifying video. I am literally shaking.

I wasn’t at the trial, but I will break my usual rule by saying that this jury, which acquitted the officer of murder charges,  does not deserve the benefit of the doubt, because there is no doubt. I cannot see any path by which the actions of the officer in shooting Shaver can be called reasonable, or anything but murder.

  • Brailsford said he thought Shaver might have been reaching for a weapon. If he wasn’t lying, and I’ll assume he wasn’t, then he was paranoid, and so devoid of normal senses of perception that the police force was negligent all owing him to carry a gun, or to be on the force at all.

Still shaking…

  • How could it have not been clear that Shaver was terrified? Or that he was not desperately trying to follow the officer’s instructions?

Are officers in Mesa trained to talk like that? I assume that they are trained NOT to talk like that, which can only be expected to escalate panic and anxiety and cause the situation to go out of control.

  • Michael Piccarreta, Brailsford’s attorney, convinced jurors that his client acted as reasonably, as a police officer, considering the totality of circumstances. That means that Brailsford acted like any reasonable officer would have when he  fire his AR-15 at a terrified young man crawling toward him as  he had directed. The officer had been called because someone had been reported as pointing a rifle outside of hotel window. Obviously, Shaver had no rifle on him.

Piccarreta did one hell of a good job.

Still shaking… Continue reading

Unethical Political Cartoon Of The Month: Barry Deutsch

 

To be fair, the Justice wasn’t much of a cartoonist…

In today’s warm-up, I briefly discussed the acquittal earlier this moth of NYPD officer Wayne Isaacs in the shooting an unarmed black motorist.  It was a weird case. Isaacs was off duty, and prompted a driver to apparent road rage by cutting him off in traffic. The motorist, according to Isaacs, walked up to his car and  struck him, and fearing that his assailant was armed, the officer drew his pistol and fired.

I don’t know if it was a coincidence or by design, but on the day of the acquittal progressive cartoonist Barry Deutsch, who once did battle (and well) at Ethics Alarms, posted this cartoon at his blog:

In the same post, he also called the late Justice Rehnquist a racist, which he was not, and made the demonstrably false statement that most police shootings involve blacks, but never mind that.

You have to really detest police and the principle of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to regard such a cartoon as fair or enlightening. (Ethics Alarms is on record as declaring political cartoons an inherently unethical form of punditry.) No cop has been acquitted of shooting an unarmed  9-year-old kid in self-defense, and the cartoon is factually wrong that such a claim by a police officer would get him acquitted. Moreover, the case Barry is apparently referring to, Graham v. Connor, does not involve a shooting, and Rehnquist’s opinion for the majority doesn’t say what the cartoon says it does. In addition, the opinion in the case primarily relied upon by the majority in Graham, Tennessee v. Garner,  wasn’t written by the Rehnquist, but by Justice Byron White. It also specifically involved police shooting at fleeing suspects.

Thus the cartoonist a) doesn’t know what he’s talking about b) misleads his readers ( the blog is an echo chamber if there ever was one), and c) smears Justice Rehnquist. Continue reading

The D.C. Court Of Appeals Handgun Decision [UPDATED]

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled this week that it is unconstitutional for the District government to restrict handgun licenses only to citizens who can prove a “special need for self-protection distinguishable from the general community as supported by evidence of specific threats or previous attacks that demonstrate a special danger to the applicant’s life.” D.C. now must follow a standard system approved by the Supreme Court as not unduly burdensome to Second Amendment rights: issuing permits to adults who pass a fingerprint-based background check and a safety training class.

You can read the whole opinion here.  Two cases were under scrutiny: Wrenn v. District of Columbia and Matthew Grace and Pink Pistols v. District of Columbia.  Circuit Judge Thomas B. Griffith wrote the opinion and was joined by Senior Judge Stephen F. Williams. Judge Karen LeCraft. Judge Karen Henderson, a Republican appointee, dissented.

This is a liberal court, but it properly upheld the Second Amendment while slapping down anti-gun talking points that I have always found obnoxious and totalitarian in spirit. “Why does anyone need a gun? Why do they need a semi-automatic weapon? Why do they need so much ammunition? I don’t need a gun. Guns are dangerous. If I don’t need one, you don’t need one.”

The government doesn’t have the right to tell me what I need. Strangers don’t get to tell me that my needs are unreasonable based on their beliefs and biases. In 2013, playwright and screenwriter David Mamet wrote an op-ed for Newsweek nicely articulating these principles. (If it is still available in its entirety, I lack the cleverness to find it. [UPDATE: Reader Frank Stephens was clever enough, and the link is here]. Newsweek banished the article to its ally The Daily Beast, where all links, including in my post about it, lead. That link is now dead: it just goes to the website. I searched the Daily Beast for the article: it isn’t there. But, oddly, a rebuttal to the article is. I suppose this is how the news media silences the apostates in its midst. Fortunately, this passage survives: Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: A Police Hypothetical From, Of All Places, “Diagnosis Murder”

Hallmark has launched an all-mystery channel, moving into the territory NBC’s Cloo cable channel abandoned when it went belly-up in February. (The name should have doomed it anyway.) The mainstays of the new channel are a fleet of “Murder She Wrote” rip-offs starring a string of female C-list stars TV and has-beens: Allison Sweeney, Candace Cameron Bure, Kelly Martin and Courtney Thorne-Smith so far. The flagship show is the real McCoy, Jessica Fletcher herself. Take it from me: there is no current scripted drama as trite, predictable or badly acted or written than “Murder, She Wrote”—the closest in years would be Debra Messing’s  idiotic “The Mysteries of Laura,” but that was officially a “comedy.”

Another mainstay on the channel is “Diagnosis, Murder,” which is marginally less terrible than watching in Angela Lansbury collect a check for doing the same thing over and over, in part because I am entertained by Dick Van Dyke doing anything.  ( “Diagnosis, Murder” was a drama, yet still about ten times funnier than “The Mysteries of Laura.” ) Still, I don’t expect thought-provoking episodes on the Mystery channel.

Two nights ago, I was surprised. The episode showed Dr. Dick’s police detective son (played by Van Dyke’s real son Barry, who sounds just like Dad) chasing a perp he had stopped while the man was roughing up a woman in  the park. Barry was chasing him on foot, gun drawn, and in the shadows (it was evening), the suspect quickly turned, stopped and pulled something metallic from his pocket. The officer fired, killing him. Barry’s troubled partner shows up (he had been backing up Barry) and checks the scene as police sirens are heard. He finds a flashlight, not a gun, right by the unarmed deceased man, and Barry says, mournfully, “I though the had a gun” His partner (played by Joe Penny) pulls a revolver out of his  own pocket, wipes it, and places it in the dead man’s hand as he pockets the flashlight. “Don’t worry,” he tells distraught Barry, contemplating his career going down the drain, “It’s clean,” meaning “It can’t be traced.”

The police arrive, and Joe quickly tells them that it was a good shooting, that the victim was armed. Barry knows that his partner has strikes against him already for substance abuse, and to rat him out about the flashlight would end his career for certain, and maybe Barry’s as well. He doesn’t say anything, thus becoming complicit in the cover-up.

Tough one! Continue reading

“Don’t Breathe” Ethics

I just watched the 2016 horror/suspense thriller “Don’t Breathe,” in which Stephen Lang, always excellent, plays a blind veteran whose home is invaded by three self-righteous young sociopaths who intend to rob him. The movie is the latest genre movies with ethical mind-benders concocted in the House of Raimi, as Sam Raimi, the flamboyant auteur behind “The Evil Dead,” “Xena,” the first couple Spiderman movies and especially “Drag Me To Hell,” was the lead executive producer here and Raimi’s protege, Fede Alvarez, directed and wrote the script.

How do I do this without spoiling the film for someone who hasn’t seen it? I can’t. If you intend to ever see the hit 2016 movie but have not yet, then just wait for the next post. Otherwise, read on.

“Don’t Breathe” becomes one of those monster movies where you start rooting for the monster, and even that doesn’t encompass the  ethical morass the movie creates. Imagine “Wait Until Dark”except that the imperiled blind woman (Audrey Hepburn) is replaced by a blind Steven Seagal (the younger, thinner version), or maybe Billy Jack, and he beats the living daylights out of  or kills the three middle-aged male thugs—including a creepy evil mastermind played by Alan Arkin— who get into his house.

Got that? Okay, now replace the three thugs with three attractive twenty-somethings, including a troubled young woman trying to start a new life after an abusive childhood. Continue reading

More Evidence That It Isn’t “Gun Safety” The Anti-Gun Forces Are Gunning For, But The Second Amendment Itself

anti-gun cartoon

Those who are confident that Donald Trump can’t be elected President might want to contact Hillary Clinton and advise another one of her well-timed policy position reversals. She has aligned herself with those who want nothing less than to eliminate the right of Americans to own guns and be able to defend themselves, and that means she is spitting into the gale of core American values and culture.

And the Constitution, of course.

A clear-thinking and principled United States District Court judge just condemned a sinister anti-gun law that embodies the anti- Second Amendment animus. Judge Richard J. Leon’s 46-page ruling in United States District Court declared illegal a law that gave the police the discretion to grant concealed-carry licenses only to those with “good reason” to do so, such as a specific and reasonable fear of attack  or other reasons, such as having a job in which they carried large amounts of cash or valuables. A citizen wishing to carry a pistol must demonstrate “a special need for self-protection distinguishable from the general community as supported by evidence of specific threats or previous attacks that demonstrate a special danger to the applicant’s life,” the law says.

Wrong. A citizen wishing to carry a gun should only have to show that he or she is a law abiding citizen, and that he or she is trained in gun safety and how to use a firearm.

Judge Leon wrote, “Given the textual and historical evidence, I have little trouble concluding that under its original meaning the Second Amendment protects a right to carry arms for self-defense in public…Given that the Second Amendment’s central purpose is self-defense and that this need arises more frequently in public, it logically follows that the right to carry arms for self-defense in public lies at the very heart of the Second Amendment.”

It also follows that the government deigning to grant the Constitutional right to those few individuals it deems worthy is a direct Second Amendment breach. It is frankly frightening that other judges have ruled differently. If ever citizen has a Constitutionally protected right, a law cannot say that the right only applies to you if the government says so. Laws restricting rights must describe legitimate circumstances that justify the restriction, not presume a restriction on everyone except a sufficiently terrified few. It is up to me to decide whether I need a gun, not D.C.’s police chief. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Comment of the Day (1): ‘Unethical Quote Of The Week: Chelsea Clinton’”

Hysterics, obviously...

Hysterics, obviously…

The gun-banning deceit is revving up again, so to pace the blog on this topic, which already had been discussed in a recent post and a Comment of the Day on it, I held out this excellent post by lively Ethic Alarms regular Steve-O-in-NJ for a few days.

By deceit, I mean statements like White House spokesman Josh Earnest yesterday regarding so-called “smart gun” technology, on which the White House is preparing a legislative push. He said in part:

“I think what is true is that I couldn’t think of another industry off the top of my head that isn’t interested in looking at new technology that could make their product safer. Just about every other industry that I can think of, that’s what people do. That’s what manufacturers do. That is a source of innovation in a variety of fields. I think the best example of this is in the auto industry. Auto manufacturers actually market the degree to which they use new technology to make their products safer, to make cars and trucks safer. It is surprising to me that so many gun manufacturers shirk that responsibility.”

It is amusing that Earnest—is he the worst of the three professional liars the Obama White House has employed to mislead the press, deny the truth and spin misconduct?—prefaced his remarks by dismissing “wild conspiracy theories” that the new initiative was designed to make guns less accessible, then uttered this whopper. Guns aren’t supposed to be safe, or what anti-gun zealots regard as safe, which would mean that they would have to be made out of foam rubber. They are designed to kill things, including, when necessary, people. Cars are not supposed to kill  anyone: making safe cars is nothing at all like making safe guns.

You know, Josh, I can’t think of any another industry off the top of my head–which is apparently quite a bit more well-furnished than yours–that makes killing tools and machines and does look for technology to make them “safer” by the anti-gun lobby’s definition. Hunting knives? Baseball bats? Have you ever seen a safe hammer? A safe bomb? Safe poison? Of course “smart gun” requirements would make guns less accessible (meeting regulations costs money and adds to purchase price, “smart” features that don’t work right engender lawsuits, guns that are more cumbersome to use are less desirable to people who want guns…) by making them more expensive and difficult to use. And that’s just what the President, Hillary, Chelsae and the rest want.

You’re a liar who treats the press and public as if they were idiots, Josh. Just off the top of my head. Yes, I know: I don’t care that you are just channeling your boss. The line about gun-makers “shirking responsibility” is a transparent effort to grease the skids for product liability lawsuits that would make it impossible to make guns, which is exactly the agenda being pursued here. Gun rights supporters know it, and are derided as conspiracy nuts. Anti-gun advocates also know it, and think it’s just fine.

Here is Steve-O-in-NJ‘s Comment of the Day on the Ethics Alarms post “Comment of the Day (1): ‘Unethical Quote Of The Week: Chelsea Clinton’”: Continue reading

Further Notes On “Stuff Happens,” “DO SOMETHING!!!” And The Dishonest, Hysterical And/Or Delusional Anti-Gun “Position”

1) In the clip above, the National Review’s Charles C. W. Cooke asks MSNBC analyst Mark Halperin and “Morning Joe” house progressive Mika Brzezinski to explain what kind of measures would satisfy the hysterical calls of a Morning Joe panel to “DO SOMETHING!!!” about gun violence. Cooke referenced the President’s angry (irresponsible, partisan, useless) attack on Congress’s failure almost immediately after the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, and accused ant-gun forces of acting as if they had solutions to gun violence (that don’t involve trashing the Bill of Rights) when they don’t. [I pointed out in yesterday’s post that they don’t because there aren’t any.] He said to Halperin:

“Joe Biden doesn’t know how to fix this problem. I don’t know how to fix this problem. I think it’s fair to say you don’t know how to fix this problem. It’s a very complex question in a country with 300 to 350 million guns on the street. The way they talk is as if they have the answer and there are these recalcitrant forces in the country that say ‘no, no, no,’ even though deep down they know their legislation will work. That’s simply not the case. It’s far more complicated than that.”

As you will see, Halperin had no actual proposals, ducking the issue by saying that he’s “not an expert in the field.” But he said that he wanted leaders to “have a thirst and hunger and passion to try to come up with solutions.”

I will accept this as a legitimate argument as soon as I hear any plausible solution that does not involve banning guns, making it excessively difficult for law abiding citizens from arming themselves, or engaging in pre-crime measures against citizens who have had episodes of mental illness or who are suspected of having such episodes. The proposals I have heard are incremental and will not accomplish the goal, ergo more obtrusive measures will be proposed and pushed by identical arguments and hysteria, until…we end up banning guns, making it excessively difficult for law abiding citizens from arming themselves, or engaging in pre-crime measures against citizens who have had episodes of mental illness or who are suspected of having such episodes.

Either anti-gun “DO SOMETHING!” advocates like the President, Mika and Halperin know this, intend it and are not being honest about it, or they are naive.

2) Jeb Bush responsibly addressed the impulse to stampede support for ill-considered solutions in the wake of tragedy…

The text:

“Yeah it’s a — we’re in a difficult time in our country, and I don’t think more government is necessarily the answer to this. I think we need to reconnect ourselves with everybody else. It’s just, it’s very sad to see. But I resist the notion, I had this challenge as governor, because, look, stuff happens, there’s always a crisis. And the impulse is always to do something, and it’s not necessarily the right thing to do.”

You will note that Bush did not shrug off the Oregon shooting by saying “stuff happens.” Nonetheless, the completely principle-free Debbie Wasserman Schultz mischaracterized what Bush said with a fatuous tweet:

“A message for Jeb Bush: 380 Americans have been killed in 294 mass shootings in 2015 alone. “Stuff” doesn’t just “happen.” Inaction happens.”

Inaction regarding what, you shameless hack? What action are you proposing that would actually prevent a shooting like this week’s? Or the Norfolk shooting of the TV reporter? Bush is absolutely correct: bad stuff happens, and that does not mean that the government can or should rush to “DO SOMETHING!” Continue reading