Morning Ethics Primal Scream, 8/13/19: Democratic Senators Tell SCOTUS, “Nice Little Court You Have Here. Be A Shame If Anything Were To HAPPEN To It…”

1. Lance, Lance, Lance...Is this the most obnoxious and desperate virtue-signalling tweet of all time?

“I can’t drop many people on a bike these days but I just blew the fuckin’ doors off Mike Pence on a Nantucket bike path. Day. Made.”

Because Lance thinks everyone hates the Vice President, he boasts about beating a 60 year-old politician as if he’s rendered some symbolic humiliation. You’re the one who should be humiliated, Lance. You. I’m no fan of Mike Pence, but he’s not a sociopathic  fraud, cheat and villain like you are.

The fact that this tweet got 108,000 “likes” shows how much damage an ethics corrupter can do.

2.  A perfect example of ignoring a real problem to avoid having to admit it exists and then deal with it...while making the problem worse in the process.U.S. Commission on Civil Rights member Gail Heriot, a lawyer and frequent protester about how her overwhelmingly Democratic colleagues on the committee  engage in “woke” insanity, attacks a new government report in her op-ed in the Washington Times. Herriott attached her dissent to the report, a routine she has become accustomed to. She writes,

Shoddy work is not uncommon for government commissions. But with its awkwardly-titled new report — “Beyond Suspensions: Examining School Discipline Policies and Connections to the School-to-Prison Pipeline for Students of Color with Disabilities” — the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights goes beyond shoddy. Its unsupported claims threaten teachers’ ability to keep control of their classrooms. No one disputes that African-American, Native American and Pacific Islander students get disciplined at school at higher rates than white students. Similarly, white students are disciplined at higher rates than Asian-American students, and boys are disciplined more often than girls. Not surprisingly, students with behavioral disabilities get in more trouble than those without. Sometimes the differences are substantial. Suspension rates, for example, have been about three times higher for African-Americans than for whites in recent years.The commission purports to find, however, that “students of color as a whole, as well as by individual racial group, do not commit more disciplinable offenses than their white peers.” According to the commission, they are simply punished more. Readers are left to imagine our schools are not just occasionally unfair, but rather astonishingly unfair on matters of discipline.

The report provides no evidence to support its sweeping assertion and, sadly, there is abundant evidence to the contrary. For example, the National Center for Education Statistics surveys high school students biennially. Since 1993, it has asked students whether they have been in a fight on school property over the past 12 months. The results have been consistent. In 2015, 12.6 percent of African-American students reported being in such a fight, while only 5.6 percent of white students did….Because minority students disproportionately go to school with other minority students, when teachers fail to keep order out of fear that they will be accused of racism, it is these minority students — stuck in disorderly classrooms — who suffer most.

What accounts for the differing misbehavior rates? The best anybody can say is, “We don’t know entirely.” But differing poverty rates, differing fatherless household rates, differing parental education, differing achievement in school, and histories of policy failures and injustices likely each play a part. Whatever the genesis of these disparities, they need to be dealt with realistically. We don’t live in a make-believe world.

As Joe Biden so sagely pointed out for us, Democrats care about their official truths, not facts. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/5/2019: Knaves, Idiots, And Fools

Good Morning!

1. Stupid lawsuit update. The bitter ex-Ethics Alarms commenter now appealing the obvious ruling by a Massachusetts judge that his vindictive defamation suit against me continued his abuse of process by filing a spurious motion accusing me of contempt of court and perjury, and calling for sanctions.. It’s 100% baloney, but I still have to file an answer, thus wasting more of my time, which is the point. I’m debating whether to note in my opposition to the motion that the man is an asshole.

2. What an idiot, #1: You have been signed to a ridiculous contract by the Philadelphia Phillies, 13 years for $330 million dollars. You waited four months to do so, jamming up the careers and lives of dozens of lesser players because you really didn’t want to play there, and were determined to get a record setting amount. You know the city’s fans are dubious about your loyalty and commitment, though you have stated that you took such a long contract to demonstrate that commitment. Now you are being introduced to your new team, city and fan base after spending all of your career playing for one of their rival in the National League East, the Washington Nationals. Do you carefully plan out what you will say, when you have your turn at the microphone, knowing that one has only one chance to make a good first impression?

Not if you are Bryce Harper. Yesterday, at his press conference, he said that he wanted to bring a World Series title to Washington D.C.

It’s going to be a long 13 years. For everyone.

3.  What an idiot, #2: Special counsel Robert Mueller notified federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson that Roger Stone had sent  an Instagram post which containing a photo of Mueller under the words “Who framed Roger Stone,” despite Stone being under Jackson’s gag order barring him from speaking in public about Mueller’s team and its investigation.
Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Week: Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas

“Justice Breyer final (and actual) concern is with the death penalty itself. As I have elsewhere explained, it is clear that the Eighth Amendment does not prohibit the death penalty. The only thing “cruel and unusual” in this case was petitioner’s brutal murder of three innocent victims.”

—Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, rebutting the arguments of Justice Breyer, a long-time opponent of capital punishment regarding the denial of certiorari in a death-penalty case, Reynolds v. Florida.

Justice Breyer’s statement reiterated themes he has echoed before in death penalty cases:

  •   “Lengthy delays—made inevitable by the Constitution’s procedural protections for defendants facing execution—deepen the cruelty of the death penalty and undermine its penological rationale”;
  •  Jurors (in this or other cases in which the Court has recently denied review) might not have had sufficient information to “have made a ‘community-based judgment’ that a death sentence was ‘proper retribution’”; and
  • The constitutionality of the death penalty should be reconsidered.

Justice Thomas’s entire statement in rebuttal, ending in the section quoted above,  is excellent… Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/22/2018: Blemishes

Goooood Morning!

1. What is so hard to understand about the concept of Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Assembly? The Daily Beast negligently covers a story about how some alt-right groups are planning some kind of anniversary/reunion event in Charlottesville. (Funny, I thought we celebrated anniversaries of good things) and how some activists are plotting to block them. I especially like this sentence:

“Activists warned Charlottesville last year that the Unite the Right rally could turn violent. Now they’re determined to keep neo-Nazis out of their city for the anniversary.”

The rally turned violent because the counter-demonstrators turned it violent with help from authorities, who couldn’t, couldn’t, or didn’t want to keep the alt-right and the antifa demonstrations away from each other. This is the Berkeley trick: “Your speech will incite violence from us, so its irresponsible for you to speak. This issue was supposedly settled when the ACLU fought to allow Nazis to march in Skokie, Illinois 40 years ago.  In the end, the Nazis didn’t march but the principle that they couldn’t be blocked because of their message was made clear. I wonder if the self-righteous, speech-restriction fans represented by Black Lives Matter activist Lisa Woolfork even know about that case, given such ignorant quotes as,

“[Charlottesville authorities] seem to have gotten the message that white supremacist ideology is dangerous, but they are not willing to take, I believe, the truly moral step to say Kessler’s rally is a white supremacist Nazi rally, and therefore is inimical to our values and that we can ban that.”

No Lisa, you can’t ban that. You can’t ban ideas, no matter how dangerous you think they are, or how dangerous they in fact may be. The theory that the government should ban speech based on morality is infinitely more dangerous than anything these alt-right jerks say, but you still have the guaranteed right to promote such democracy-rotting garbage. Another Lisa quote:

“We did not ignore the white supremacists and let them proceed to go about their business undisturbed without any censure. These ideas are harmful, and they lead to horrible consequences in the real world.”

And I repeat: What is so hard to understand about the concept of Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Assembly? It sure seems to be especially hard to understand for the Left recently. Continue reading

“Gotcha!” Ethics (Or The Absence There-Of): The Solicitor General Misspeaks

“Boy, what an idiot!”

Immediately, the shameless agents of “the resistance” in the blogosphere, cyberspace and the mainstream media leaped on the gaffe with the enthusiasm of jackals encountering  fresh carrion. Here is a typical example, from ThinkProgress:

“In Francisco’s defense, this is probably a slip-up. He probably meant to say that Trump has praised Islam as one of the greatest religions of the world. But still, it’s a slip-up that seems more likely to happen if you truly believe that Muslims are all the same. “

Now the accusation is that Francisco thinks “all Muslims are the same”? Morons! The Solicitor General doesn’t argue his personal beliefs or positions, but the government’s. Moreover, Francisco isn’t “Trump’s lawyer” as this consistently dishonest and rapidly partisan cyber-rag claims, but the United States of America’s lawyer. This is ThinkProgress taking the typical, current, Angry Left position that anyone who works for the Administration must also hold the parody of its alleged beliefs the “resistance” claims in its propaganda and fearmongering. ThinkProgress has no idea what Noel Francisco thinks about Muslims or Islam. Lawyers are not their clients, Francisco isn’t Trump, and Trump never said that Islam is “one of the greatest countries of the world.” What he said, in a 2017 speech in Saudi Arabia that was intentionally conciliatory to Islam,

“The Middle East is rich with natural beauty, vibrant cultures, and massive amounts of historic treasures. It should increasingly become one of the great global centers of commerce and opportunity.This region should not be a place from which refugees flee, but to which newcomers flock. Saudi Arabia is home to the holiest sites in one of the world’s great faiths…”

Francisco’s mistake in oral argument was absolutely meaningless, trivial, and without consequence. No Justice corrected it, because they all knew what Francisco meant to say, and also because most of them have probably done worse.  The actual quote he referred to was probably in his brief. Yet this arrogant and vicious cabal of progressive scolds nonetheless piled on, to embarrass Francisco, to attack the President, to throw their petty tantrum because they are going to lose on this issue, as they should , as they always should have. Now they will move on to their next effort to make governing as difficult as possible for the elected President, and as painful as possible for those who serve the nation along with him.

As I just wrote to a commenter on Ethics Alarms who debased himself by raising Francisco’s slip of the tongue, an oral argument before the nation’s highest court is incredibly stressful. The most brilliant, most prepared, most composed lawyers frequently stumble and stutter when they are under that microscope. Anyone who mocks a lawyer who makes a mere verbal miscue while broiling under a harsh professional spotlight with such massive stakes—as all Supreme Court cases have–is displaying ignorance, being a jerk, or both. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/26/18: Sorry Trump-a-Phobics, It’s A President Trump Morning!

Good Morning!

1. Wake up with President Trump! By sheer chance, I surfed by Fox and Friends just as the three goofs (or two goofs and a random blonde from the stable in a tight party dress) on the sofa were having a spontaneous phone interview with President Trump, just like in the good old days in 2015, when CNN and NBC let the crazy old reality star and eccentric real estate mogul blather on while they smirked and nodded because it was great for ratings and  might even saddle the evil Republican Party with a Presidential candidate that Hillary Clinton could squash like a bug, finally leading to the Great Progressive Awakening in America, with open borders, no more guns, free college, a ban on fossil fuel, and Harvey Weinstein as a White House regular.

Observations:

  • Say what you will about Trump, this was just after 8 AM, I could hardly utter a coherent sentence, and the President was sounding like Harold Hill doing “Trouble in River City.” Either he had 20 cups of coffee or was hooked up to an electric generator.  I have a lot of energy, but Trump is older than I am, and he was energetic, engaged, and, for him, articulate.
  • His performance this morning highlights how disgusting the “Trump has dementia, let’s use the 25th Amendment to get rid of him” plot was, with the news media in full complicity. It made it hard for me to focus on what the President was saying on Fox, frankly. That particular post-election, anti-democratic attack—it was Ethics Alarms’ Plan E on the alphabetical list of “the resistance’s” ongoing efforts to overturn the election, if you recall—makes me furious every time I think about it.
  • Nevertheless, I will never get used to having a President who talks like he does.  It isn’t statesman-speak, or even demagoguery. It’s pure salesman patter, again, like Harold Hill,  or any infomercial spokesman. It’s almost hypnotic. What Trump-Whisperer Scott Adams would say, indeed has said many times, is that this is a talent and a skill, and we aren’t going to see it become commonplace among Presidents because most people just can’t do it well. No, it’s not Presidential, and will never be. But it works.
  • I also realized, once again, how much class bigotry is involved in the extreme hostility to President Trump from the “elites,” and yes, I count myself in that group. Never mind what schools Trump went to: he’s Fred Trump’s son, and unlike the Kennedy boys, never polished off the rough spots passed along to him through his humble, street-smart, back-alley forebears. I just watched the film of “My Fair Lady” again after many years, and found myself thinking about Henry Higgins’ theories while I was listening to Trump: if he spoke like Barack Obama, how differently would the news media and his adversaries treat him? Yet how many of his supporters would then regard him as just another one of “them”?

Why can’t the English teach their children how to speak?
This verbal class distinction, by now
Should be antique
If you spoke as she does, sir
Instead of the way you do
Why, you might be selling flowers, too!

An Englishman’s way of speaking absolutely classifies him
The moment he talks he makes some other Englishman despise him! Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/1/18: Obstruction Of Justice In Oakland, Virtue-Signalling At Walmart, And Common Sense At SCOTUS [UPDATED!]

 

Well, whaddya know! There IS a there there!

Good Morning!

(Why isn’t this another Afternoon Warm-up? Because I started it in the morning, and all hell broke loose here, that’s why.)

1  Injecting even more stupidity into the culture…Walmart’s virtue-signalling release yesterday reminded everyone that the big-box stores stopped selling AR-15 rifles three years ago. It also announced that it would be refusing to sell firearms to anyone under 21, and this

“We are also removing items from our website resembling assault-style rifles, including nonlethal airsoft guns and toys.”

Ugh. This is how we end up with no-tolerance fascists in public schools punishing students for chewing their Pop Tarts and pizza slices into the shapes of guns. I had a Mattel burp gun–a plastic model of a Tommy Gun—as a kid. I shot it off in the school auditorium as a stunt during my speech when I was running for president of the 8th Grade. (I lost) One of my favorite toys ever. Now corporations want to assist in the anti-gun indoctrination.

Writes Stephen Green: “‘If an object resembles something we think is bad, then it is bad,’ is the sloppiest kind of magical thinking.” It’s worse than that, though. The more sloppy thinking  injected into the culture, the less competent the culture becomes.

I hate memes as a rule, but this one is relevant:

2.  The all-time false equivalency champ…The calls to raise the age of legal gun purchasing, one of many gun regulation issues where the NRA’s absolutist opposition makes little sense except that it is an absolutist, no infringement means no infringement organization, is another in a long list of confusing, partisan-divide jumping controversies over “age of responsibility.” laws.  There are age limits on buying cigarettes, alcohol, driving, consent to have sex,  right to sign binding contracts, military service (and formally the draft), and some other activities, and they have always been used to bootstrap each other. This has been going on for decades despite the fact that physical maturity, mental maturity and emotional maturity are not always nicely synchronized, individuals vary greatly, and if we followed recent scientific studies, we would consider restricting what young men especially could legally do until about age 23. Continue reading

Four Supreme Court Decisions: Abortion, Guns, Affirmative Action, Corruption…And Ethics. Part 3: Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt

shrinking-number-of-abortion-clinics-in-texas

[The Supreme Court came down with four controversial and ideologically contentious decisions in June, and I apologize for taking almost a month to cover them all. One of the reasons Ethics Alarms occasionally launches a series like this one is to ensure that developing ethics stories of importance do not push important issues to the sidelines. The fact that this four part series had only finished parts 1 and 2 was an irritant to me, as well as some readers.]

In Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, decided on June 27, the Supreme Court held in a 5-3 majority that two provisions of a Texas law, one requiring physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and another requiring abortion clinics in the state to have facilities comparable to an ambulatory surgical center,  places a substantial and unconstitutional obstacle in the path of women seeking an abortion, because they constituted an undue burden on abortion access.

Life would be so much simpler if our elected officials and activists employed an adaptation of the Golden Rule, and looked objectively at issues from the other side’s point of view. This is especially true in the realm of rights.  Second Amendment absolutists insist that virtually any laws regulating who can purchase guns, when and where they can purchase them, and how and how quickly they can be purchased are efforts to whittle away the right to bear arms. They also argue that such regulations have the ultimate goal of  eliminating that right entirely, which, in many instances is the case, especially if you listen carefully to the rhetoric of the legislators proposing such measures. There is little difference from this and what anti-abortion advocates are attempting to do with laws like House Bill 2 (H. B. 2).

The bill ostensibly is designed to make abortions safer, thus protecting women’s health, just as many gun laws are promoted as safety measures. Oddly, virtually all of the supporters of the Texas bill would make abortion illegal if they could. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence, just as it’s a coincidence that the authors of bills requiring potential gun owners to jump through increasingly burdensome hoops and deal with mandatory trigger locks and “safe gun” technology would gladly repeal the Second Amendment if they could. The ethical principle is the same in both matters: a right isn’t a right if legal obstacles make it difficult to exercise that right.

The question is, what’s a reasonable obstacle? Any regulation imposed on a constitutional right must not create “a substantial obstacle” and must be reasonably related to “a legitimate state interest.” The Supreme Court uses the language and logic of case precedents, which are its previous examinations of these issues and the balancing they require. One such case, though I did not find it mentioned in the majority opinion or dissents in Hellerstedt, would be the voter ID decision of many years ago, in which a strong majority ruled that the state interest in preventing fraudulent voters and maintaining the integrity of the election process justified inconveniencing those who were subjected to the extra burden of obtaining appropriate identification. In recent years, this decision has been questioned because many believe the motive behind voter ID laws is not really to protect the franchise, but to keep likely Democratic voting blocs from the polls.

Is there a difference legally between a bill that is authored with the intent to restrict the right to vote of older, poorer, and darker citizens while claiming that its sole purpose is to make sure non-citizens don’t affect the results of elections, and an identical  bill that is genuinely intended to safeguard the voting rolls, without any political motive at all? No, or at least there shouldn’t be. The Court’s job is to evaluate what the law does, not try to read the minds and hearts of those who wrote it. Justices only should try to do the latter when there is a debate over what the law says.

Ethically, however, there is a significant difference between a law using a public purpose as a sham to accomplish unethical ends, and a law with a legitimate purpose that has some negative side effects. Trying to restrict a citizen’s rights because one doesn’t respect those rights (or perhaps the citizen) is unethical.

The SCOTUS majority, in its typical examination of a balancing case like this, looked at whether there was a sufficient public safety benefit to a law that had resulted in a precipitous reduction in abortion services: Continue reading

Four Supreme Court Decisions: Abortion, Guns, Affirmative Action, Corruption…And Ethics. Part I: Fisher v. University of Texas

Abigail Fisher: Not dark enough to get "an equal shot"

Abigail Fisher: Not dark enough to get “an equal shot”

The under-populated U.S. Supreme Court recently made four decisions on issues with ethical principles involved. This is the first of four posts reviewing the ethics implications of the decisions.

I. Affirmative Action: Fisher v. University of Texas

The University of Texas’ admissions program guarantees admission to top students in every high school in the state. It is dubbed the  Top 10 Percent program, though the percentage cutoff is flexible. A second part of the admissions program admits other students from Texas and elsewhere using standards that take into account academic achievement and other factors, including race and ethnicity. Many colleges and universities base all of their admissions decisions on such grounds. The case before the Court challenged that part of the program, and presented an opportunity for the Supremes to finally declare affirmative action unconstitutional, as previous opinions hinted they might do some day.

This was not the day, however. Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, said courts must give universities significant but not total autonomy in designing their admissions programs, writing:

“A university is in large part defined by those intangible ‘qualities which are incapable of objective measurement but which make for greatness.’ Considerable deference is owed to a university in defining those intangible characteristics, like student body diversity, that are central to its identity and educational mission.But still, it remains an enduring challenge to our nation’s education system to reconcile the pursuit of diversity with the constitutional promise of equal treatment and dignity.”

This defines either an ethical dilemma, which the Court’s majority is punting, or an ethical conflict…which the Court majority is punting. Is diversity an ethical objective, or a practical one, that is, a powerful non-ethical consideration? It is hard to argue that diversity in a student body isn’t desirable—to enhance the educational experiences of students, to avoid having a permanent, under-credentialed underclass, to “look like America.” However, fairness and common sense argue that admitting one candidate over another who is better qualified simply because of ethnicity or race is per se wrong. I don’t blame the Court at all for not making a clean call.

As usual, President Obama described the result in simplistic terms. “I’m pleased that the Supreme Court upheld the basic notion that diversity is an important value in our society,” he told reporters at the White House. “We are not a country that guarantees equal outcomes, but we do strive to provide an equal shot to everybody.”

Thank you, President Obvious. The crux of the case, however, was what should be done when using race as a standard for admission to attain that diversity denies an “equal shot” to someone who has the misfortune to be white, like Abigail Fisher, or Asian-American. Continue reading

Observations On The George Mason Law School Renaming Debacle

Scalia Law School

Summary: On March 31, George Mason University announced that it was changing the name of its law school, which has rapidly risen from marginal status into respectability in the last few years, to the Antonin Scalia School of Law. The reason: a 30 million dollar contribution from the Charles Koch Foundation, a.k.a. the Koch Brothers and an anonymous donor, who made the name change a condition of his or her generosity. This occurring while the various controversies over Scalia’s legacy and the Supreme Court’s deadlock since his passing were still raging guaranteed indignation from many quarters, including many students and graduates of the law school. The internet and social media communities, meanwhile, having the emotional maturity of fifth graders, concentrated its efforts at snickering over the new school’s acronym, which could be ASSoL, and the Twitter handle, #ASSLAW.

The resulting embarrassment led the school’s Dean to announce  that the name of the school was being altered to “Antonin Scalia Law School.”

Comments:

1. Ethics Alarms had a recent post expressing dismay at the willingness of baseball teams to sell the identity of their ballparks to corporations. This is much worse. George Mason is perhaps the most unjustly forgotten of all the Founders, as he was largely responsible for there being a Bill of Rights in our Constitution The fact that George Mason University and its law school has been slowly rising in prestige and visibility had helped to remedy the unjust obscurity of a historical figure to whom every citizen and the world owes a debt of thanks. George Mason’s honor, however, was considered expendable once the school’s leaders knew the price that using the law school for ideological propaganda could bring at a time of sharp partisan division.

2. Rich people have a right to use their money to make others do things that they shouldn’t or normally wouldn’t want to. The issue is whether there are ethical limits to the kinds of actions and conduct money should be used to buy. Rich families have used their assets to defeat true love, paying  unsuitable suitors to leave without explanation. Desperate celebrities have accepted checks to debase themselves on reality shows. Judas was paid to betray Jesus Christ. Where does using one’s millions to induce a university to betray its duties to alumni and students, as well as other donors and the memory of a crucial American patriot, fall on the spectrum?

3. Was George Mason University obligated to accept 30,000,000 dollars under these conditions? Should money supersede all other considerations for an educational institution? No, and no. Allowing the school to be turned into a billboard for conservative jurisprudence did more than simply alter the name. It altered the perception of the law school, the meaning of its degrees, its public image and its ability to attract a wide range of students from diverse backgrounds. If the school’s leadership didn’t comprehend that, it was a stunning example of institutional incompetence and irresponsible decision-making.

4. If the school’s leadership did comprehend the gravamen of the name change and allowing partisan tycoons to bend the school’s management to their will, then the decision was even less defensible. There was an absolute obligation to consult with the stakeholders in this trade-off: students, alumni, and donors. Failing that obligation constituted a stunning breach of trust. Continue reading