Ethics Lunch, 9/24/2019: Big Hairy Men! Teen Rants! Legalized Theft! Insulting The Poor With Kindness!

 

Yum!

Or rather, “yecchhh!”

1.  Ben Carson doesn’t think women’s shelters should admit men identifying as women. Obviously, he must be destroyed. Has there ever been a tiny minority that has triggered so many gotchas and excessive controversies like trans citizens?

Let me stipulate that Ben Carson has no business being Secretary of HUD, as he is completely unqualified and possessed of narrow brilliance in an unrelated area and crippling dufus-ness in all others, so this goes in the “Stop Making Me Defend Ben Carson” files.

Nonetheless, the current outrage over remarks he made in a closed-door meeting with roughly 50 HUD staffers at the agency’s San Francisco office are contrived, and blatant virtue-signaling to the hyper-sensitive Democratic base.

Let me also stipulate that Carson is an idiot for not being able to figure out that in any group of San Francisco residents there would be several just looking for a “Ben Carson is an anti-trans bigot” smoking gun.

Carson wrote in an all-staff email that he

“…made reference to the fact that I had heard from many women’s groups about the difficulty they were having with women’s shelters because sometimes men would claim to be women, and that HUD’s policy required the shelter to accept—without question—the word of whoever came in, regardless of what their manifested physical characteristics appeared to be.This made many of the women feel unsafe, and one of the groups described a situation to me in which ‘big hairy men’ would come in and have to be accepted into the women’s shelter even though it made the women in the facility very uncomfortable,. My point was that we have to permit policies that take into consideration the rights of everybody, including those women.”

This was relayed to the media by a few enraged staffers as Carson referring to trans individuals as “big hairy men,” as well as representing insufficiently supportive sentiments towards the transgender community. “The sentiment conveyed was these were not women, and they should not be housed in single-sex shelters — like we shouldn’t force people to accept transgender people in this context because it makes other people uncomfortable,” one staffer told the Washington Post.

To the contrary, what Carson was referencing  is a legitimate concern. Having recently been served at McDonalds by someone who certainly appeared to be a big hairy man wearing a beard, a woman’s wig and a bra, I understand the problem, and it is a problem—not at McDonalds, but surely in a women’s shelter.  Because Carson acknowledged reality,  Julián Castro, a former HUD secretary and a 2020 Democratic candidate for President, said Carson’s comments “normalize violence” against transgender people. Elizabeth Warren and other Democrats piled on.

2. Immunity again, bad judges again, KABOOM! again. Where do these judges come from?

The Fresno Police Department carried out a raid on Micah Jessop and Brittan Ashjian, who were suspected of operating illegal gambling machines, though no charges were ever brought. After the search, officers provided both men with a ledger stating that the police had seized $50,000. Jessop and Ashjian allege that the officers really took $151,380 in cash and $125,000 in rare coins, pocketing $226,380 in what was outright robbery.

Are you ready? Continue reading

From The Ethics Alarms “Awwww!” Files: The Happy Shoplifter

At a Whole Foods in New York City,  a woman attempted to steal some food and was detained by supermarket security officers. Three police officers on the scene, however, chipped in and paid for the food she had been seen slipping into her shopping bag.

Naturally the heartwarming scene was  captured in a photo, showing the woman’s tears of gratitude. Their deed, as well as the woman breaking into tears, was captured in a photo that was shot by a customer who described himself as heartened by the unexpected gesture. “It was a nice moment for, you know, people, it was compassionate and the woman obviously was really grateful,” the amateur photographer said.

The police department approves, I guess.  NYPD Chief Terence Monahan tweeted, “Cops like Lt. Sojo and Officers Cuevas and Rivera of the Strategic Response Group are the kind-hearted cops who quietly do good deeds for New Yorkers in need.”

Is this the new department policy then? When officers decide that a thief is in genuine need, they will now pay for the merchandise stolen? I may have rolled out of bed bitter and jaded, but this seems like the “Awww!” Factor, where sentimentally appealing conduct is mistaken for ethical conduct. From the Ethics Alarms glossary: 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, 4/9/19: “Nothing Can Bother Me Because It’s Opening Day At Fenway Park” Edition

All’s right with the world..

…despite all evidence to the contrary!

At least for today…

1. Psst! HLN! It’s called “stealing,” you morons. According to a recent survey, 14% of Netflix users share their passwords to the streaming service. That’s about 8 million people. I just watched giggling news-bimbo Robin Meade on HLN and her sidekick Jennifer Westhoven go on about how they hoped Netflix didn’t “crack down” and how this was like “ride-sharing.” No, it’s not like ride-sharing at all. If you want your friend to have  Netflix and they can’t afford it, pay for their subscription. This is theft. Talking heads that rationalize dishonest behavior on TV is one of many cultural factors that incapacitates the ethics alarms of a critical mass of Americans.

And Robin? Being beautiful doesn’t excuse everything.

2.  The Alternate Reality solution to race relations! Professor Chad Shomura of the University of Colorado at Denver has  banned discussions of any white men in his course on American political thought. No Locke,  no Jefferson,  no Rousseau, no Madison, no Hamilton, and  no President before Obama .  Such an irresponsible approach to his course’s topic can’t be prevented by the university because of academic freedom, of course: if a professor thinks he or she can teach physics by playing with puppies, that’s up to them. I would suggest, however, that any student incapable of figuring out that such a course is an extended con is a fool and a dupe. What’s the equivalent of this? Teaching the history of baseball without mentioning Babe Ruth?

3.  Pop Ethics Quiz: Is this fair? After legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said on CNN that outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen ” will forever be known as the ‘woman who put children in cages,” conservative pundit and ex-Justice Department lawyer T Beckett Adams tweeted, “I doubt it. People have short memories. There’s a reason we don’t call Toobin the “married man who knocked up a former colleague’s daughter and had to be taken to court to pay child support.”  Adams’ description is fair, but is using it in this context ethical?

I tend to think not, but it’s a close call. [Pointer: Althouse] Continue reading

My Confession, Just In Case The FBI Investigates…

The scene of the crime…

In an earlier post about the Kavanaugh debacle, I introduced a poll with this:

Memory I: As a junior, I engineered an elaborate prank to steal a sofa from two classmates and friends who had swiped a sofa from two other students in their dorm. It almost worked, too: the pay-off was going to be when they visited our suite and saw their sofa there. The plan fell apart, and the original owners even got their sofa back.

Question: Should this episode, which technically involved attempted theft, disqualify me for some positions as an adult and professional?

The polls results:

Several commenters have admitted that their votes were tongue in cheek, so I don’t believe for a minute that there were really 13% of voters who believe that the episode when I was 20 should bar me from being an ethicist, a lawyer, or a SCOTUS judge, and needed to be investigated by the FBI. Just in case, however, I feel I should tell the whole, sordid story about what came to be called “The Great Sofa Caper,” and which is a tale told and retold at every reunion of my room mates.

It was the end of winter, and spring cleaning of sorts at the Harvard dorms. I lived in a suite at Lowell House with five other juniors, and was visiting friends and fellow classmates “Oscar” and “Felix” across the campus in the high rise dorms, Leverett Towers. “Oscar” was a theater friend who looked like a dissipated cross between Omar Shariff and Teddy Roosevelt; “Felix” looked like a pint-size Rodney Dangerfield. Shortly after I entered their abode, Felix said, “Hey, what do you think about the new sofa we swiped?” Indeed, prominently displayed in the main room was what appeared to be a very new, very nice, fully upholstered  sofa.

“You swiped it?” I said, and Felix laughed. “No, I was just kidding. Some upperclassmen were changing rooms, and this was left out in the hall for anyone to take. Nice, eh?”

“You swiped it! That’s brand new! Nobody would throw that out. Come on!” I said. Indeed, furniture and other junk was often being left out for communal expropriating in such moves, but this seemed like wilful, contrived ignorance by my friends to me. Nonetheless, Felix and Oscar swore that they would never steal anything, and that the brand new sofa was abandoned property.

Right.

I went back to Lowell House deep in thought and ethics conflict, wondering what the right thing to do was. I couldn’t report my friends for what was, even if it was theft in the real world, pretty standard college silliness. Still, I felt this was excessive. Then I hit on my plan. It would be both a good practical joke and a lesson for Felix and Oscar. Continue reading

Compassion! Crime! Betrayal! Law vs. Ethics! Illegal Aliens! Christmas Spirit! The Golden Rule! Five Golden Rings! (Okay, Only Three Rings, And One Was Junk, But Still…) The ‘Awwwww Factor’! Could This Be “The Greatest Ethics Quiz Ever Asked”?

[Special thanks to my friend (and the inventor of The Three Circles) lawyer/legal ethicist John May for alerting Ethics Alarms to this one.]

Sandra Mendez Ortega, a 19-year-old maid, stole three rings worth at least $5,000 from a house she was cleaning in Fairfax City, Virginia. Lisa Copeland, the client of the cleaning service, discovered her engagement and wedding rings were missing from the container where they were usually kept. The two rings were appraised at $5,000 in 1996, and a third less valuable ring was taken along with them. Fairfax City police  interviewed the three women who had cleaned the home, and they all denied seeing the rings, much less stealing them. Ortega, however, subsequently had second thoughts, and confessed to the theft. She told her boss that she had the rings and turned them over to him. He contacted the police,   Mendez Ortega confessed to them as well, saying she returned the rings after learning they were valuable. (Thus she only took them because she thought they weren’t valuable. Okaayyyy…) The police told her to write an apology letter to Copeland, in Spanish, in which she said in part, “Sorry for grabbing the rings. I don’t know what happened. I want you to forgive me.”

(I’m sorry, but I have to break in periodically so my head won’t explode. ” I don’t know what happened?” She knows what happened! She stole the rings because she thought she could get away with it.)

Copeland says she has never seen that letter, and that Mendez Ortega has never apologized to her in person. The maid was charged with felony grand larceny. At the trial, the jury found her guilty. (If she had confessed and was remorseful, why did she plead not guilty?)

But we are told that they felt sympathy for the defendant, who was pregnant with her second child, during the sentencing phase. “The general sentiment was she was a victim, too,” the jury foreman, Jeffery Memmott, told the Washington Post. “Two of the [female jurors] were crying because of how bad they felt.”  Although the  jurors convicted the maid of the felony, they agreed among themselves that it was just a “dumb, youthful mistake.” So they decided that her punishment would be only be her fee for cleaning the house the day of the theft, $60. Then they took up a collection and raised the money to pay the fine, plus and extra $20.

(Yes, she made money on the transaction. Crime pays.) Continue reading

The Strange World Of Magic Ethics

A recent controversy surrounding a hit magic show on Broadway has resurfaced an ethics tangent I was aware of but had forgotten about: magician ethics.

Magician Derek DelGaudio accused another magician of surreptitiously recording a video of an effect during a performance last month of his one-man show, “In & Of Itself.” The rival magician denied the allegation—it’s complicated, and you should read the whole tale here-–but the basic problem arises from the nature of magic tricks. They can’t be patented, because the patent would reveal how the magic trick was done in a publicly available source. This means, however, that a magician whose unique illusion he or she labored on and developed at great expenditure of time and expense can be stolen by another magician with the illusion’s creator having no legal recourse.

For a field that is all about fooling and deceiving people (who have consented to being deceived), magic has old and well-developed ethical traditions. Houdini, who took his name from a french magician named Robert Houdin, later exposed his role model as an unethical magician whose most famous illusions were stolen from other conjurers without payment or credit. Still, if a magician can figure out how another magician’s trick is performed by simply watching it, nothing legally or ethically dictates that that magician can’t perform the illusion as well. However, since magic is practiced by people who deceive for a living, it should come as no surprise that unethical practices are rampant. Continue reading