Evening Ethics Cool-Down, 4/28/2020: Ethics Clouds In My Coffee

Good evening.

1. Here’s an ethics quote I need to use more often…I was watching the 1941 film “The Devil and Daniel Webster,” about a jury trial to determine whether the Devil will get a farmer’s soul as contracted.  It reminded me of a quote by Kurt Vonnegut: “A soul is the part of you that let’s you know when your brain isn’t working properly.”

A better definition of an ethics alarm you could not devise.

2. So where were the souls of the judges who voted for this? Thousands of prisoners have been released from incarceration to protect them from the outbreak of the Wuhan virus inside jails and prisons.  The theory is that subjecting prisoners to this special peril is cruel and unusual punishment. The theory’s not wrong, but it’s a bit unbalanced. Their peril is not entirely  society’s fault, after all.

There are activists at the extreme end of the progressive spectrum —a division getting larger all the time, it seems—who seem to want to eliminate penal punishment completely.  Not letting a crisis go to waste, a group of them , Columbia Legal Services, began pushing for inmates over 50 years old in Washington state to be released as a compassionate act to save them from the virus.

Among the intended beneficiaries: Gary Ridgeway, the Green River Killer, and Isaac Zamora,  serving a life sentence for going on  a shooting rampage and killing six  people. Ridgeway is one of the nation’s most frightening serial killers, eventually confessing to 71 murders. Over the three decades of the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, Ridgeway captured women and girls, raped them, and  strangled them. He loved watching the life go out of their eyes as they died by his hand, though sometimes he used a  rope. Then he  would pose with the corpses. If he really liked his victim,  he’d have post mortem sex with her body. His first victims were found in the Green River, giving him a catchy name.

Ridgeway was sentenced to 500 years in prison with no possibility of parole. The victim’s families were promised that he would never be released. Ah, but poor Gary is 71 now, and thus at risk of succumbing to the pandemic, and presumed to be too feeble to be a threat. That, at least, is what Columbia Legal Services argued. (You know, I’m not much younger than Ridgeway, and I’m pretty certain I could murder someone. In fact, I’m getting ideas…)

Q13 News reported  that prosecutors protested that “the Petitioners [Columbia Legal Services] demand that 2/3 of the prison population be released into the community, a number which includes serial killers and capital murderers.” You would think that their argument would be a slam dunk. You would be wrong. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Dying Dog Ethics

Well this story is calculated to make any dog-lover teary. Having lost my beloved Rugby last yearand not yet been able to consider a successor, I read it while having to constantly adjust my “don’t be an idiot” controls.

Eddie the pitbull, in the care of Mikey’s Chance Canine Rescue in Benton County, Washington, has an inoperable brain tumor. He’s been given six months to live, and the staff  decided to make his final days as much fun for him as possible by creating various “bucket list” experiences.  One recent example was giving Eddie  “his dream” of being a crime dog, and and as soon as local police heard about Eddie, they pitched in.

The officers gave Eddie his own police jacket, then set him down in a pool filled with toys. Then Eddie accompanied the police in the front of a squad car as they toured the town requesting donations for the rescue shelter.

On their Facebook page, the Pasco Police wrote: “We have finished our amazing day with K9 Eddie and we are overwhelmed with the amount of support the community has shown him. Eddie was welcomed everywhere he went and shown nothing but love and affection all day. Finally, we want to wish Eddie all the best with his bucket list and future endeavors.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of Day is…

What’s going on here? Continue reading

The Scourge Of Technologically Ignorant Judges

The American Bar Association and most state bars have added an ethical requirement for lawyers to be competent and knowledgeable regarding relevant technology. In 2012, the ABA adopted an amendment to ABA Model Rule of Professional Responsibility 1.1, comment 8, providing that “a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology . . . .” Since then, at least twenty-seven states have officially adopted Comment 8 or some version of it as part of their rules of professional conduct. It’s still a long slog; many lawyers, far too many, are limited to email and Google searches, and often aren’t sufficiently adept at either.  There should be such a requirement in every jurisdiction, and the ABA language is far too vague and lenient.

Judges, however, often make lawyers look like  cyber-whizzes. Here’s a ridiculous example from Franklin Country in Washington, where superior court judges disagreed with their clerk about transitioning from paper to electronic files.  The clerk “deemed it unnecessary” to incur the expense of maintaining duplicate paper files after a paperless filing system was implemented . The judges declared an emergency (!) and issued an order directing clerks to keep paper files. One gutsy, probably soon to be unemployed clerk refused. The judges then appointed a special prosecutor to pursue civil claims against the clerk. Continue reading

DC’s “Ethics Subway Train Wreck,” A Tragedy In Six Acts

…or, “A Streetcar Named Stupid”…

This is a Nation’s Capital, drama my friends…an ugly ethics mess, in

ACT I

Eating on a Metro train is a criminal violation in Washington, D.C., but the transit authority seems to think that enforcing laws is icky, or something, so Metro Transit Police Chief Ron Pavlik sent out an order on May 8, telling officers to “cease and desist from issuing criminal citations in the District of Columbia for fare evasion;  eating; drinking; spitting, and playing musical instruments without headphones until further advised.”

Telling officers not to enforce laws is per se incompetent and irresponsible. If you want to repeal the law, fine. An unenforced law, however, is an invitation to chaos. If the directive to ignore it is secret, then the public that sees scofflaws unimpeded assumes that law enforcement isn’t doing its job. If the public knows that the law won’t be enforced as a policy, then it will begin engaging in the conduct the law was made to prevent.

This is idiotic.

ACT II

Local author Natasha Tynes saw a Metro employee eating on a train,  and reported the woman to transit officials by tweeting a photo of the woman, in uniform, eating on the Red Line. She also tweeted that when she confronted the woman for breaking Metro rules, the woman replied, “Worry about yourself.” “When you’re on your morning commute & see @wmata employee in UNIFORM eating on the train,” Tynes tweeted. “I thought we were not allowed to eat on the train. This is unacceptable.”

She’s right. It’s unacceptable. Telling Metro officials that they should not ticket violators of the law does not mean that Metro employees are free to violate the law. This is a predictable result of Pavlik’s unethical order. Tynes, however, was engaging in responsible citizenship.

ACT III

In response to the tweet, the head of the MTA workers’ union stated that the employee had “done nothing wrong.”

This is ethics ignorance. There is a law against what the worker did, and the fact that violations (stupidly) weren’t being enforced doesn’t alter the wrongness of the conduct one iota. This is Ethics 101. Teach ethics in school!

Morons. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/29/19: Sick Room Edition

I hope you’re feeling better than I am.

1. Sick Ethics. Being sick on the job is always an ethical conflict, and riddled with bias. My father’s approach, so characteristic of him as someone who insisted on going into the Battle of the Bulge as an officer with a mangled, recently-repaired foot that was still oozing blood, was to ignore the illness and soldier on. There are two problems with that, however. First, you are working at diminished capacity, and second, you risk infecting others. The problem is a bit easier when you have a home office like I do, but there is still a trade-off issue: if I “soldier on” like my father, do I risk a longer illness and reduced capacity for far longer than if I just took a day or two off to recuperate? In my case, this is always a tough call: I am very vulnerable to bronchitis and pneumonia following chest colds (that’s what I’ve got, big time, starting last night), and when the stuff I cough up starts attacking me through the Kleenex, I’m in big trouble that has sometimes lasted for months. There is also a bias problem when you feel rotten. Right now, I would love to lie down. I can’t think of anything I would like more. I bet I can rationalize air-tight reasons why I should lie down, despite all of the very valid reason not to.

2. And speaking of sick...All 50 states require vaccinations before children to attend school, but 47 of them  (California, Mississippi and West Virginia are the exceptions) allow parents to opt out of vaccines if they have religious beliefs against immunizations. Eighteen states also allow parents to opt out of vaccines if they have personal, moral or philosophical beliefs against immunizations, including beliefs that they can think straight when they are in fact idiots and get their medical advice from Jenny McCarthy and other hysterical anti-vaxxers. Oregon and Washington are among the states that allow for a parent’s personal beliefs to exempt their kids from being immunized, along with Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Vermont.

You know. Morons. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Fate of Rachel Dolezal

dolezaltoday

I hope you remember Rachel Dolezal, the former NAACP branch president who falsely claimed to be black, double-talked and lied about her racial origins, and was defended by the “race is just a social construct” crowd on the left, as part of the same ideological fantasy that holds that a man can be a woman by just deciding that she is one. Ethics Alarms discussed her strange story here, here, and here.

Following her 15 minutes of fame, Rachel was somehow unable to manage a book contract or a speaking tour, perhaps because she is a walking, talking Achilles heel for several beloved progressive myths, Now she’s jobless and living on food stamps, and facing foreclosure and expects to be evicted next month.

“There’s no protected class for me,” she told The Guardian. “I’m this generic, ambiguous scapegoat for white people to call me a race traitor and take out their hostility on. And I’m a target for anger and pain about white people from the black community. It’s like I am the worst of all these worlds…I do think a more complex label would be helpful, but we don’t really have that vocabulary. I feel like the idea of being trans-black would be much more accurate than ‘I’m white.’ Because you know, I’m not white.”

Of course, she is.

Dolezal says she’s been rejected for  over 100 jobs. She has had offers on the freak show circuit,  in porn and reality TV. But Dolezal is not uneducated or dumb. Surely there are many jobs that she could perform, and well.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz Of The Day is this…

Would you hire Rachel Dolezal?

Continue reading

Note To Republicans: If You Are Going To Switch Sides Without Looking Like A Grandstanding Turncoat, You Have To Do A Better Job Explaining Why Than Chris Vance

That's Chris, about 12 rows up, third from the left...

(That’s Chris, about 12 rows up, third from the left…)

Chris Vance once was the  chair of the Washington state Republican Party. He unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate last year, and now is stuck in a bright blue state where conservatives are as popular as bedbugs. Trying another approach, he has come out with an op-ed announcing that he has joined the protesters in his state, which are challenging the President’s efforts to more tightly control immigration, refugees, and the threat posed by Islamic terrorists.

My crack (and indispensable) issue scout Fred found Vance’s article and passed it along, asking, “Does belonging to a party ethically require loyalty to its agenda? Or to its principles? Is belonging to a party inherently unethical? The Founding Fathers might have said yes.”

The answers to these are: 1) Belonging to a party, like any group, allows principled dissent and advocacy for more just and reasonable policies. When an individual cannot support any of a party’s agenda, then he or she has an obligation to go elsewhere. Can one element of the agenda, such as support or opposition to abortion, be a deal-breaker? Of course. 2) If a party member cannot support a party’s principles, than pretending to be a member of the party is inherently dishonest, a breach of integrity and unethical. 3) Democracy requires political parties to function, as all democracies have learned. The Founders would have disagreed, but we have had the benefit a couple hundred years of experience that they lacked.. The Founders also would have disagreed with allowing women to vote, blacks running for President, and children having Constitutional rights.

I doubt any of the questions apply to Chris Vance, however. What appears to be going on is that an unsuccessful politician has assessed the likelihood of conservative Republican going very far in California Northwest, and decided to re-invent himself as not just anti-Trump (that didn’t work, because he was anti-Trump during the campaign and still lost) but anti-President and pro-Left Wing Freakout. His real problem, judging from the column, is that Vance just isn’t very bright, or perhaps isn’t very skilled at hiding the fact that his core beliefs are adjustable. Continue reading

From The “Ethics Isn’t Easy” Files: The FBI, Child Porn, And “Playpen”

key-computerIn order to probe “the dark web” and to apprehend those partaking of the pleasures of child pornography, the FBI emulated the illegal conduct of hackers, using a warrant to surreptitiously place malware on all computers that logged into a site called Playpen. When a user connected, the malware forced his computer to reveal its  Internet protocol address. Next a subpoena to the ISP  yielded his real name and address, and a another warrant allowed a subsequent search of the user’s home. Incriminating evidence, indictments and trials followed.

The problem of tracking computer related crime is far ahead of the law, and in the vacuum, ethical principles are being nicked, mashed, or ignored. Ahmed Ghappour, a professor at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law, says, “It’s imperative that Congress step in to regulate exactly who and how law enforcement may hack.” If hacking is illegal, and wrong as an uncontested intrusion on privacy, when is it ethical, and thus legal, for law enforcement to do it? Continue reading

In Washington State, Not “Over-Incarceration,” Just Incompetent And Cruel Incarceration

African American in Prison

Since 2002, the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) has allowed a sentencing-calculation glitch in its computers to allow more than 3000 inmates to walk out of prison before their sentences were complete. Now the state is rounding-up  ex-prisoners, in many cases after they have built back their lives, settled down, found jobs, and done all of the things, difficult things, former felons are supposed to do once they have paid their debts to society.

Last month, Governor Jay Inslee and DOC Secretary Dan Pacholke  revealed that incorrectly programmed computer software  had been  miscalculating release dates Washington convicts sentenced to extra prison for violence related to their crimes. Although DOC employees have been aware of the problem since 2012,an assistant attorney general advised against an urgent review, allowing the error, and the early releases, to continue for three more years as a software fix was delayed repeatedly. (Yes, there is an investigation.) Finally, a fix is supposedly in the works.

None of this was the fault of the prisoners who were released early, but they are the ones being made to suffer for it. Most of those who have been out for long periods are being left alone, according to the standards for review, but for those deemed to need additional prison time, the trauma is significant. The Seattle Times interviewed Miranda Fontenot, whose fiancé, James Louis, was taken into custody last week when he checked in with his community corrections officer. Continue reading

Message To An Unethical Teacher: Children Are Not Your Guinea Pigs

No LEGOS for YOU!

No LEGOS for YOU!

Fire this teacher now.

Karen Keller, a kindergarten teacher at Captain Johnston Blakely Elementary on Bainbridge Island, Washington, think it is her role to use 5 year olds for her own social science experiment. She’s wrong. But then, she’s wrong about so much, and so arrogant about it. If she is allowed to continue her abusive manipulation of her young charges without being stopped, reprimanded, or given a pink slip, the negligent parents of her victims must carry the blame. Every now and then a teacher will go power mad and run amuck—I had one of those. There is no excuse for not acting quickly before someone gets hurt.

Keller has decided that it is her mission in life to combat what some studies show to be lower spatial and math skills development among girls as a group, as compared to boys. Thus she has decided to forbid boys from playing with LEGOS during the “unstructured play period” of 40 minutes that the kindergarten day includes. Keller told a local paper that it drove her crazy  that the girls wanted to play with dolls while boys flocked to the plastic building system, so she decided to take action to erase those gender-based proclivities. “Until girls get it into their system that building is cool, building is ‘what I want to do’ — I want to protect that.”

Want to fire her yet?

How about this statement…

“I always tell the boys, ‘You’re going to have a turn’ — and I’m like, ‘Yeah, when hell freezes over’ in my head,” she said. “I tell them, ‘You’ll have a turn’ because I don’t want them to feel bad.”

Now do you want to fire her? Continue reading