The Ethical Take

Published: October 21, 2013

By Jim Lichtman
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Every month, I offer up a few of the ethical hits and misses during the last 30 days.

Texas Vacation –

Nothing says “I love you,” better than bringing the whole family to the Alamo Gun Rally in San Antonio, Texas.

“Angela L. Pena brought her family to the Alamo on Saturday,”The New York Times reported, (Oct. 20). “She also brought her black assault rifle, a .223-caliber LWRC M4, and had it strapped across her back. Her daughter brought her M&P rifle; her son-in-law carried his .308-caliber Remington R-25; and her 8-year-old grandson, Sebastian Gonzalez, had his Ruger 10/22 rifle.

“A rifle on our back is part of our everyday life, just like a cellphone is part of our everyday life,” said Ms. Pena, 48, who manages her husband’s dental practice in South Texas.

Let’s take a moment to think about this: An assault rifle on her back is just like a cellphone. Uh-huh.

And could someone please explain to me how heavily armed a dental practice in Texas has to be to protect Grandma Gubberson’s new false teeth ready for pick-up?

“The 190 folks that died [at the Alamo] were defending their right to bear arms,” Jerry Patterson, the state’s land commissioner said at the rally. “It’s specifically mentioned in the Texas Declaration of Independence of March 2, 1836.”

Well, Jerry, the Texas Declaration states: “It [the Mexican government] has demanded us to deliver up our arms, which are essential to our defence, the rightful property of freemen, and formidable only to tyrannical governments.”

Yes, but only within the context of the 1836 Texas patriots defending themselves against military attacks from then President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Their fight was for Texas independence from Mexico. The only people storming the Alamo with guns these days are your people, Jerry!

Memo to Tourists: Plan a visit to the Alamo real soon, and folks, don’t forget your AR-15. Extra ammo is available in the Davy Crockett gift shop, next door to the Jim Bowie knife throwing arena.

The Ethical Take: a clear Miss, (only if you live outside of Texas).

A Reckoning? –

Justice officials and JPMorgan Chase have reached “a tentative $13 billion settlement over the bank’s questionable mortgage practices leading up to the financial crisis.”

Jamie Dimon and company are finally held accountable for what Justice euphemistically calls “questionable” business tactics.

However, The New York Times points out (Oct. 20), “While the deal would put those civil cases to rest, it would not save JPMorgan from a parallel criminal inquiry from federal prosecutors in California… The bank would also have to assist prosecutors with an investigation into former employees who helped create the mortgage investments.”

The E.T.: a definite Hit, but don’t hold your breath on anyone going to jail.

Breaking News: Judge says, “I was wrong” –

“Richard A. Posner,” The New York Times writes (Oct. 15), “one of the most distinguished judges in the land and a member of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, [says] he was mistaken in one of the most contentious issues in American politics and jurisprudence: laws that require people to show identification before they can vote.

“Asked [by The Huffington Post] whether the court had gotten its ruling wrong, Judge Posner responded: ‘Yes. Absolutely.’ Back in 2007, he said, ‘there hadn’t been that much activity in the way of voter identification,’ and ‘we weren’t really given strong indications that requiring additional voter identification would actually disenfranchise people entitled to vote.’ The member of the three-judge panel who dissented from the majority decision, Terence T. Evans, ‘was right,’ Judge Posner said.

“The dissent by Judge Evans, who died in 2011, began, ‘Let’s not beat around the bush: The Indiana voter photo ID law is a not-too-thinly-veiled attempt to discourage election-day turnout by certain folks believed to skew Democratic.’

“…Judge Posner noted that the primary opinion in the 2008 Supreme Court decision upholding the law had been written by Justice John Paul Stevens, ‘who is, of course, very liberal.’ The outcome of the case goes to show, he said, that oftentimes, ‘judges aren’t given the facts that they need to make a sound decision.’

” ‘We weren’t given the information that would enable that balance to be struck’ between preventing fraud and protecting voters’ rights, he added.”

While I’m glad Judge Posner is willing to set the record straight,Crawford v. Marion County Election Board553 U.S. 181(2008) still stands, upholding Indiana’s ridiculous law.

As NPR reporter Nina Totenberg reported (Jan. 2008), “…Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher acknowledged that the state has no history of voter impersonation fraud. But he said there have been reports of voter impersonation fraud in other states.”

So, how widespread is voter fraud? Well, here’s what former Secretary of State Colin Powell said just two months ago, as reported in The Daily Beast, (Aug. 23).

” ‘I want to see policies that encourage every American to vote, not make it more difficult to vote,’ Powell told an audience of 430, which included Governor Pat McCrory, who signed the law last week. He attacked the idea that there was an epidemic of voter fraud in the state: ‘You can say what you like, but there is no voter fraud … How can it be widespread and undetected?’ And he said that the law sends the wrong message to minority voters, who—in North Carolina—are largely African American. ‘What it really says to the minority voters is – we really are sort of punishing you.’ ”

The E.T.: A clear Miss. Indiana’s own Solicitor General uses sophistry to make a poor case sound viable.

Finally –

There’s been a lot of talk, both for and against changing the name held by the NFL’s Washington Redskins. When it comes to sports teams, I usually come down on the side of tradition. It’s what we grew up with, became accustomed to, and rooted for or against. However, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer makes the clearest ethical case with this: “…words don’t stand still. They evolve.

“When I was growing up,” Krauthammer writes, “I thought ‘gyp’ was simply a synonym for ‘cheat,’ and used it accordingly. It was only when I was an adult that I learned that gyp was short for gypsy. At which point, I stopped using it. Not because I took a poll of Roma to find out if they were offended. If some mysterious disease had carried away every gypsy on the planet, and there were none left to offend, I still wouldn’t use it.

“Why? Simple decency. I wouldn’t want to use a word that defines a people — living or dead, offended or not — in a most demeaning way. It’s a question not of who or how many had their feelings hurt, but of whether you want to associate yourself with a word that, for whatever historical reason having nothing to do with you, carries inherently derogatory connotations.”

“I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me,” baseball great Jackie Robinson once said. “All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.”

If we want to receive respect, we need to demonstrate respect to all.



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