Safer to Stay a Spectator

By: M.J.S. Despite the lack of a legal duty to rescue, people will usually at least think about helping a fellow man in need, the moral twinge of conscience nagging them to do the “right” thing. While the average person will typically give no more than this fleeting thought and casually move on with their day, some people, affectionately known as Good Samaritans, act on their moral compulsions and assist, often in the face of danger. Several weeks ago, one of these Good Samaritans encountered the fate of the victim he intended to protect, and was stabbed, ultimately dying as a result. Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax was attempting to intervene when a knife-wielding man threatened a woman nearby. The fact that Tale-Tax was injured, fatally at that, should come as no surprise; it is one of the central reasons that people choose to remain uninvolved (and of course, the desire to

I want to clerk for Judge Judy

by Lawrence Kaplan Growing up in the 1950′s t.v.’s Divorce Court was my first exposure both to divorce and courtroom drama. Yes, Perry Mason was on the air in those years but it was on too late for an 8 year old. As I remember the Divorce Court cases were rather mild. Couples arguing over who should take out the garbage and troublesome Mother-in-laws. Remember the 50′s were the time when the favorite TV shows were “Father Knows Best” and “Lassie”. Jerry Springer and DNA paternity tests were decades away. Then in the 1980′s The People’s Court with Judge Wapner publicly aired real small claim cases. I was an avid car freak at the time. I recall several cases about supposed faulty car repairs where the disgruntled car owners were suing their mechanics. With my automotive background I realized Judge Wapner had absolutely no idea of the issues involved. Yet

Confederate History Month: Hurray for Atrocity!

By Robert Soriano-Hewitt Any celebration that seeks to legitimize and romanticize the history of the Confederacy during the American Civil War is profoundly insensitive and offensive to African Americans.  In early April of this year, Virginia’s Governor, Bob McDonnell, issued a proclamation declaring April “Confederate History Month.”  The proclamation states “it is important for all Virginians to reflect upon our Commonwealth’s shared history, [and] to understand the sacrifices of the Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens during the period of the Civil War.”[1] To add insult to injury, the original declaration made no mention of the oppressive and inhumane status of African Americans during that period.  McDonnell explained that he did not include a reference to slavery because the Civil War involved issues other than slavery, and he wanted to focus on “the ones [he] thought were most important for Virginia.”[2]  Only after much criticism and public outrage did McDonnell issue

Morality in America

There is a lot of speculation, especially from the conservative right-wing, that morality in this country is crumbling, and we are entering a era of unrivaled hedonism.  From certain perspectives, this is undoubtedly true.  As a member of the generation on the cusp of assuming leadership of this country’s future, I also often wonder about the content or importance of morality in today’s world, usually from a vantage point of self-created aloofness, choosing to judge instead of acknowledging the truth of my inclusion and shared moral outlook.  From that tower, I feel that perhaps there is a crisis of morality gripping the nation, but it also signals an evolving, or to some devolving, concept of what is moral.  While I clearly cannot speak for the entire, or even most, of this country, I can speak as an individual bombarded with pop culture and advertising that more or less shapes the

The Morality of American Corporate Utilitarianism

Professor Thane Rosenbaum’s Human Rights class spent a lot of time focused on the philosophical underpinnings of our government. Two prominent philosophers were extremely important to the foundation of our country: John Locke and Jeremy Bentham. Locke, a 16th century Englishman, laid the foundation for what we view today as a individualistically charged view on one’s role in society. Locke believed that labor produced property, and that property was essential to one’s identity. This view shaped the founders in their fight against a tyrannical English crown. Founding fathers such as Thomas Jefferson saw the importance of personal identity and property ownership, echoing Locke. However, at the opposite end of the spectrum is Bentham’s view known as “utilitarianism”, which seeks to maximize the “utility” of society as a whole. The morality of an action will therefore be measured by its impact on an entire group, ignoring the potential devastating impact said

It's a DWTS World

By Patrick McKegney I love Dancing with the Stars. I can’t get enough of it. Every Monday night at 8 pm I watch semi-celebrities attempt difficult ballroom dances to 90′s pop hits. What more can I ask for? After the show I grab my iPhone (naturally equipped with the DWTS application) and cast my vote for my favorite star. And when Tuesday night rolls around I’m back in front of my TV, waiting with baited breath as Tom Bergeron announces the castoff for that week. I’m not alone here. Over 20 million people watched the DWTS premiere in March, and millions of votes will be cast for the finals this Monday. If you aren’t familiar with the show, allow me to give you this very abbreviated overview: celebrities are paired with a professional dancer who teaches them a new dance each week. The celebrities then perform the routine on Monday

Give Me Justice or Give Me a Gun

By Anne Kim “So do you have a gun?” I doubt this is a question asked of most people, but it is one I heard relatively often in my travels abroad. Once people found out I was from New York, it was the inevitable follow-up question. Guns are used on both sides of the law, but there are more than two sides to justice. Vigilante justice strikes a chord with many people because it speaks to their sense of what is right in the face of a legal system fraught with deficiencies. See Michael Kanatake’s “A Sympathetic Killer (12/27/2009); “Do Sinners Really Make the Best Saints?” (12/9/2009). I recently saw “Shooter,” an action movie based on Stephen Hunter’s book “Point of Impact.” Bob Lee Swagger is a former U.S. Marine Corps sniper who is coaxed out of isolation to help prevent an assassination attempt on the President. The Ethiopian archbishop

The Jersey Shore – A Criminal Enterprise?

MTV’s new hit show, the Jersey Shore, swept the nation this fall after appealing to the nation’s “trashier” side of entertainment.  While most people, especially in the tri-state area, would rather not have an extra dose of “Guido” in their day, they felt compelled to watch, it was like a train wreck, you just couldn’t look away.  The show gained popularity almost immediately after characters like “Snookie” and “the Situation” unabashedly let their “freak flags” fly for the entire nation to see.  However, after only a few episodes, the show’s appeal quickly turned from laughing alongside a few crazy New Jersey/New Yorkers, to becoming full on violent entertainment.  After the “punch heard round the world” episode in which Snookie was punched in the face by a guy drinking with the cast at a bar, the show began to air more and more violence in keeping up with the nation’s violent

Tragedy Tourism

Earlier this year, David Simon debuted his follow up to the critically acclaimed series The Wire with a new show called Treme.  The show is named after the historic, but little known district in New Orleans that was home to America’s first African-American neighborhood and the birthplace of jazz music.  It follows the lives of a number of different Treme inhabitants as they try to piece back their lives in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina’s destruction.  Somehow, even within this dire setting, Simon has thus far managed to maintain a more positive tone than he ever did in The Wire.  Treme does not shy away from the morbid aspects of post-Katrina life, but focuses more on the rebuilding and healing aspect of the tragedy.  Simon also masterfully seizes the opportunity to showcase the incredible culture of the district as well as New Orleans in general. One of the more powerful

You have the right to remain silent… unless you ar

By Jacqueline Adorno Since 9/11, the threat of terrorism has been used as a justification for the government to cut away at long-established protections of civil liberties.  It has been used to justify warrantless wiretapping, increased physical intrusions during airport searches (i.e., body scanners), the use of torture, and the indefinite detention of people labeled as “enemy combatants.”  The newest “solution” to fighting terrorism is the Obama administration’s proposal to loosen the Miranda rules when questioning terrorist suspects and to delay presenting suspects to a judge. The Miranda warning has a prominent role not only in everyday police procedure, but in American culture as well — if you’ve watched “Law and Order,” you probably know the phrase “you have the right to remain silent.  Anything you say can and will be used against you.”  The Miranda decision established a universal standard, requiring police to read detainees their rights once in