Category Archives: Law & Law Enforcement

Ethics Quiz: Japan’s Official Apology To The Korean “Comfort Women”

comfort-women

Before and during World War II, the Imperial Japanese Army forced an estimated 400,000 women and girls from occupied territories, primarily Korea, China, and the Philippines, into sexual slavery for the convenience and “comfort” of Japanese soldiers. That the women were kidnapped, raped, and in many cases murdered is not in dispute, but for cultural and political reasons the Japanese government has never accepted full responsibility for the nation’s mass crime, or acknowledged its true nature. To the contrary, Japan has protested memorials to the Comfort women in various locales, including the United States. Japan officially maintains that the women were ordinary prostitutes, and that no crimes were committed toward them. This is a long, bitter controversy between South Korea and Japan particularly.

Pressure from the United States on both Japan and South Korea to resolve the issue had been building, and on December 29, 2015, the two nations reached an agreement by which the Comfort Women issue was considered “finally and irreversibly” resolved. Under the agreement, the Japanese government issued this negotiated statement:

The issue of comfort women, with an involvement of the Japanese military authorities at that time, was a grave affront to the honor and dignity of large numbers of women, and the Government of Japan is painfully aware of responsibilities from this perspective. 

As Prime Minister of Japan, Prime Minister Abe expresses anew his most sincere apologies and remorse to all the women who underwent immeasurable and painful experiences and suffered incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women.

As part of the resolution, the Japanese government pledged to contribute one billion yen (about $8.3 million), out of the Japanese government’s budget to a foundation established by the Korean government dedicated to assisting the surviving Korean Comfort Women. Forty six survive. They had no part in the agreement discussions.

The deal is unpopular in South Korea. Critics immediately complained that the agreement is inadequate. Of course it is. $8.3 million would be moderate damages in the U.S. for a single woman who was kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery. Japan is not going to accept full responsibility for the war crimes, and that should be obvious after so many decades and such stubborn denial.

The ethics question that is a bit more challenging is whether the apology is worth the paper it is printed on, or even a true apology. After the agreement, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe  stated: “there will be no future reference at all to this issue [the Comfort Women issue]. We will not raise it in the next Japan-Korea summit meeting. This is the end. There will be no more apology.” Many Koreans feel that an official apology followed immediately by a statement that says, in essence, “There, that should shut them up!” is cynical and worthless. As a Korean issues website put it, “If an apology is not followed by contrition and self-reflection, but instead by gloating—-does that apology mean anything?”

Good question! Let me rephrase that as the Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Is the official Japanese apology for the crimes against the Korean Comfort Women ethical?

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The Final Ethics Verdict On Ted Cruz

Check enclosed

See that official-looking envelope above? That’s from Ted Cruz’s campaign: it’s been arriving in mailboxes all over the country. See what it says in the lower right corner? “CHECK ENCLOSED.” This is to entice you to open it. But here is the “check” enclosed:

Cruz check

It’s not a check. It looks like a check, but it isn’t one, because checks can be cashed. It’s a fake check not made out to the recipient of the envelope, but to the Cruz campaign. This is a fundraising appeal, you see, but it has employed two lies: Continue reading

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The Seventh Annual Ethics Alarms Awards, Part II: The Worst of Ethics 2015

Donald and Hillary

Ethics Corrupters of the Year

(Awarded to the unethical public figure whose prominence, popularity and success most corrupts the public’s ethical values)

A Tie: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  Nobody else is close.

I’m sorry that these two are so dominating the awards. They also dominated the posts last year. If they dominate the awards next year, God Save The United States of America…

Double Standard Of The Year

The deference accorded to anti-white protesters on dozens of college campuses, not just by spineless administrators but much of the news media. Similar protests, conduct and rhetoric by white students would be immediately condemned for what it would be: blatant racism.

 Lie of the Year

Hands Up! Don’t shoot! The lie was uttered in 2014, but acquired new status after the Justice Department unexpectedly and definitively determined that the evidence did not support the inflammatory myth that Mike Brown was shot dead in Ferguson while trying to surrender to Officer Wilson. Never mind: the lie is part of the manifesto of Black Lives Matter and similar groups; it is still alluded to by activists and shameless politicians; it still divides the nation and focuses hate on police departments; and it has contributed to getting police officers killed while making communities more vulnerable to crime. It may be the Lie of the Decade.

Uncivil U.S. Official of the Year

Justice Antonin Scalia, who crossed all lines of judicial restraint, collegiality and civility when he excoriated his colleague, Justice Kennedy, who was the fifth vote in the majority of SCOTUS’s ruling  that same-sex marriage was a Constitutional right no state could deny, with this comment in a footnote:

“If, even as the price to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began: ‘The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,’ I would hide my head in a bag. The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.”

——U.S. Supreme Court Justice Scalia,

 

The Jesse Jackson Award 

(For the Year’s Worst Amateur Diplomat)

Barack Obama.  I know, this is snarkier than I like to be in these awards, but the signature diplomatic measure of the past year, the astounding, one-sided, dangerous and Munich-like deal with Iran, could only be the product of an ideological tyro placing wishes and hopes over diplomatic responsibility, and not for the first time. For most Presidents, trading dangerous terrorists for a deserter would be nadir. History has seen many tragedies seeded by world leaders with no diplomatic skills: the disastrous Treaty of Versailles,  Potsdam, and the treaty that this one most resembles, negotiated by the hapless Neville Chamberlain. We can only hope that the worst case scenario doesn’t materialize, but if it does not, it will be moral luck.

Most Unethical Sports League

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady speaks at Salem State University in Salem, Massachusetts, May 7, 2015. REUTERS/Charles Krupa/Pool ORG XMIT: BKS06

The NFL, for the third year in a row. “Concussion,” Tom Brady, Deflategate, more evidence that NFL players are slowly killing themselves with brain damage, Johnny Manziel.  What a great sport pro football is.

Sports Cheat of the Year

Tom Brady, New England Patriots ball-deflating quarterback.  Brady eventually avoided punishment because the NFL botched both its investigation and its imposition of penalties, but his smirking, cynical comments about the incident made it clear that he thinks cheating is no big deal, and most of his fans agree.

Not surprisingly, Brady supports Donald Trump.

Unethical Lawyers of the Year

Law Firm Division:  Lawyers Stephen Diaco, Robert Adams and Adam Filthaut of the Florida firm Adams & Diaco were found to have “maliciously” set up the drunken-driving arrest of their opposing counsel in a  high-profile defamation trial. The plot involved a comely paralegal and a cooperative DUI cop. Last I checked, it looked like all three lawyers would be disbarred for life.

Scary Lawyer Division: California lawyer Douglas Crawford  held a can of pepper spray a yard from the face of the opposing lawyer saying, “I will pepper-spray you if you get out of hand.” Then the lawyer pointed a stun gun at Traver’s head and said, “If that doesn’t quell you, this is a flashlight that turns into a stun gun.” To show he wasn’t kidding, Crawford discharged the stun gun the startled lawyer’s face.

Hard-working Lawyer Division: Massachusetts lawyer,  Karen Andrade, was  charged with prostitution after a police investigated a report by a suspicious neighbor and  found online reviews of both the lawyer’s legal services and her escort services

Celebrity Lawyer Division: Michael Cohen,  one of Donald Trump’s lawyers, told the Daily Beast that it was legally impossible for a man to rape his wife. He was only a couple of decades and many court cases behind on his research. That piece of legal scholarship came after he had threatened the website’s staff in language usually associated with loan sharks and pimps.

Unethical Prosecutor of the Year

Mosby

Baltimore’s City Attorney Marilyn Mosby
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Ethics Observations On The GOP New Hampshire Debate

Rubio meltdown

Two ethics controversies occurred before the ABC debate (transcript here) even began.

  • DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz really is a shameless and audacious hack. Does anyone seriously defend her? After being justly criticized in the news media for unabashedly hiding the Democratic candidates debates, staging them on weekends and against football games to smooth the road for Hillary, she actually had the epic gall to accuse the GOP of doing the same thing in a tweet yesterday, which read:

“Hmmm, wondering why @GOP trying to hide their #GOPdebate on the Saturday of #SuperBowl weekend no less?!”

Is she that lacking in self-awareness? Was she mocking herself? Is she an idiot? After she was blasted left and right for the tweet, she either revealed her real objective or concocted a face-saving retort:

“.@TheDemocrats debates set viewer records. Both parties’ broadcast network debates on wknds. Replies to SuperBowl #GOPdebate make my point,”

Whether this was her original intent of a U-Turn, it was also her trademark, a ridiculously transparent lie. “TheDemocrats debates set viewer records” is deceit: all the debates by both parties have exceeded previous viewer levels, but the Republican debates have significantly out-drawn the Democrats. There is no doubt that the Democrats would have drawn more had they avoided weekends like Republicans did, and that the fact that they did not was entirely intentional.

Why do Democrats tolerate a sleaze like Wasserman Schultz? It is natural to judge a party by its leadership, and she is neither bright, nor honest, nor effective,  nor appealing.

The other issue was the unfairness of leaving Carly Fiorina out of the debate. I don’t pretend to understand the formula used to demote the candidates, but since all of the other potential debaters–Gilmore, Graham, Huckabee, Santorum, Paul—had dropped out, either Fiorina should have been given a chance to debate herself for two hours, which would have been fun, or be in the main debate. Her New Hampshire poll numbers are equivalent to several who debated last night.

Debate observations: Continue reading

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The Case Of The Snoozing Prosecutor

cigar ash

There is a true story about Clarence Darrow putting a wire in his cigar and puffing it during an opponents closing argument to the jury. The idea was to create an absurdly long ash, so the jury would become distracted and watched to see when it would fall on his suit, when they were supposed to be paying attention to the summation. I’ve used that story in ethics seminars, asking attendees if this was unethical, and if so, was there a rule that could be used to punish a lawyer who did it.

Now comes word that the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled  on Tuesday that there was no prejudicial error in the trial of Buddy Robinson, who was convicted in the death of his downstairs neighbor, despite the fact that the prosecutor, then Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson, pretended to fall asleep during his Robinson’s lawyer’s closing. Robinson had appealed the verdict because of this and other questionable conduct by the prosecutor. Benson admitted that he sometimes pretended to be asleep in trials to annoy defense attorneys. In its opinion denying the appeal, the court concluded that the trial judge did not err in denying Robinson’s motion for a new trial, given the strength of the prosecution case.

It also said that the fake sleep bit “was sophomoric, unprofessional and a poor reflection on the prosecutor’s office.”

It’s also an ethics violation, a couple of ways. Maine’s Rules… Continue reading

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Ethics Alarms’ All-Time Greatest Hits

AllTimeGreatestHits

I am listing these because one of the past posts that keep drawing readers is going nuts today: the 2013 essay about the horrible Wanetta Gibson, who sent Brian Banks, a young man with a bright future to prison by falsely accusing him of rape when she was 15. If anyone has any idea why this would be, let me know; as far as I can find out, there are no new developments in the case.

It is gratifying that so many Ethics Alarms posts continue to find new readers. Here are the top ten that have “legs,” and my assessment of why.

1. The Rationalizations List. That’s no surprise, since I link to it so frequently, and it is also frequently updated.

2. Wanetta Gibson Is Even Worse Than We Thought

3.The Amazing Mouthwash Deception: Helping Alcoholics Relapse For Profit. I am proud of this one. The use of mouthwash by alcoholics is epidemic, yet now, as in 2010 when I wrote this, almost nobody who isn’t a drunk is likely to know it. This makes it easy for closeted alcoholics to hide their illness, and continue to harm themselves by gulping 54 proof liquor out of various convenient containers or their caps, which are coincidentally shaped like shot glasses. Incredibly, the Ethics Alarms post is still one of the few references on this problem on the web. As you will read, I think the makers of mouthwash intentionally keep it this way, because the alcoholic market is huge.

I regularly receive thanks from family members of alcoholics, who tell me that reading this post led to their discovering that a loved oned had relapsed. Continue reading

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Observations On The New Hampshire Democratic Candidates Debate

NH debate

I’m sure that there are loyalists who just love watching Clinton or Sanders no matter what they are doing and saying, just as I will watch even a lousy Danny Kaye movie just to see Danny Kaye. But wow, I’d really like to see the results of a post-mortem on the brain of anyone who said last night’s debacle was anything but excruciating and depressing. If I were a Democrat, I’d be on a three-day drunk after last night. I’m not, and I’m still considering it. This was easily the worst presidential candidates debate I’ve ever seen, read about or analyzed.

Why? Well, how many other debates had two candidates, their faces contorted in anger, shouting at each other (Bernie is always shouting, really) when they hardly disagree about anything of substance? How often is it so obvious that one candidate isn’t trying to win, and avoids every opening and opportunity to take down his opponent? As I have said before, if I had contributed to Sanders, I’d demand my money back. I thought losing the pathetic Martin O’Malley would be a plus, but it wasn’t. Focusing only on the irredeemably absurd Sanders and the unquestionably corrupt Clinton just made the question more vivid: after two and a half centuries as a major party, how could the Democratic Party have so little respect for the American public and so little devotion to its role in selection of the Presidency to leave us with this?

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, here are specific observations. The transcript is here.

1 More than any debate in 2016, this was performed as if  only hard-left loyalists were watching, and the moderators behaved that way as well. Agenda items like the minimum wage and “equal pay for jobs” were tossed off as shorthand and givens, without any fear that anyone would say, “Hey, wait a minute..” Yesterday, for example, data was revealed showing that in six major cities that enacted large minimum wage hikes last year, employment has suffered—as predicted by anyone without “progressive” blinders on. That would have been a good question to raise, but nobody was there to raise it. Rachel Maddow? Right.

2. The debate was deja vu, and little else. How many times do we need to hear Sanders’ generalized rap about the economy being rigged, Wall Street being a den of thieves, and single-payer health care being obviously the way to go because “everybody does it”? How many times do we have to hear that Hillary is going to “improve [Obamacare]… build on it, get the costs down, get prescription drug costs down” without being given a clue how, and without anyone even asking the question? How is she going to do all this without having the country “plunge back into a contentious national debate that has very little chance of succeeding.” What does that mean, Hillary? Funny, I thought debate was how policies get made in a democracy. Please explain: what is your substitute for democracy? Don’t “progressives'” have a totalitarian ethics alarm any more?

3. Clinton’s responses to the Sanders accusation that she’s not progressive enough—the Democratic doppleganger of the annoying and equally silly Republican accusation that a candidate isn’t a “true conservative,” were something to behold:

  • “I am a progressive who gets things done.” A bumper sticker slogan, and by the way, what things? Honestly, I can’t name any at all: she was a Senator, didn’t create any major legislation, and wasn’t a successful Secretary of State. What things does she get done? Again, Bernie won’t ask a real question….but then, he hasn’t accomplished anything either. Later, to prove her credentials in getting things done, Hillary talked, as she always does, about “fighting” for this or that, even going back to her days with the Children’s Defense fund and the DOA Hillarycare bill that crashed and burned in her husband’s first term. A 69-year-old candidate for President who  actually “gets things done” wouldn’t have to dig this deep—and a candidate trying to defeat her wouldn’t hesitate to say so.
  • She actually compared Sanders’ criticism of her progressive bona fides with not regarding a liberal Democratic Senator as progressive enough when that Senator, Paul Wellstone, has been dead since 2002, and Sanders has never mentioned him during the campaign at all! This was a straw man for the ages.

4. Having finished that pointless “debate,” they moved on to whether Hillary was the “establishment.” This sounded like a an acid-flashback from 1968, but never mind: here was Hillary’s rebuttal:

“Senator Sanders is the only person who I think would characterize me, a woman running to be the first woman president, as exemplifying the establishment.”

Sexist, insulting, tribal and dumb. Merely having two X chromosomes means that you are by definition not part of the existing power structure even when you have been part of that power structure for decades? This is just a dog-whistle to vagina-voters, who themselves are a disgrace to democracy, fairness and civic responsibility. What is it about Hillary Clinton’s career since hooking up with Bill that has shown her to be a power-seeker and broker distinguishable in conduct and motives from a man? Oh, that’s right: when her husband serially abused women as well as betraying their marriage, she sided with..him, against them.

5. Ethics alarm: “The reality is that we have one of lowest voter turnouts of any major country on earth because so many people have given up on the political process,” says Sanders. Sanders really does believe that when the United States is different from all those other less successful countries, it must be wrong. This “reality” just cynical poison that Sanders likes to say, even though it contradicts his own rhetoric. If Obama is such a great President, wasn’t he elected over Romney and McCain? Doesn’t Bernie think that makes a difference, and that the difference was votes? The GOP Congress he and Hillary are complaining about was elected when Democrats stayed home and Republicans came out in force, was it not?  If the impression that their participation makes no difference is wrong, as it is, why does Sanders keep citing it as if he agrees? What does “so many people have given up on the political process”  mean? Is he really attacking democracy itself Continue reading

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