Ethics Dunce (and Unethical Tweet of the Month): Donald Trump

Stay classy, Donald.

Well, I’m still trying to get that Todd Akin post up, but greater stupidity keeps intervening. Speaking of greater stupidity: here’s the Donald!

Everyone, even Mitt Romney, must know that Trump is a boor, an ass, and an Ethics Dunce Extraordinaire, an embarrassment to such already embarrassing fields as casinos, real estate development, politics and even reality TV. Still, one would think that he would be shrewd enough—and Trump is often shrewd—to avoid rearing his ugliest side during the Republican National Convention and reminding the media, undecided voters and lurking blog-snipers that Mitt hasn’t shown the sense, courage and integrity to separate this slimy birther from his campaign. But no. Trump is, after all, only interested in Trump, so he had to send out this despicable tweet insulting Adrianna Huffington, who must have said or written something critical of him, Whatever it was, it couldn’t have been critical enough. Here is the tweet:

Trump is no gentleman, no statesman, and no fit ally for a man running for President. I assumed everyone knew that already, but this is another reminder. Let’s see if Mitt Romney has standards that go beyond dollar signs.


Pointer: Hypervocal

Graphic: Brooklyn Mutt

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at

School No-Tolerance Hits Rock Bottom

I hope.

Hunter Spanjer, preparing to terrorize someone.

This day-ruining story jumped ahead of a Todd Akin-related post, but since they both involve near criminal levels of stupidity, I didn’t have to shift gears very much. I should begin by assuring readers, however, that much as I wish I was, I am not making this up.

In Grand Island, Nebraska, the public school system has informed the parents of a deaf three-year-old pre-schooler that he cannot use sign language to communicate his name. You see:

  • The young boy’s name is Hunter Spanjer…
  • The Signing Exact English gesture for “hunter” is a fist with the forefinger pointing out and the thumb up, like a pistol…
  • The Grand Island school system’s “Weapons in Schools” Board Policy 8470 prohibits “any instrument…that looks like a weapon'”, and
  • The administrators of that school system are so dumb that they make Todd Akin look like Stephen Hawking. Continue reading

The Vegetarian Reception: Carolyn Hax Strikes Out

Well, nobody bats 1.000.

“Where’s the shrimp?”

My favorite ethical advice columnist, Carolyn Hax, missed a soft pitch by a mile recently. The question came from a couple—an apparently insufferable couple, I may add—who sought Hax’s confirmation that they were within rightful boundaries by wanting to have only vegetarian fare at their upcoming wedding reception, since they were vegetarians themselves. “We don’t want to spend money purchasing meat or fish, and feel that a celebration of our union and the home we are making together should not have meat or fish in it,” they explained. Her parents objecedt on the grounds that, among other things, many of their older friends can’t tolerate beans and dairy. Hax’s correspondent retorts that they can certainly stand to go meatless for one reception.

And Carolyn sided with the soon-to-be insufferable married couple, saying,

“I believe the range of food permissible within a vegetarian diet is broad enough to satisfy all, allowing me to duck the question of whether the guests’ comfort trumps the hosts’ principles. I believe it’s a case-by-case call, depending on both the principles and (dis)comfort involved for the guests.”

Oh Carolyn, Carolyn. A few more duds like this, and the New York Times will offer you its post as “The Ethicist.” Continue reading

Introducing the Jumbo Award and Its First Recipient: John Mark Heurlin, Esquire.

Today Ethics Alarms is launching a new category, the Jumbo Award. The Jumbo is named after the famous moment in the 1935 musical (and 1962 movie adaptation)“Jumbo” in which a clown, played in both by the sublime Jimmy Durante, is trying to sneak the largest elephant in the world out of the circus, which has been seized by creditors.  A sheriff intercepts the would-be elephant-napper, and demands, “Where do you think you are going with that elephant?” To which Durante’s character replies innocently, as if the pachyderm at the end of the rope in his hand is invisible, “Elephant? What elephant?”

Henceforth, the Jumbo will be periodically awarded to an ethical miscreant who continues to try to brass his or her way out of an obvious act of ethical misconduct when caught red-handed and there is no hope of ducking the consequences. And the first recipient is faux lawyer John Mark Huerlin.

Huerlin was suspended from the practice of law, yet was caught representing himself as a lawyer in several ways, which you cannot do while you are suspended. To do so is an ethical violation in itself—dishonest, defiance of the bar, and the unauthorized practice of law. Nonetheless, he used a letterhead that referred to the “Law Offices of John M. Heurlin” and an email address that read “” But the real kicker was that Heurlin held himself out as an attorney in litigation on his own behalf, by following his name with “Esquire” on court pleadings.

Huerlin told the bar that he could explain everything. Esquire means that I’m a lawyer in good standing? My goodness! This is all a big misunderstanding, then. I didn’t use “Esquire” to indicate that I was a lawyer. I thought “Esquire” just meant that I was a subscriber to the magazine, Esquire!

Now either disbarred or soon to be, Mr. Huerlin is officially authorized to replace that confusing reference to his reading habits with a new suffix, so he can present himself as John Mark Huerlin, Jumbo.


Facts: ABA Journal

Graphic: Abracadabra

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at


Unethical Feature: “Top 10 People Who Don’t Deserve To Be Millionaires”

And leave Bubbles alone.

I know: it’s a feature, it’s a gag, it’s not meant to be taken seriously. I don’t care: the underlying attitude behind The Daily Caller’s recent slideshow, “Top 10 People Who Don’t Deserve To Be Millionaires” is too common these days to be emulated, even in half or whole jest. The belief that citizens of the U.S. “don’t deserve” to have the money they do is at the root of toxic politics, bad economic policy, class resentment and self-excused jealousy, and it shouldn’t be encouraged. If there is a genuine and persuasive argument to be made that people don’t deserve the money they earn, then make it, and you have to do better than “you didn’t build that!”

Taylor Bigler, the Caller’s entertainment editor who compiled the list, doesn’t. She just appeals to jealousy, as if nobody really really does resent people who have made more money than they have so its fine to pretend they do. “Now, some people are millionaires because they are ambitious and kept their noses to the grindstone,” she says. “Those people certainly deserve their hard-earned success. But honestly, there are many other people who are millionaires that simply don’t deserve to be.” Like? Continue reading

The Washington Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg Dilemma

The real problem with Stephen Strasburg’s pitching arm is that it’s attached to his neck…

I must apologize to those who care about baseball-related ethics matters. I have been so immersed in the problems dogging my sad and dispirited Boston Red Sox that I have neglected the more glaring ethics issue looming over my current home town team, the Washington Nationals, currently on top of the National League East and almost certainly bound for their first post-season appearance. They face that prospect, however, with a problem: before the season began, management pledged that Stephen Strasburg, the team’s young fire-balling ace who seems destined for a Hall of Fame career, will be shut down for good once he hits 180 innings or less. Strasburg has already had serious arm surgery once, and conventional baseball wisdom now holds that throwing too many pitches before a pitcher has matured risks his arm, his effectiveness and his career. What this means now, however, that was hardly conceivable when the pledge was made, is that the Nationals could be battling the best teams in baseball in pursuit of a World Series title with their best pitcher completely healthy but in mothballs.

I had only given this matter perfunctory focus, concluding as a fan that it was a screwball plan that would never be executed, and not thinking much about the ethics of the controversy—and as you might imagine, it’s a big controversy in the Washington area sports pages. It took respected baseball writer John Feinstein to shock me out of my apathy with his sensible and well-reasoned column on the issue today, that ended thusly:

“Pitching a healthy Strasburg in October is not a betrayal, it’s simply recognizing that circumstances have changed. Not pitching him is a betrayal: to the pitcher, to the team, to the fans and to the city.” Continue reading

As Wisconsin Bans a Theatrical Production, Some Questions

“The forces of intolerance just won another victory in Wisconsin,” is how The Progressive headlines a story about a “rightwing evangelical” whose complaints prompted the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to cancel a planned production of  “The Bible: Complete Word of God, Abridged” in a state park. From the article:

“Vic Eliason raised a stink. Eliason is an evangelical clergyman in Milwaukee who runs the VCY (Voices of Christian Youth) America Radio Network. He has a show, “Cross Currents,” in Milwaukee, and on August 9, he dedicated his hour-long program to condemning the play as “blasphemous” and “diabolical.” He urged his listeners to contact the board members of SummerStage, and he gave out their numbers. He also urged listeners to call the businesses where some of the board members worked and ask them, “How can you have someone on the board who will literally spit in the face of the Bible?” Eliason also gave out the phone numbers of the DNR’s top two officials and told listeners to ask them why the state was allowing this play to go on, and why it was profiting from it. (The agreement with SummerStage and the Lapham Peak State Park is that 5 percent of ticket sales go to the park, Eliason said.)”

The article ridicules the state and Ellison on several grounds. The play, it notes, is “very light-hearted,” a spoof of the Bible. Ellison admits he never read the script, but that the theme of the comedy is enough. The statement of the Department in cancelling the play smacks of dishonesty: “SummerStage will not be performing ‘The Bible – the Complete Word of God, Abridged’ at Lapham Peak as the event did not meet the provision of the Department agreement requiring all productions to be family oriented,” said a spokesperson. Translation: “This was turning into a hassle with the possibility of a lawsuit, and it just isn’t worth it.”

I agree that Eliason is an officious trouble-maker, a bully who sees nothing wrong with stopping people from entertaining and being entertained if he doesn’t approve of their taste. But I have some questions: Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Month: Arthur Brisbane

“I had taken up the public editor duties believing “there is no conspiracy” and that The Times’s output was too vast and complex to be dictated by any Wizard of Oz-like individual or cabal. I still believe that, but also see that the hive on Eighth Avenue is powerfully shaped by a culture of like minds — a phenomenon, I believe, that is more easily recognized from without than from within. When The Times covers a national presidential campaign, I have found that the lead editors and reporters are disciplined about enforcing fairness and balance, and usually succeed in doing so. Across the paper’s many departments, though, so many share a kind of political and cultural progressivism — for lack of a better term — that this worldview virtually bleeds through the fabric of The Times.As a result, developments like the Occupy movement and gay marriage seem almost to erupt in The Times, overloved and undermanaged, more like causes than news subjects.”

Arthur Brisbane, New York Times’ “public editor” (that is, ombudsman), in his final column in that role. Brisbane’s tenure has been characterized by his defensiveness over accusations that the Times radiated a political agenda, and the lack of a willingness to be critical of his employers that is the hallmark of an effective ombudsman.

“By George, you’re RIGHT! There IS a dinosaur here! How could I have missed it?”

Yes, Arthur, it’s called “pervasive liberal or left-wing bias,” and it is good of you to finally notice, and honest of you to say so, even though you can’t bring yourself to do so directly. But your insistence  that such bias could manifest itself in the coverage of issues that are central to the presidential campaign without affecting the Times’ coverage of the campaign itself is laughable, touching, idiotic or sad, depending on how charitable a reader is inclined to be to a supposed professional who waits until his last gasp in a job before acknowledging the reason he should have been doing that job differently, which is to say independently, objectively, and competently.

Better late than never.

I suppose.


Pointer: Volokh Conspiracy

Source: New York Times

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at

Ethics Quiz: Is There A “Cop Who Paints Weird Naked Women Principle”?

I know we just had an Ethics Quiz, but this is too good to pass up.

San Francisco police officer Gared Hansen has filed a lawsuit against the city. He says he was unfairly suspended because in his non-uniformed down-time, he is an artist with an unusual passion. He photographs nearly-naked women dressed, made-up, or painted to evoke mythical creatures. You know, like this:

Or this…

..or, if you prefer, this:

So here is your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz for this Sunday:

Is such a hobby engaged in by one of its number sufficiently damaging to the credibility, dignity and image of the SF police force that it is reasonable for the officer to be disciplined? In short, should there be a corollary to “The Naked Teacher Principle” called the “Cop Who Paints Weird Naked Women Principle”? Continue reading