KABOOM! Bloomberg: “Well, I Hear These Guys Do A Good Job, So Let’s Give The Contract To Them!”

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From an exclusive in the New York Daily News:

“In one of its final acts, the Bloomberg administration pushed through a costly contract to modernize the city’s 311 call system — hiring the same company fired by the feds for the botched rollout of the Obamacare website. The city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, known as DoITT, awarded the contract to the Montreal-based company CGI on Dec. 31, hours before Bill de Blasio was sworn in as mayor.”

This isn’t even an incompetent U.S. company. It’s based in Montreal. Continue reading

If I Say Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) Behaved Like A Thug, Does That Mean I’m Claiming He’s Black?

To be clear from the start: Rep. Michael Grimm threatened a reporter last night for doing his job. He behaved like a thug, which is to say that he behaved as a “ruffian, hooligan, vandal, hoodlum, gangster, villain, or criminal” might behave, which is unacceptable for any law-abiding citizen, and outrageous for an elected representative. NY1 political reporter Michael Scotto had the audacity to ask the Congressman a direct question at the State of the Union address relating not to the speech, but to the Congressman’s fundraising, which is the object of an FBI probe. Grimm refused to answer the question, then cornered the reporter (on camera, though he did not know it, and said ominously , in an excellent soto voce imitation of Michael Corleone telling Fredo that he knows he betrayed him…

“Let me be clear to you, you ever do that to me again I’ll throw you off this f***ing balcony.'”

As the shocked reporter tried to sputter out a defense, Michael…that’s Grimm, not Corleone…continued,

“No, no, you’re not man enough, you’re not man enough. I’ll break you in half. Like a boy.” Continue reading

Law vs. Ethics, The Cynical “War on Women,” And Stacking The Deck for Hillary

Let me begin by reprinting, in its entirety, a post from the earliest days of Ethics Alarms, one then titled, The Difference Between Law and Ethics:

In the instructive category of “Lawsuits that demonstrate the distinction between law and ethics,” we have the Massachusetts case of Conley v. Romeri.

Ms. Conley met Mr. Romeri when they were both in their 40s and divorced. As romance beckoned, Ms. Conley told her swain that she was childless, and wanted to begin a family before her biological clock struck midnight. The defendant, who had sired four children already, told her “not to worry.” He had seen a fortune-teller who had predicted that he would increase his number of children from four to six.

That held Ms. Conley for seven months. Then he told her that he had been vasectomized years ago.

Ms. Conley sued the bastard, claiming that her now ex-boyfriend had fraudulently misled her into believing he could father little Conleys in order to prolong the relationship, and that his actions had thrown her into emotional distress and depression.

Let us pause here and say that Mr. Romeri is a cur. Knowing that Ms. Conley was desperate for children and running out of time, he nonetheless deceived her for his own purposes, costing her perhaps her only chance to have the family she desired. For the fans of Bill Clinton out there, he was also clearly adept at Clintonesque deceit: he said “don’t worry” about having children, not that he was capable of creating them; he said a fortune- teller has assured him that he would have more kids, but never said her prediction was plausible. Mr. Romeri, like millions of deceitful people before him, probably doesn’t think he really lied. But of course he did.

The Massachusetts Appeals Court, however, found that while Mr. Romeri may have behaved abominably, it was not the place of the law to punish him.

Such claims, the judges said,

“…arise from conduct so intensely private that the courts should not be asked to resolve them….It does not lie within the power of any judicial system to remedy all human wrongs. Many wrongs which in themselves are flagrant–ingratitude, avarice, broken faith, brutal words and heartless disregard–are beyond any effective remedy.”

Our hearts go out to Ms. Conley. But the law will never succeed in making people be honest, caring, and fair. Only we can do that by creating a society in which boys grow to manhood knowing that behavior like Mr. Romeri’s is wrong, and at the same time, a society where women take responsibility for their own welfare, without seeking government remedies for every challenge.

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Reading this post again, and watching the (I think) overtly cynical and political effort by Democrats and the Obama Administration to increase the weight of the already heavy hand of the law in matters involving problems that are unique to or that disproportionately affect women, I think the importance of Conley v. Romeri extends beyond the original reason I posted it. Among other things, the case stands for the proposition that the government need not and should not treat women as if they are helpless against adversity, and must be accorded special privileges and protection Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Slate Editor David Plotz

SlateDavid Plotz, journalist and editor of the on-line culture magazine Slate, takes on the California Supreme Court in an essay in his magazine, harshly criticizing the 7-0 decision yesterday to deny Stephen Glass the opportunity to practice law in the state. Glass has been attempting for almost 20 year to persuade some state that a star journalist who was exposed as a pathological liar is a trustworthy lawyer. Plotz’s attack on the opinion as smug and self-righteous says a lot more about Plotz and his field of journalism than it does about the court. It  exposes the perils of a non-lawyer delving into legal ethics without even a modicum of research. Mostly, the exercise shows how far journalism has fallen, when the editor of a prestigious on-line journalistic enterprise essentially denies the importance of professionalism. “It’s a job,” he concludes about the law, trying to bring lawyers down to the depths of his own, thoroughly debased line of work.

Not that the decision isn’t ripe for criticism, for it is. In particular, the majority reasoning continues the legal field’s strange hypocrisy of applying a far more stringent standard to the character of those trying to get their licenses that it does to those who have proven themselves unworthy of holding them. The District of Columbia, supposedly one of the toughest jurisdiction regarding legal discipline, recently administered a mild reprimand to a Justice Department attorney who had been practicing on a suspended license for more than two decades. John Edwards, whose trail of lies while deceiving his dying wife and devising schemes to hide his pregnant mistress in order to gull the Democratic party into nominating him for President, has managed to avoid any discipline at all despite the fact that his continuing leave to practice law disgraces every lawyer on the planet. And, of course, the very same court Plotz derides now recently delivered the stunning conclusion that a non-citizen who entered the country illegally and engaged in years of lies to remain here is nonetheless fit to be a lawyer. (Naturally, Plotz liked that decision.) None of these are mentioned in the post. Continue reading

Ethics Quote of The Week: The California Supreme Court

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“Glass and the witnesses who supported his application stress his talent in the law and his commitment to the profession, and they argue that he has already paid a high enough price for his misdeeds to warrant admission to the bar. They emphasize his personal redemption, but we must recall that what is at stake is not compassion for Glass, who wishes to advance from being a supervised law clerk to enjoying a license to engage in the practice of law on an independent basis. Given our duty to protect the public and maintain the integrity and high standards of the profession (see Gossage, supra, 23 Cal.4th at p. 1105), our focus is on the applicant‟s moral fitness to practice law. On this record, the applicant failed to carry his heavy burden of establishing his rehabilitation and current fitness.”

—–The California Supreme Court, finally rejecting the application of disgraced journalist Stephen Glass for admission the the California Bar, on the grounds of trustworthiness and poor character.

This should end Glass’s efforts to enter the new profession of law after spectacularly destroying his reputation in his former one, that of star journalist for The New Republic. After he was found to have fabricated more than 40 pieces for the magazine and gone to elaborate efforts to deceive fact-checkers. Stephen Glass  (Whom I first wrote about here) was fired in 1998. Luckily for him, he was already a student at Georgetown Law Center at the time, attending its night school, as he almost certainly would not have been admitted after his public exposure as a serial liar. Glass graduated, and beginning in 2002 commenced on this long,  difficult and ultimately unsuccessful journey to professional redemption, taking and passing multiple bar exams and being rejected, first by New York and now by California.

Upon reflection, Glass may well conclude that lying to the New York Board of Bar Examiners was an especially bad idea. Continue reading

Accommodating Minority Religious Requirements vs Human Rights: Ethicist Chris MacDonald Get The Balance Right

garyclementEthics Alarms is an unabashedly U.S.-centric ethics blog, for both practical and philosophical reasons, but mostly practical: I can’t cover all the worthy ethical issues that arise in this country, much less cover the world. Obviously useful ethics problems arise outside U.S. borders, and here was one I missed until now.

Paul Grayson, a professor at Toronto’s York University, was confronted with a male student’s request for a religious accommodation in a class assignment so that he would not be required to interact with female students in his class. The professor denied the request because, he wrote, “it infringed upon women’s right to be treated with respect and as equals.” The student accepted his decision and completed the assignment, interacting with female students as the assignment required. That did not end the tale, however. The dean of York University’s faculty of arts told Grayson that the student’s request would not have a “substantial impact” on the rest of the class, and should have been accommodated. That, in turn, prompted a national debate in  media, religious and educational forums. Some, citing Canada’s commitment to “pluralism,” felt that the student’s religious beliefs should have trumped the culture’s commitment to gender equality and non-discrimination. Continue reading

Ethics Heroes: The New York Yankees

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You know how hard it is for the co-creator of “Pennant Pursuit, the Boston Red Sox Trivia Game” to write this.

It can’t be avoided though. The New York Yankees have, and not for the first time, upon reflection, demolished the oft-stated accusation that Major League Baseball is no longer a sport, but a business. This was always a false dichotomy, for from the days of rag-tag 19th Century baseball to the present, The Great American Pastime That Does Not Require You To Cheer Young Athletes Guaranteeing That They Will Spend Their Retirement In A Brain-Damage Haze has always been both, with each side constantly yielding to the other.

Coming off a disappointing season (the all-time most successful team in pro sports history missed the playoffs for only the second time in 19 years) and faced with an aging, injured, question mark-filled roster despite the highest payroll in the game ($228,995,945; the Houston Astros, in contrast, spend about 24 million, or less that the Yankees paid their steroid cheating third-baseman), and faced with baseball’s team salary luxury tax, which charges teams with a payroll exceeding 189 million for every dollar over it, the Yankees discarded their announced business plan of cutting back on salaries to avoid the tax threshold, and instead went on a spending binge. They snapped up most of the top free agent stars peddling their wares this winter, committing themselves to a staggering boost in contract obligations that will approach a half-billion dollars by the time the dust clears. Continue reading