Monthly Archives: March 2016

Ethics Quote Of The Month: Ann Althouse

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“To everyone who likes that Lewandowsky got charged: Will you agree that everyone who does nothing more than that should undergo criminal prosecution? Are you willing to pay the taxes to cover that? Are you ready to find out that you’ve already done it and you’re going to be needing to hire a lawyer? Oh, but it’s so funny when it happens to somebody else, somebody you don’t like. If that’s what you think, please just admit to yourself that you are entirely morally corrupt.”

–Law professor and blogger Ann Althouse, taking the popular position among the talking legal heads on CNN and elsewhere that charging Trump’s campaign manager for the technical crime of battery for for what appears to be minor contact on videotape is an abuse of prosecutorial discretion.

Ann is playing law professor here, and it’s hard to tell if she is asking these questions to provoke thought from the knee-jerk partisans and virulent Trump-haters, or if she really believes everything she wrote. I;m a fan of Professor Althouse, so I want to find  a way to justify this post of her’s, which raises valid points and ignores others equally valid.

Do I “like” the fact that Lewandowsky was charged? I probably wouldn’t have charged him, but I’m not sorry he was charged. Why was a campaign manager grabbing a reporter? Why did the Trump organization react to the reporter’s complaint by attacking her honesty and character? I know the law shouldn’t be used to inconvenience people who act badly, and that doing this is usually an abuse of power. Still, do I like the fact that one of Trump’s thugs isn’t getting away with the thuggishness encouraged by his boss? Yes, I guess I do.

The charge can be justified on utilitarian grounds. Today I saw a cable TV news exchange regarding Fields’ complaint on CNN, where a lawyer explained that any unconsented touching is battery, and the interviewer was shocked. “What?” she said. Yes, I remember a lot of classmates in first year of law school being surprised at that too.

It’s the Common Law: nobody has a right to touch anybody else. I love that principle, myself: I don’t touch people unless I have permission, and they better not touch me. It’s  per se battery, and while we usually don’t press it, we might if the batterer is enough of a jerk, or does more harm than he intended. If charging Lewandowsky makes people think twice before laying their hands on me or anyone else, good. Sending a message to discourage others from wrongful acts is always a valid reason to charge someone. Continue reading

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Filed under Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Rights, U.S. Society

MSNBC Reporter Tony Dokoupil Explains Why His Profession Is Incompetent And Untrustworthy

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On his MSNBC show “Last Word,” host Lawrence O’Donnell expressed surprise that Wisconsin radio personality Charlie Sykes, who conducted a tough interview with Donald Trump this  week, was so much more aggressive that the softball  mainstream media interviewers.

His guest, MSNBC reporter Tony Dokoupil, who is assigned the 2016 campaign beat,  explained that Sykes had done a “one and done” style interview with Trump, which, he said,  journalists who want to have access to Trump over the long haul cannot afford to do.

“People who are on the beat, people who work for our network, they have to keep that relationship going for a long, long time,” Dokoupil said. “Charlie did not have that burden.”

O’Donnell was shocked—shocked!—at this statement. “Well, I don’t think the fact that you have to cover Donald Trump means that you have to then play softball with him so that you can guarantee he will speak to you another time,” he said. “Once the mission of the interview is to get the next interview with the same person, we know how soft that interview is going to be.”

This is hilarious coming from O’Donnell, a blazing partisan who has barely given a tough interview to a Democrat or progressive politician in his life. But I digress.

Dokoupil had committed the cardinal sin of speaking the truth, and it explains a lot. Steve Kroft had essentially made the same confession a couple of years ago when he said that President Obama was willing to do interviews for “60 Minutes” because he knew they would be “fair.” (That was also hilarious, because “fair” is a standard “60 Minutes” has never applied to politicians and leaders it wanted to exhibit in a harsh light. Sorry, digressing again.) The soft-ball approach certainly explains why so many reporters refuse to challenge Trump, and Trump’s boycott and attacks on Fox’s Megyn Kelly for daring to challenge him made explicit the conditions that Dokoupil felt were implied. When ratings are driven by which talking head show gets the falshiest guests, of course most interviewers avoid the “one and done” approach. Is it cowardly? Yes. Does it serve the public interests? No. Does it make lying, misrepresentation and an absence of integrity easy, painless and effective for Trump, Clinton, Obama, Cruz, Sanders, etc., etc.? Sure it does. It also undermines democracy, and is a disgraceful breach of journalism’s obligation to view the public, not its leaders and powerbrokers, as its only constituency.

Would an ethical, trustworthy professional allow this? No, but journalism hasn’t been ethical, trustworthy or professional for a very long time, if ever. For example, the Guardian reported German historian Harriet Scharnberg’s claims  this week that the AP made a mutually beneficial pact with the Hitler regime in order to ensure access to Germany throughout the Holocaust and World War II. The deal had the Associated Press promising to abide by  the Schriftleitergesetz, or editor’s law, agreeing not to publish anything that could be “calculated to weaken the strength of the Reich abroad or at home.” .

I’m sure Lawrence O’Donnell is shocked at this, too.

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Filed under Around the World, Government & Politics, History, Professions, War and the Military

North Carolina’s Conflicted, Disloyal, Unethical Attorney General, Roy Cooper

A candidate masquerading as a lawyer...

A candidate masquerading as a lawyer…

Roy Cooper, North Carolina’s elected Attorney General, has so many conflicts of interest that he can’t credibly do his job in an ethical manner. Fortunately for him doing his job ethically seems to hold no interest for him.

To start with, he is an announced political opponent of the current Republican governor, Pat McCrory. This situation is not unique, but if an Attorney General is going to do his job ethically, for remember he is the state’s lawyer, he has to make an effort to put his political interests aside and not allow them to interfere with his duty to represent his client the state, whose voters have made McCrory its top decision-maker.

Cooper, however, isn’t making any such effort. House Bill 2, a state law passed last week that bars local governments from enacting nondiscrimination protections for the LGBT community, is anathema to Cooper’s constituency, so he is refusing to defend it in court against a federal lawsuit. If he were a private attorney whose beliefs rendered it impossible for him to represent his client, Cooper would have to resign. Since he is elected, he need not do that, but he can’t actively interfere with his client’s legal needs either. His proper course under the legal ethics rules governing all lawyers would be to find an outside counsel to do his job in this case, since he is incapable of doing it, and to defend the law.

Instead, Cooper is actively undermining his client’s legitimate objectives.  Cooper said in a news conference that the law is a “national embarrassment” and it “will set North Carolina’s economy back if we don’t repeal it.” That’s the candidate talking, not the state’s lawyer, and thus the state’s lawyer is engaged in a bright-line breach of loyalty by talking like that in public. His duty, and his only ethical option, is to shut up. He may not be able to support his client’s objectives, but he absolutely must not impede them.

Cooper has even gone beyond that ethical violation to a massive conflict of interest breach. Instead of defending McCrory, the Board of Governors and the others being sued in the federal lawsuit, Cooper has announced that he will defend the two LGBT people and the lesbian professor bringing the lawsuit against the state! Continue reading

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Filed under Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

Ethics Observations On The Michelle Fields-Corey Lewandowski Ethics Train Wreck

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Michelle Fields, a stand-in reporter for Breitbart, gets manhandled at a Trump rally while trying to ask The Donald a question. She complains, the Trump organization attacks her, her Trumpized employers refuse to back her, and now battery charges have been filed in North Carolina against Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager, whom Fields says grabbed and bruised her. Meanwhile, multiple members of the Breitbart staff, including website star Ben Shapiro and the reporter, have resigned.

What’s going on here, and why does it matter?

1. It matters because what should have been a minor episode has turned into a full-scale ethics train wreck, with the still-growing passenger list including Donald Trump, his campaign, Breitbart, Fox News, the justice system, Fields, Shapiro, the Washington Post, Piers Morgan, and Trump’s embarrassing supporters. Nothing has escalated into a nasty and destructive battles of wills, because Donald Trump creates a culture in which winning and never apologizing turns every dispute into ugly confrontation and warfare.

2. This is how Trump as President would and could start a real war. His entire philosophy precludes common sense and diplomacy. Just because an incident is trivial in substance doesn’t mean its implications can’t be significant, and this is an excellent example. Look at how it developed. Trump’s staff embraces the culture he has created and endorses—thuggishness, misogyny, a contempt for manners, a refusal to be gracious, insistence on winning above all, even when the benefits are dwarfed by the costs. A government and nation under Trump would do the same. A complaint over fishing rights or an imagined diplomatic gaffe would deteriorate and escalate, with President Trump shouting insults from the Oval Office. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Professions

Unethical Website Of The Month: “Vote Trump Get Dumped”

 

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Ugh.

See, ladies, “Lysistrata” was a satire, and its charms and political wisdom have long escaped me anyway. Threatening to withhold sex to force men to vote for who you want is neither fair, smart or democratic, and is exactly as ethical as trading sex for votes, which is a particularly weird form of prostitution.

Today’s unethical website calls itself “Vote Trump Get Dumped,” and it argues…

Those who vote Trump should understand this: No sex. No dates. No chance.

To cast a vote for Trump is to agree with his sexist, perverted, demeaning, backwards, offensive treatment of women. Learn what’s at stake.

Join us by wielding your influence. Until Trump is defeated, we don’t date, sleep with, or canoodle with Trump supporters.

The Greeks did it. Women during the temperance movement did it. This is a tried and true method of getting men’s attention when they’re being dumb.

Actually the Greeks didn’t do it, it’s not “tried and true,” and it is itself dumb, as well as undemocratic. Citizens have the right to vote as they see fit, badly reasoned or not. Using any form of coercion to take away what should be a free choice is irresponsible, disrespectful and unfair, not to mention a breach of democratic principles and process.

This kind of divisive political tactic, punishing citizens for their political views, tears at the fabric of society and threatens human relationships and communities. It is akin to bars that only serve Republicans,  Facebook users who defriend Hillary supporters, and mayors who set out to punish states that pass laws they don’t agree with.

Our political choices, like our sexual choices, should not be subject to extortion and coercion. The Golden Rule applies.

__________________

Pointer: Fred

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Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Rights, U.S. Society

Ethics Hero: Minu Pauline And Her Curbside Fridge

free food

Ethical people will come up with the damnedest ways to do good things.

After watching the poor and homeless rummage through the dumpster outside of the restaurant she owns in Kochi, India, Minu Pauline thought about how she could facilitate access to the perfectly edible food that her establishment had to dispose of on a regular basis. So when she opened a second restaurant, it included a fully functional refrigerator on the sdiewalk out front.  She stocks it with leftover food from her restaurant, and invites others to do likewise.  Now her customers and residents of the community leave their leftovers and excess food, marked with the date, in the curbside fridge too.The homeless and the poor can take whatever they need 24 hours a day, seven days a week, without having to beg.

Pauline calls the refrigerator  nanma maram, which means “tree of goodness” or “virtue tree.” The name is particularly apt, for she is providing dignity and kindness, as well as charity.

________________________

Pointer: Fred

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Filed under Around the World, Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes

Hillary’s Smoking Gun Arrogance And Entitlement

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Democrats asked for this when they decided to hand Hillary Clinton the Democratic nomination rather than make her earn it. The DNC began by rigging the debates to expose Clinton, a gaffe-artist in the rarefied league of Joe Biden but less amusing, as little as possible. It got itself a bizarre, non-competitive opponent to provide nominal opposition, Bernie Sanders—too old, not a Democrat, abrasive, deluded—who cooperated by refusing to attack Clinton where she was vulnerable. He didn’t want to win, you see. Bernie Sanders just wanted to spout Socialist propaganda in the hopes of rotting the brains of the same impressionable young who still think Barack Obama is a leader who brought hope and change.

Oddly, the Democratic leadership had forgotten how our current unqualified, weak and hapless POTUS got elected: he’s President only because Hillary Clinton can’t beat anyone fair and square. She’s dislikable and untrustworthy, and the “vote for my sex organs” bit only goes so far.  Now her campaign is in trouble, and Sanders is threatening to make some super-delegates ( the way Democrats rig their nominating process, allowing them to ridicule Republicans for looking for ways to block Donald Trump) change their plans. He and his supporters see blood in the water, and are finally sharpening their attacks on Hillary.

What??? Actually attacking one’s opponent? This cannot be borne! Thus the Hillary campaign has told Sanders that he must “change his tone” or the Pre-Anointed Nominee won’t deign to debate with him, so there. “Let’s see if he goes back to the kind of tone he said he was going to set early on. If he does that, then we’ll talk about debates,” Hillary’s spokesperson told CNN. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Leadership