Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Authentic Frontier Gibberish In Defense Of Hillary

Gabby Johnson for head of the DNC!

Gabby Johnson for head of the DNC!

I am going to add “authentic frontier gibberish” (or AFG ) to the Ethics Alarms glossary of special terms. It comes, of course, from a memorable moment in “Blazing Saddles,” but on Ethics Alarms it is usually used to describe either intentional or incompetent blather from politicians or others attempting to confuse the public, duck a question, or mislead everyone. It is deliberate communication malpractice, with the motive of not communicating but pretending to.

Seldom will you encounter a more ringing example of AFG than the foregoing. Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a master at AFG,  was asked by Fox News’ Chris Wallace why she called the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s possible national security violations in her handling of official e-mails “ludicrous.”

Here was her response… Continue reading

A Federal Court Reinstates Tom Brady’s Suspension For Cheating

Good.

What Brady doesn't get: When people think you cheated, the smirk is does as much damage as the conduct.

What Brady doesn’t get: When people think you cheated, the smirk is does as much damage as the conduct.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit appeals court reinstated the NFL’s four-game suspension of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady yesterday. This overturned last year’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman, who had nullified the league’s suspension of the superstar quarterback. The three-judge panel of the appeals court wrote…

“We hold that the Commissioner properly exercised his broad discretion under the collective bargaining agreement and that his procedural rulings were properly grounded in that agreement and did not deprive Brady of fundamental fairness.”

It is important to note that the Court only ruled on whether NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had the power to suspend Brady and did not violate the player’s rights as a players union member by doing so. The NFL’s current deal with the players gives Goodell the kind of power Major League Baseball gave to its first commissioner after the 1919 Black Sox Scandal, when gamblers fixed the World Series. Goodell, like Landis, can use his discretion to punish a player for “conduct detrimental” to the game and the NFL. They did this because a disturbing number of NFL players were getting headlines for doing things that don’t comport with what the public expects of its paid heroes, like sucker-punching women, shooting people, getting in bar fights, and engaging in assorted felonies. The game also has a very successful coach, Brady’s coach, in fact, who has made it very clear that he will cheat whenever he can get away with it..

I’m not going to rehash the “Deflategate” incident: I wrote enough about it when it occurred. Nobody knows for certain if Tom Brady in fact did conspire with Patriots employees to cheat when his team was behind in a crucial play-off game, but we know this: Continue reading

Fairness Quandary In Britain: What To Do With A Dog That Ate His Master?

No photo of Buster is available, but this is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and if this image  fills you with fear and revulsion, you're an idiot, at least when it comes to dogs.

No photo of Buster is available, but this is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and if this image fills you with fear and revulsion, you’re dangerously ignorant, at least when it comes to dogs.

In Waterloo, England last September, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier named Buster (or Butch…he apparently answered to both names, much in the way I answer to my wife when she calls me “Jack” or “You Idiot”…) found himself in a situation reminiscent of the infamous 1972 Andes plane crash that forced its survivors to resort to cannibalism. His master died suddenly, leaving the dog trapped in the apartment without access to sustenance. After an undetermined amount of time and increasing desperation, Buster  decided “Oh, the hell with it” and ate a sufficient amount of his best friend to stay alive..

I know—“Ick.” Buster may well have felt the same way. Once police had made the grisly discovery, however, Buster found himself in big trouble even though he was was in an emaciated state that suggested that he didn’t do this for fun. The police claimed he was a danger to the community, and the deceased’s family made it clear that it wanted Buster to be put down. Dog lovers and animal rights groups insisted that Buster was a victim of circumstance and that absent evidence that he had plotted to convert his live master into a feast, there was no precedent for blaming the victim in such a case.

After all, those passengers who survived in the Andes by eating the bodies of their less-fortunate companions were not executed. They appeared on talk shows.

Why the different attitude? Well, let’s see: Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins

Craig Watkins, a D.A. who understands his ethical priorities.

Craig Watkins, a D.A. who understands his ethical priorities.

In Law School, I had the honor of being instructed in the superb Georgetown Law Center Criminal Justice Clinic, by far the single best course of any kind I participated in at any level of my formal education. Our mentor in prosecutor ethics was Seymour Glanzer, the man who, as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, cut the deal with Nixon’s White House Counsel John Dean that cracked open the Watergate scandal.

Sy had one mantra he repeated to the clinic students often, trying the beat it into our heads forever: the prosecutor must be the center of justice and ethics for the criminal system. Defense attorneys have to defend the accused whether they are guilty or not, but prosecutors are charged with achieving justice, not convictions. “If you don’t have sufficient legal and reliable evidence to convict a defendant of a crime, or have any doubts about that client’s guilt, drop the case,” he told us.

His principles do not hold sway among many, perhaps even most prosecutors, to the shame of the criminal justice system. Too many see their duty as convicting as many accused as possible, putting the law-abiding public at ease by closing cases and filling prisons. Over-zealousness, sometimes to the extremes of withholding exculpatory evidence from defense attorneys while placing questionable eye-witnesses and unreliable experts on the stand under oath, is rampant in district attorney offices across the country.

The worst of the worst may have been Dallas. Vanessa Potkin, chief counsel of The Innocence Project at Cardozo Law School, argues that “no other county in the country beats Dallas. It’s a county that beats out most states in the country.”

It’s an indication of a system that needs reform, she says, with  “staggering numbers of the innocent put in prison.” That is why the recent steps taken by new Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins are so important, and so necessary. Continue reading

The Astounding Apology of Anti-Semitic Harvard Law Student Husam El-Coolaq

husam_linkedin_photo

At Harvard Law School, an event in the Program on Negotiation, sponsored by the Jewish Law Students Association and Harvard Hillel and titled “The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict & the U.S” consisted of an exchange of ideas between former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and American diplomat Dennis Ross.

Husam El-Qoulaq, a law student in the audience asked this:

My question for Tzipi Livni is, how is it that you are so smelly? It’s regarding your odor — about the odor of Tzipi Livni, very smelly.

How professional, civil, respectful and representative of the image that the nation’s most prestigious law school wishes to present to the world!

Harvard Law’s Jewish community reacted with indignation at this brazen display of anti-Semitism, while Harvard’s Law School Dean Martha Minow issued an official statement that the incident…

“…was offensive and it violated the trust and respect we expect in our community. Many perceive it as anti-Semitic, and no one would see it as appropriate. It was an embarrassment to this institution and an assault upon the values we seek to uphold. The fact that speech is and should be free does not mean that hateful remarks should go unacknowledged or unanswered in a community dedicated to thoughtful discussion of complex issues and questions.”

Husam El-Qoulaq then posted this astounding “apology”: Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Guardian Journalist Mona Chalabi

But Mona, doesn't you correcting people who correct people's grammar and calling them purveyors of white privilege make you an ANTI-grammar snob?

But Mona, doesn’t you correcting people who correct people’s grammar and calling them purveyors of white privilege make you an ANTI-grammar snob?

This won’t take long. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

Mona Chalabi, a  journalist for the British tabloid “The Guardian,” has asserted that correcting someone’s grammar (and presumably word use, sentence structure and other aspects of effective communication) is racist.

“Grammar snobs are patronizing, pretentious, and just plain wrong, ” she says. “It doesn’t take much to see the power imbalance when it comes to grammar snobbery. The people pointing out he mistakes are more likely to be older, wealthier, whiter, or just plain academic than the people they’re treating with condescension. All too often, it’s a way to silence people, and that’s particularly offensive when it’s someone who might already be struggling to speak up.”

Of course, correcting anyone to humiliate them, embarrass them, or make them hesitant to speak is cruel and wrong, as would be slapping them in the face and shouting, “Shut up, fool!”  Neither of these, or other examples of bad manners and disrespectful treatment, is the conduct that Chalabi is condemning as a demonstration of white privilege, however. (Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, frequently quips, “White privilege—is there anything it can’t do?”) No, she is saying that the simple act of one human being pointing out to another that they have made a verbal mistake that may embarrass the speaker in the future makes the person offering the correction a “grammar snob,” and is unethical.

To the contrary, correcting anyone’s mistakes in speaking, when done with discretion and proper attention to the speaker’s feelings, is a gift, an act of social kindness and even a social obligation. Expressing oneself in a manner that causes others to conclude, possibly correctly, that you do not know correct meanings, grammar, construction and etiquette is a serious life handicap and an obstacle to success. A listener may conclude that you are badly educated, do not read, do not listen to those who speak to you correctly sufficiently to learn from them, are ignorant, are not very bright, or worse, know how to communicate but don’t have enough respect for the rest of the world to make an effort to do so. Unlike concluding such unflattering things about a stranger or casual acquaintance based on an accent or verbal regionalism, making judgments based on poor communication skills is not prejudice or bias. Communication is a vital life skill and occupational tool. Every individual has an obligation to master these as early as possible, certainly by young adulthood. Believing one has done this and being wrong is a dangerous and potentially tragic situation. Continue reading

Carolyn Hax Sides With Bobby Darin, And Dazzles With Her Ethics Advice Again

Syndicated relationship advice columnist Carolyn Hax is as trustworthy an ethicist as I know. She doesn’t call herself an ethicist, and probably doesn’t think of herself as one, but she is far better qualified in the field than many with advanced degrees and tenured teaching positions, not to mention the corporate compliance hacks who write Ethics Codes for the likes of Enron. Carolyn Hax is an ethicist and a superb one because she has an innate, instinctive, nuanced and perceptive understanding of right and wrong, as well as remarkable skill at ethical analysis.

She proves this routinely in her weekly columns, but occasionally special attention should be paid. That was the case last week, when she was asked her blessing by an annoyed fiance on a decision to exit the relationship because her betrothed had decided to reject an offer to enter the world of high finance in favor of pursuing a career as a carpenter, concluding:

I’m seriously considering walking away because I think he is being really selfish given the long-term prospects. I am a professional and have supported us through his two-year master’s program. I am at my end here — what do you think?

In as nice a manner as possible, Hax nails what is wrong with this, saying in part: Continue reading

The Catholic Church, Its Rapist Priest, And Shattered Trust

The graphic artist didn't place that halo over the rapist priest's head. The Vatican did.

The graphic artist didn’t place that halo over the rapist priest’s head. The Vatican did.

In the year after “Spotlight” focused renewed public attention on the Catholic Church’s horrific betrayal of its mission, its members and humanity by the enabling of child sexual predators within its ranks, how could the Church not realize that reinstating a convicted rapist priest, as it did this week, undermines all of its efforts to regain the trust and faith it had forfeited?

After months in which Pope Francis presumed to tell the governments of the world what its moral obligations were, how could he allow this to occur?

In short, how can a credible religion have broken ethics alarms? How can the Catholic Church preach morality while rejecting ethics?

Father Joseph Jeyapaul,  a Catholic priest from India, served in the Crookston, Minnesota diocese from 2004 to 2005. While he was there, he raped at least two adolescent girls. I say “at least” because he admitted to raping them to cop a plea. Who knows who else he may have assaulted?

After being charged with the crimes, including rape and forcing at least one of his victims to perform fellatio on him, Father Joseph  escaped to India, where an Interpol warrant got him extradited back to Minnesota.  There he confessed, and as part of a plea bargain, received an outrageously light sentence of a year and a day for pleading guilty to one count of molestation.

Don’t ask me to explain why any prosecutor whose law license wasn’t obtained by passing a quiz about “Law and Order” episodes would make such a deal. I assume that some kind of political pressure from the Church was involved, or that the prosecutors were Catholic, or that they had brain lesions or something. Frankly, I’d rather not talk about it.

Jeyapaul was suspended from the priesthood and served his time in Minnesota. The U.S. deported him back to India with a DO NOT RETURN TO SENDER label after his release last July.  Meanwhile, the Minnesota diocese had to pay millions in a civil lawsuit, during which we learned that the rapist priest had told one of his victims  in the confessional that she was at fault, and had made Jeyapaul “impure” by letting him abuse her.

Does the term “evil” come to mind, or would you call that too judgmental?

Now comes the amazing part. In February, the Vatican lifted  Jeyapaul‘s suspension and restored him to the priesthood. It then assigned him to a new parish in India, where he is now the diocesan head of its commission for education. 

I’m sure it’s also a great place to meet chicks.

Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Week: Chelsea Clinton

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 17: Chelsea Clinton speaks at the Clinton Foundation's No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project at the Lower Eastside Girls Club on April 17, 2014 in New York City. Sharing the stage with her mother Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, the project is the first in a series of live and virtual dialogues designed to hear directly from girls and women, men and boys about their hopes  and fears for the future. The event, which took live questions from schools around the country, is working to advance progress for women and girls around the world.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

(Of note: The Clintons are now the first family with three members having one or more “Unethical Quotes” on Ethics Alarms)

“It matters to me that my mom also recognizes the role the Supreme Court has when it comes to gun control. With Justice Scalia on the bench, one of the few areas where the Court actually had an inconsistent record relates to gun control. Sometimes the court upheld local and state gun control measures as being compliant with the Second Amendment and sometimes the court struck them down.  So if you listen to Moms Demand Action and the Brady Campaign and the major efforts pushing for smart, sensible and enforceable gun control across our country — in disclosure, have endorsed my mom — they say they believe the next time the Court rules on gun control, it will make a definitive ruling.  So it matters to me that my mom’s the only person running for President who not only makes that connection but also has a strong record on gun control and standing up to the NRA. This is one of those issues I didn’t know I could care more about until I became a mother. And I think every day about the Sandy Hook families whose children every day, don’t come home from school. And I can’t even imagine that living horror and tragedy.”

—-Chelsea Clinton, semi-incoherently campaigning for Mom this week.

Law professor Ann Althouse was really irritated by this speech, and posted twice about it. She points out that the Supreme Court in fact does not have an “inconsistent record” on gun control, so this statement is either ignorant or untrue—a tough call, since it’s Chelsea, and there is no reason to believe that she knows what she’s talking about, and she’s also a Clinton, which means that lying is in her DNA.

Althouse notes that the assertion about the Court sometimes upholding local and state gun control measures as Second Amendment compliant  and sometimes striking them down is “flat-out false.” Incompetent, irresponsible, or dishonest? Only Chelsea knows for sure, but “unethical” covers all three. Writes Althouse:

“She’s saying the cases are in disarray and the time is ripe for clearing up the confusion, getting to something “definitive,” but that’s not true. She’s really promoting changing the law that got settled in 2 very high profile, extensively briefed and argued cases that produced carefully thought out opinions. The Second Amendment does require application in particular cases (such as the case from last month, Caetano v. Massachusetts, which said the right included stun guns). So there are details to work out, but things have not been left in a state of confusion or in need of “a definitive ruling.”

Continue reading

Virginia’s Governor Restores The Vote To Felons

"First thing on my mind, now that I'm finally out of Shawshank, is to register to vote. Then I figure I'll look up Andy..."

“First thing on my mind, now that I’m finally out of Shawshank, is to register to vote. Then I figure I’ll look up Andy…”

Virginia’s Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order yesterday  that restored the voting rights of 206,000 ex-felons. The order applies to all violent and nonviolent felons who served their sentence. Virginia is one of a minority of states, only ten, that do not automatically restore rights upon completion of a felony sentence and one of only four  that require an application by each individual felon and action by the governor. Because this is an executive order, McAuliffe will have to reissue it every month.

McAuliffe, who is the political equivilent of Prof. Harold Hill in “The Music Man,” issued the predictable triumphal blather, saying from the Virginia Capitol steps after being introduced by a gospel choir,

“We benefit from a more just and accountable government when we put trust in all of our citizens to choose their leaders.It has taken Virginia many centuries, unfortunately, to learn this lesson. But today, we celebrate its truth.”

We get a more just and accountable government when we put trust in those who have proven themselves untrustworthy, eh?

That’s one of McAuliffe’s talents: he can make a measure that isn’t necessarily unethical at all seem like it.

Is it unethical to tell felons that they are banned from voting and running for office for life? It’s a policy choice, that’s all. A state can make lifetime disenfranchisement part of the official price for serious lawbreaking on the theory that felons have shown themselves to be  insufficiently respectful of the laws and society in general, and lowered themselves into the ranks of permanent second class citizens by their own choices and conduct. I won’t say that’s not fair: it depends what one thinks fair is. It’s tough. It signals a high regard for the rights to participate in self-government. Continue reading