Monthly Archives: January 2017

Encore: “The Guy In The Lobster Hat”

(This isn't the guy. I think it's his son...)

(This isn’t the guy. I think it’s his son…)

Longtime reader and commenter Neil Dorr chided me today for writing so much about the post-election media, political, and legal  ethics breaches going on, and not as much on the types of topics I tended to cover on the old Ethics Scoreboard, now an archive of an earlier time  when I thought a few posts a week could cover the topic of societal ethics. I was more innocent then, and I also had to depend on a webmaster: I posted more essays in the first year of Ethics Alarms than the entire output of the Ethics Scoreboard. Neil said he missed posts like the one about “the Lobster Hat”. I have to say, I don’t think there have been many posts likethe  one about the lobster hat, which was one of my occasional “a day in Jack’s strange life” posts. I had forgotten about it completely. I tracked the decade old post down, however, and for Neil, and anyone else who is interested in lobster hats, here it is..

Today I accompanied my wife to a doctor’s appointment that she was dreading, and while we were checking in with the receptionist, a large, rotund fellow with a long white beard walked in to do likewise. On his head was what appeared to be a large, red lobster…a hat of sorts, though not a very seasonable or practical one. It was spectacular, however, with two large claws that drooped down about eyebrow level, and an impressive tail in the back. If I were ordering this specimen at Jimmy’s Harborside in Boston, it would be about a four-pounder.

I was amused at this unexpected sight, and said to my wife, loud enough so Lobster-topped Santa could hear me, “See? You think you have medical problems. This poor guy has a lobster attached to his head!” To my surprise, the man turned sharply and looked at me with a furious glare, snorted, and walked out the door, clearly offended, exactly as if I had said, “Wow! That’s some harelip you have there!” or “Gee, where does a guy as fat as you buy suits?” Continue reading

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Filed under Daily Life, Ethics Scoreboard classics, Etiquette and manners, Humor and Satire

Ethics Dunce: “The Big Hurt,” Frank Thomas [UPDATED]

An ethics whiff for Frank Thomas

An ethics whiff for Frank Thomas

Baseball, and all its annual ethics puzzles, begins in about two weeks when Spring Training gets underway.  Meanwhile, I have to tolerate everyone talking about Tom Brady and the Cheating Patriots as the NFL makes billions encouraging  Americans to cheer for the gradual lobotomizing of young athletes for their pigskin entertainment. Still, even the off-season of America’s Pastime provides ethics fodder.

Frank Thomas, the 6’6″ 300 pound ex-first baseman, never was suspected of using steroids before he was elected to the  Hall of Fame, in part because he was naturally so huge and strong that if he had used steroids he would have ended up battling Godzilla in Tokyo. “The Big Hurt,” as he was called, was and is an outspoken opponent of steroid use in baseball, but speaking at  the annual White Sox fan convention last week, he proved that he is an ethics bush-leaguer.

The recent Hall of Fame vote  elected two players, Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez, long rumored to be users of performance enhancing drugs, and the vote totals showed  increased support for uber-steroid cheat Barry Bonds and accused steroid-user Roger Clemens. The New York Post reported that Thomas said, without mentioning names, after he was asked how he felt about the election results, Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Sports

For Those Who Are Confused, Here Is An Excellent Explanation Of Why Biased Mainstream Media “Fake News” Is More Sinister Than Hoax News Stories

cnn-newsroom-hands-up

I don’t feature Victor Davis Hanson’s commentary as much as I probably should. It’s my bias against being unjustly seen as biased: he’s an eloquent and thoughtful conservative scholar, but is almost completely embargoed by liberal websites and media. I have a difficult time fighting off efforts to pigeon-hole Ethics Alarms as a conservative blog as it is, and citing a prominent conservative Hanson is seen by many as a smoking gun.

Nonetheless, as we live through the Fake News Ethics Train Wreck,  a caboose on the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck, Hanson’s latest commentary is a shaft of light. I have consistently referred to partial, distorted, badly reported, slanted or misframed news stories (like the current reporting of the Sally Yates betrayal as an act of principle and courage, rather than what it was: a politically motivated breach of professional ethics) as the real and sinister “fake news,” even as the mainstream media has pointed to the other kind—completely fabricated news—to distract from its own partisan, unethical reporting. Many commenters here have protested that the former isn’t truly “fake news.”

Hanson knocks that claim out of the park (Spring Training is fast approaching, so baseball metaphors are on my mind) , using many of the examples Ethics Alarms has cited previously. It is well worth reading.

Here is his essay,  Fake News: Postmodernism By Another Name.

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Filed under Education, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship, The Internet, U.S. Society

From The Sally Yates Misinformation Files: Senator Diane Feinstein, Ethics Dunce And Incompetent Elected Official Of the Month

Biased, hypocritical and ignorant is no way to go through life, Senator...

Biased, hypocritical and ignorant is no way to go through life, Senator…

Adding to the ignorance and misinformation drowning ethics comprehension regarding the Sally Yates affair, Sen. Feinstein used her questioning of Attorney General designate Jeff Sessions this morning to misrepresent the ethical duty of that office. (I don’t have a link yet, since I just watched it on C-Span.)

First, Democratic Senator Feinstein set some kind of modern political record for gall by asking Sessions for assurances that he would objectively and independently represent the justice system and the people, and not be a “political arm of the White House.” A political arm of the White House (and the Democratic Party) is exactly what Eric Holder’s and Loretta Lynch’s Justice Department were, and the Senator knows it and never raised her voice in opposition to it for eight years! The question is a fair one, but she is estopped from asking it. Indeed, for any Democratic Senator to ask that question is tantamount to deceit, suggesting that the previous Justice Department met the standard Feinstein is demanding that Sessions acknowledge.

This is the unethical double standard mindset that Democrats have been displaying since November 8.

Following that master class in hypocrisy, Feinstein lauded the justly fired Sally Yates for embodying that ideal. Feinstein is ignorant of what lawyers do and the ethical principles their profession obligates them to follow, apparently. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Research and Scholarship

More On The Unethical Sally Yates: Her Conflict Of Interest Deception

...and you shouldn't have accepted the job, either.

…and you shouldn’t have accepted the job, either.

Here is another ethics aspect of the disgraceful Sally Yates episode that the complicit news media isn’t covering: it was unethical for her to accept the job of acting Attorney General in the first place.

She had an apparent conflict of interest when she was offered the job. This is indisputable; it’s just being ignored by fawning partisans. Here is the applicable ethics rule of Yates’ bar and jurisdiction:

Rule 1.7–Conflict of Interest: General Rule

(a) A lawyer shall not advance two or more adverse positions in the same matter.

(b) Except as permitted by paragraph (c) below, a lawyer shall not represent a client with respect to a matter if:

(1) That matter involves a specific party or parties and a position to be taken by that client in that matter is adverse to a position taken or to be taken by another client in the same matter even though that client is unrepresented or represented by a different lawyer;

(2) Such representation will be or is likely to be adversely affected by representation of another client;

(3) Representation of another client will be or is likely to be adversely affected by such representation;

(4) The lawyer’s professional judgment on behalf of the client will be or reasonably may be adversely affected by the lawyer’s responsibilities to or interests in a third party or the lawyer’s own financial, business, property, or personal interests.

(c) A lawyer may represent a client with respect to a matter in the circumstances described in paragraph (b) above if

(1) Each potentially affected client provides informed consent to such representation after full disclosure of the existence and nature of the possible conflict and the possible adverse consequences of such representation; and

(2) The lawyer reasonably believes that the lawyer will be able to provide competent and diligent representation to each affected client.

(d) If a conflict not reasonably foreseeable at the outset of representation arises under paragraph (b)(1) after the representation commences, and is not waived under paragraph (c), a lawyer need not withdraw from any representation unless the conflict also arises under paragraphs (b)(2), (b)(3), or (b)(4). Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Public Service

Sally Yates Is Not A Hero. Sally Yates Is An Unethical Lawyer, And “Betrayal” Is Not Too Strong A Word For Her Conduct

yates

When you read pundits, journalists, your Angry Left Facebook  friends and even a few misguided lawyer proclaiming Sally Yates a hero, trust me, they either don’t know what they are talking about, or they are have allowed bias to make them stupid.  The Justice Department’s acting Attorney General who was fired minutes ago for refusing to defend President Trump’s Executive Order regarding Middle East immigration was not acting heroically. She was acting as a partisan, political operative, and by doing so, breached her duties an attorney as well as the District of Columbia Rules of Professional Conduct.

And I do know what I am talking about.

Yates was a holdover from the Obama administration, but to an ethical lawyer, that wouldn’t have mattered. Her client hadn’t changed; it is the United States of America. Neither had her professional obligations. Her client was still the government of the United States, and she was still duty bound to defend its laws, as determined by the legislature and the executive, the President of the United States. Under the Rules of Professional Conduct of the jurisdiction in which she practices, the District of Columbia (the Rule is 1.13) Yates had but one ethical option if she determined that her client wanted to engage in conduct she deemed illegal, repugnant, or unwise. Having made her concerns known, she could resign (Rule 1.16) , and quietly. She is duty bound not to harm her client during the representation (Rule 1.3, of which the District has an especially tough version), nor make public statements, or statements she has reason to believe will be made public, that breach her duty of loyalty. In defiance of all of that, tonight Yates stated, in a letter to her department’s lawyers,

“At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities, nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful.”

The only ethical conclusion of that statement is “therefore I am withdrawing.” Yates said that her decision not to defend the order included questions not only about the order’s lawfulness, but also whether it was a “wise or just” policy. That’s not her job. Lawyers are not permitted to substitute their judgement for their clients.

She was fired, and should have been. She should also be the subject of am ethics inquiry. This has nothing to do with the merits of Trump’s order. Former Harvard professor (and legal ethics prof) Alan Dershowitz, hardly a GOP flack, said tonight that Yates’ decision wasn’t legal, but political. Exactly. As a lawyer, she should have made her position clear from a legal perspective to the President, and then either followed his directive or quit. Her rogue announcement contradicted a finding by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which  approved the executive order “with respect to form and legality.” Nor did her outrageous grandstanding require courage. She was not going to keep her job anyway, so she decided to abuse the trust of the President to encourage partisan Trump-haters to hoot and applaud for an act of legal ethics defiance. (Ethics rules don’t apply when Donald Trump is involved, haven’t you heard?)

Yates is also a hypocrite. The Holder Justice Department, of which she was a part, defended multiple Executive Orders by President Obama that were legally dubious, and other actions as well. That Justice Department was one of the most disgracefully partisan within memory, a neat trick, since we have had a couple of decades of unethically partisan Justice Departments. Yates showed her pedigree tonight. She used her position as an attorney–the highest one there is—for her client, the United States, to undermine her client’s objectives, publicly and to her client’s detriment. The Trump administration has called this a betrayal.

That’s exactly what it is.

(More here..)

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

From The “When Ethics Fail, The Law Takes Over” Files: The Dumb Teacher, The Fragile Student, And The Bucket

A toilet at Patrick Henry High....

A toilet at Patrick Henry High….

Yyyyyyup! The American public school system continues to impress. As they used to say, “Get a load of this!

In 2012 Gonja Wolf was an art teacher at Patrick Henry High School in the San Diego Unified School District. She was monitoring a 25-minute study hall. Administrators at the school had told teachers that frequent bathroom breaks for students would undermine the study hall’s purpose, which was uninterrupted study. They also told teachers to use their common sense. Unfortunately, Ms. Wolf had no common sense.

When a young woman in the class, a freshman, asked to go to the restroom, Wolf ordered her to urinate in a bucket in an adjacent supply room rather than use the bathroom during class.  The bucket was there because Wolf, a think-ahead type of person, purchased the bucket, she said, to serve as a toilet in case of a security lockdown, and had even used the bucket for emergency peeing herself. (I should have put this story in the “I Can’t Believe I’m Writing This” file.) She said she misunderstood the school’s instructions about bathroom breaks, but thought it was a good idea. To have students pee in a bucket. She actually said this under oath.

Yes, sadly, Gonja Wolf is an idiot. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Kaboom!, Professions, Workplace