Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/31/17

Good Morning!

1. If you want an instant reading on someone’s ethics alarms, or a quick diagnosis of whether he or she is a jerk, ask their opinion on yesterday’s episode in which New Jersey Governor Chris Christie got in the face of a Cubs fan who was harassing him during the Brewers-Cubs game. Instead of ignoring the fan, who was shouting insults at him, Christie walked over to him and said, among other things, “You’re a big shot!”

“Appreciate that,” the fan gulped.

It’s rude, uncivil and cowardly to shout insults at anyone who just happens to be attending an event as a private citizen. It doesn’t matter who the target is. The fan, Brad Joseph, assumed that he was insulated  by the crowd and the setting from any consequences of being a jackass by setting out to make Christie’s visit to the ball park unpleasant. Bravo to Christie for behaving exactly as any other non-weenie would when subjected to such abuse. Brad was adopting the same false  entitlement the “Hamilton” cast assumed when it harassed Mike Pence, though in lower case. Elected officials have an obligation to listen to the public’s complaints and positions. They do not have an obligation to accept outright abuse, and shouldn’t.

Joseph, heretofore to be referred to as “The Jerk,” or TJ, told a radio station, “I called him a hypocrite because I thought it needed to be said.” Then walk up to the Governor like a man, look him in the eyes, and say it, you chicken. Shouting from a crowd is a hit-and-run tactic, and you know it. You depended on it.


“This is America and I think we have the right to say what you believe as long as it’s not crude or profane,” Joseph then said. Wrong, Hot Dog Breath. You do have a right to be crude and profane, but as with those abuses of free speech, harassing someone, anyone, at a ball game is still unfair and unethical.

2. Then there were the ad hominem attacks on the Governor in the comments to the story. Did you know Christie was fat? Did you know that being fat proves his unfitness for public service or removes his human right to be treated decently when he goes to a ball game? These were the conclusions of easily 75% of all commenters, proving informally that 75% of internet commenters have the ethical instincts of 10-year-olds.

The news media was hardly better: check which sources make a big deal about the fact that Christie was holding a plate of nachos when he stared down TJ. This non-essential detail was even in some headlines. Newsweek, which is really just a left-wing supermarket tabloid now, actually headlined the story “Chris Christie confronts fan who wouldn’t let him eat nachos in peace.”

That’s not just fat-shaming, that’s an endorsement of fat-shaming. The problem with Chris Christie isn’t that he’s fat; the problem with him is that he is corrupt and sold out his principles and his country to help make Donald Trump President, none of which justifies abusing him when he’s at a baseball game.

Or watching “Hamilton.

3. The Chinese government is cracking down on the internet, and that good ol’ USA innovative tech giant Apple is happy to comply by removing all major VPN apps from availability in China. The apps help internet users overcome the oppressive country’s censorship, and Apple runs the App store. Apple pathetically explained in its statement that the app was removed because “it includes content that is illegal in China.”

Ah. So if there are big bucks to be made in China, Apple is justified in becoming complicit in human rights abuses. No, it’s really not. We saw a lot of this before World War II, when various U.S. companies were enabling Hitler while he was exterminating Jews.

It would be impressive if all the good, social justice warrior Apple-philes in the U.S. had the integrity to take this brutal and cowardly conduct into consideration when they decide what computer, phone or tablet to buy next. They won’t, of course.

Pop Quiz: Name the rationalizations Apple execs and Apple fans are using to justify the conduct.  This is open book: just run down the list.

4. And speaking of open-book exams: Mark Tetzlaff is a lawyer who recently argued that his student loans should be discharged in his Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing because of undue hardships related to depression, being an alcoholic, and having various misdemeanor convictions. You will see a trend here. Now he  is  suing the Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar, claiming that its refusal to give him an open-book test with twice the time allotted to other applicants violated the Americans with Disabilities Act . Tetzlaff receives Social Security income for his short-term memory loss. Tetzlaff requested to take the July 2017 Illinois State Bar Exam in a semi-private room, over a four-day period, and consult a BARBRI Convisor Mini-Review Study Guide to help answer questions.

If turning down that request—why not just give him the answers?—is a violation of the ADA, then the ADA needs to be changed, pronto. Nobody should be given any special break in entrance exams, professional exams, or any other qualifying exams. If Tetzlaff can’t pass the exam like everyone else, then he shouldn’t be practicing law.  ( “Your objection is over-ruled, Counsel.” “What objection?”)

There is no special category for depressed, alcoholic, criminal lawyers with short-term memory deficits, except the category “People who have no business being lawyers.” Those who think letting Tetzlaff have special lenient conditions while taking the bar exam is “fair” don’t know what the word means.

5. Today’s report on the weekly Anti-Tump Hate Porn section in the New York Times suggest that either sanity is dawning, or Times readers are getting bored reading the same angry screeds every week. The Sunday Times “Sunday Review” only had four Trump-Hate essays, though two of them were huge, as opposed to 14 non-Trump hate pieces, though I’m counting two Republican hate pieces in that latter group. This, for the Times, is “balance.”

The balance was somewhat altered this morning by the revolting Charles Blow’s weekly barrage of Trump hate, titled “Satan in a Sunday Hat.” Guess who Satan is! Blow no longer even tries to deliver reasoned analysis involving the President. Every column is like one of the John Belushi rants the late comic used to deliver on “Weekend Update” on Saturday Night Live, which would always end with him having a conniption and hurling himself to the floor. This particular Blow rant condemns the effort to ferret out leakers in the White House, despite the fact that leaking is per se unethical, disloyal, and often illegal. Why does Blow see stopping a wrong as wrong? Three reasons, I think. One is that the Times’ assault on the Trump Presidency has relied on unsubstantiated leaks from “anonymous sources.” A second is that Charles Blow doesn’t know the difference between right and wrong, because his partisan biases rule his mind.

The third is that, like so many progressives, he believes that the ends justify the means.

13 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/31/17

  1. 3. I lived and worked in China for five years. I was there when Google and Youtube were essentially kicked out of China for not complying with the sensor laws. Apple knows that if they want to keep one of the largest markets in the world, they are going to have to comply. This does not make it right. Apple has already proven they only care about their bottom line. Wasn’t it the CEO who said something during the whole RFRA thing in Indiana act? If they really cared, they would have pulled out of countries that systematically persecuted LGBTs.

    In China, if people really want to know or get access to this information, then can. There are a lot of different ways around it. However, that isn’t the problem. The problem is the government does a really good job of hiding the information from them. So the average joe has no clue about three things foreign citizens should never talk in China: Tibet, Taiwan, and Tiananmen Square.

  2. Did you catch, or catch the reporting on Jeff Flake’s appearance on Face the Nation?

    I don’t know if he’s an ethics hero or just running to the middle to save his job.

    • If the question is: “Does he really think that, or is he saying it for job security?” Then I think the views he expressed in that interview might be a detriment to his job, at least in this political climate. And so I think the answer is he really believes it.

      Flake is a conservative, he’s a relatively moderate, fiscal conservative, but he’s still a conservative. Democrats aren’t going to support him over one of their own, even if they appreciate some of the things he says. Meanwhile… I think it might alienate the conservative base. Flake seems to be a well spoken, intelligent, principled conservative, that he might do poorly because he isn’t extreme enough, I think, is a particularly damning take on the state of the Republican party.

      And before you break out the drinks because we might agree on something, I don’t think a Democrat would fare much better… We’re seeing what could be a death spiral of political civility, and where I used to watch Idiocracy and chuckle, now I watch it and wince. We need to get behind people like this… Voices that can bring us not to some kind of kumbaya political center full of compromise… But just back to a place where we can actually talk without demonizing the people we’re talking to and ascribing to them the worst of possible intentions.

  3. Unrelated note, I thought you would appreciate this considering your opinion of the objectiveness of the NYT and appreciation for theatre from Ann Althouse:

    “No link to that Pew poll. I’m not “astonished” by the degradation in confidence over that short period of time, because you’re comparing the idea of “the role of the press” to our response to a particular performance in that role. If you polled people about whether Hamlet is a great role and got almost everyone to say yes and then, a year later, a movie came out with Adam Sandler as Hamlet and a poll showed very few people considered it a great performance, it wouldn’t mean that respect for the role of Hamlet had plummeted in that time period.”

    Here is the full article:

  4. Sheesh, first HRC couldn’t find us on a map so we get blamed for the election of Donald Trump, then the Marshfield HS “The Sound Of Music” fiasco, and now this at Miller Park??

    Americas Dairyland might develop an image problem if it weren’t able to look to state below us and realize things could certainly be a whole lot worse.

    “Did you know Christie was fat?”

    I dunno, TJ (a better handle than his initials) made Christie look like a welterweight.

  5. The fact is that when you are disliked or unpopular or considered bad, like Christie, who’s probably seen the sharpest decline of any executive, any attack is considered perfectly ok, including one on your personal appearance, your love life, your background, or your family. I’ve read stuff that describes Ann Coulter as skeletal, Trent Lott as a walking corpse, Bobby Jindal as Governor Apu, and worse. I myself have said some ah, unflattering things about Helen Thomas that weren’t substantive, but went to her age and appearance. Sometimes it’s as much a tactic as anything else, to freak out the other side and knock them onto the defensive, but sometimes it’s out and out hate, and the belief that because you hate someone so much, and think he is so bad, all rules are suspended. Sometimes it’s no different than the bully in school who you ask to leave you alone who responds you are a piece of garbage and need an ass kicking.

  6. “Nobody should be given any special break in entrance exams, professional exams, or any other qualifying exams.”

    What exactly do you mean?

    By way of example, my first job out of law school was as a court clerk. My co-clerk was someone who graduated a year ahead of me. He has Spinal Muscular Atrophy, I believe. At any rate, it made him unable to move any of his muscles (though he could speak, move his head and slightly move a finger and thumb); he was on a respirator and had to be fed through a tube. He was easily recognizable as the law student who had a constant attendant with him.

    Anyway, as I recall, he said that he took the bar exam in a special room and, either took it on a computer, or simply did the paper exam. Either way, though, his attendant was there to turn pages, mark his answers, or whatever manual task was necessary.

    He passed.

    Do you object to that?

    (By the way, if you are interested, he was at the center of an ethics complaint you may find interesting.)


    • Is this a gotcha? The idea of the exam is to test knowledge. Assistance with the physical aspects of the exam is not any kind of advnatage. Smae material, same amount of time, same resources. What you described isn’t a “break” any more than giving someone with a broken leg crutches to cross the room is a “break.” Letting a blind person take an exam in Braille isn’t a break. These aren’t cognitive issues. A lawyer has to be able to be competent whatever his or her mental and emotional handicaps are. An exam that tries to minimize the effects of those handicaps is not an exam. It’s a fraud.

      • Not a gotcha. Just a request for clarification. There can be a fine line between a “break” and a “reasonable accommodation.”

  7. Seems to me your co-clerk’s issues were physical, not psychological, the former being easier to accommodate and compensate for.

    And do tell, what’s the story behind the ethics complaint?

    • Long story short: he was clerking for a personal injury trial (this was the first jury trial he clerked). The opening morning, the Plaintiff’s lawyer moved to have him excluded from the courtroom on the ground that he would cast the Plaintiff, who rode his bike into the back wheel well of a moving school bus (he was intoxicated at 9:00 a.m.), in a bad light, as the clerk was gainfully employed though he had a severe disability, and the Plaintiff was claiming permanent disability. Plaintiff lost because the jury found the bus driver had not been negligent. Plaintiff’s lawyer moved for a new trial based upon the clerk’s presence, among other things. Judge reported lawyer to the Board. I believe the Board said the initial motion was not grounds for discipline, but, having been advised by the Judge that the motion was improper and discriminatory, the motion for a new trial did provide a basis for a private admonition. Lawyer decides to appeal it to the Supreme Court, who affirmed it, I believe, making the discipline public.

      The final bit of irony: the clerk was unable to attend the hearing at the Supreme Court because the Court was not wheelchair accessible.

      Hmmm…I guess that was not the short version.


  8. 4. The purpose of such exams is to ensure that the applicant meets the standard the examining authority deems necessary to be allowed to practice. If the examining authority allows special testing conditions for an applicant, the applicant passes, and the authority allows the applicant to practice, then the authority has affirmed that passing a test under those conditions is sufficient to meet the standard thus setting a new less stringent standard. All applicants should then be allowed the same testing conditions because passing under those conditions meets the new standard. Someone will then sue for even more special conditions. Carry this process on long enough and eventually if the applicant can sign their name in crayon they pass.

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