Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/15/2017

Gooood Morning, Ethics Alarms!

1. And the grandstanding goes on. CNN’s HLN repeatedly played the Tonight Show’s Jimmy Fallon’s undoubtedly heartfelt and gratuitous “very special episode” where he condemned racism and bigotry and saluted the victim of the vehicle attack by James Fields, saying that she was standing up for “what was right.” I’m sure she thought she was. She was, however, in a group that stood for the suppression of free speech and political views they have decided don’t deserve First Amendment protection. That is NOT “right.”

Shut up and be funny, Jimmy. You haven’t been given that show to make half-baked and ignorant political pronouncements, That’s Stephen Colbert’s job.

2. The President came out yesterday with an unequivocal condemnation of racism, bigotry, violence and white nationalism. The Times headline today notes this, but that “some say it was too late.” Of course “some” do.  And besides, says my allegedly rational liberal former Democratic Congressman staffer Facebook friend, it is obvious what he really believes. And besides, even if his statement hadn’t been too late, there were “dog whistles” in it, and his body language was suspicious.

I have to keep reminding myself that these people are ill, in the grip of a powerful mob mentality  and to “hate the sin, never the sinner,” as Clarence Darrow said (but probably didn’t believe).

3. Related: from Investor News Daily, via Instapundit:

“Obama never mentioned the anti-cop sentiment fomented by Black Lives Matter — with an assist from Obama himself — in his brief statement after five police officers were assassinated in Dallas. Obama did find room in those remarks to mention racist cops. Did anyone on the left complain?”

Wait—is it too late for Obama to condemn anti-white racism now?

4.  From the “Stop Making Me Defend Nazis” file: I don’t know how it will happen, or who will have the guts to make it happen, but it is becoming clear that internet service providers, including hosting platforms and social media, will have to be given public utility status, or the government will have to run some of them to ensure access to basic Constitutional rights. I don’t hold the amusing link and funny commentary site Fark to a hight standard, but it just gave its “Hero” tag to Google for this:

The Daily Stormer, deemed one of the most hateful websites by the Southern Poverty Law Center, was forced to move its content by GoDaddy after the website published a story about the woman who died after a car driven by a man tied to white supremacy groups rammed into a crowd, injuring others in the process as well. The website reportedly switched to a Google domain name, only to see its registration canceled by Google for the same reason.

We have seen this week what Google considers to be inappropriate content. The Daily Stormer is disgusting, and if you agree, don’t read it. I’s attack on the Charlottesville victim was hardly the most disgusting thing it has published, nor is it the most disgusting thing hosted by GoDaddy or Google by a country mile. The two companies  were grandstanding. A group or a citizen could theoretically be blocked from speech on the internet based on content only. If the alleged “violation of terms of service” are not going to be fairly and consistently applied—again, who trusts Google, at this point?—then it is like a hotel saying that it won’t allow gay couple to book a room because the clerk says he doesn’t like the way they smell.

5.  At a recent ABA program, lawyers were told that communicating with clients via e-mail while traveling abroad, indeed using any electronic devices at all could endanger client confidences. The simplest precaution is not to carry any confidential information across the border, a recent New York City bar opinion says. Fordham University law professor Bruce Green told the group that he doesn’t think anyone will be disciplined for taking devices with confidential client information out of the country until more lawyers become  aware of the issue. Like Hillary Clinton skating because she was under the impression that the same risks of private e-mail Colin Powell faced applied to her, five years later? I guess so.

This issue has been well-publicized and taught (ahem) for well over a year. There is no excuse for lawyers who give up client confidences because they can’t be bothered to keep current on the technology they rely on. The sooner bar associations discipline such lawyers, and hard, the sooner they will make technological competence a priority.

6. A recent study found that “using smiley face emoji in work-related emails can make you seem incompetent – especially if you don’t know the recipient.”

Anyone who needed a study to figure that out is incompetent, and not using emoji won’t fool anyone.

7. Yesterday the question was asked here, in the context of the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue that the white nationalists used as an excuse to descend on Charlottesville, “After WWII, should Germany have kept up statues of Hitler?”

Interestingly, there apparently weren’t any statues of Hitler to remove. There were some busts, and streets named for Hitler in every city and town. Germany was going to raze his birth house, but decided not to, and it is being renovated “so that it can’t be used as a symbol of nazism anymore.”

My answer to the question is the same as my position on the Joe Paterno statue that was removed at Penn State (and is apparently coming back, if for the wrong reasons):

“The most compelling reason not to tear down the statues of tarnished heroes is that it abets one of human nature’s most destructive instincts, which is to forget, ignore and deny the events and episodes of the past that upset, embarrass, or frighten us. Ultimately this tendency becomes a cultural habit, one that removes the opportunity for future generations to extract wisdom from past mistakes. The fact that Joe Paterno’s  statue is on a college campus is the best reason of all to leave it up.

Penn State should teach courses around that statue of Joe Pa, about the responsibilities of leadership, the opiate of success, the temptations of greed, the mechanics of corruption, and organizational dynamics. Future Penn State students need to learn the lessons of Joe Paterno’s rise and fall, and the university should embrace and institutionalize them. Paterno’s statue will guarantee that nobody at Penn State will ever forget what happened, no matter how much they would like to.

Letting Joe’s statue stay is the courageous and responsible thing to do, not because his legacy hasn’t been ruined, but because it has.”

21 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/15/2017

  1. “Wait—is it too late for Obama to condemn anti-white racism now?”

    Depends; if your standard is that of End Stage Trump Derangement Syndrome sufferers, then yes.

    OTOH, if your guideline is the far more lenient (if ideologically specific) “Paula Deen Look-Back Period,” he has the better part of three decades.

  2. Re: the Daily Stormer (#4 on today’s list): Not really surprising at all, but it is funny how everyone is in favor of net neutrality until it comes up against something like this.

    If you are under net neutrality rules, that means these companies are common carriers. If they are common carriers, they must provide their services to the general public, without discrimination. So what is it going to be? Do they hate Nazi’s more than they love net neutrality? Everyone has been going on about how great net neutrality is, but they do not think out what it actually means.

  3. Jack on #5 I was on the ethics committee that issued the Opinion on protecting confidential information on the border. The Opinion is designed to address the situation where a NY lawyer takes his or her cell phone or laptop abroad, and upon re-entry to the United States a US border patrol person insists on reviewing confidential information that is otherwise password-protected. Far from banning lawyers from taking confidential information across the border, it provides a template for how a lawyer should deal with a border search when the lawyer has confidential information on his person.

    Even after sitting through several committee sessions about the relative merits of the Opinion, it is still unclear to me how much of a problem this is. How many lawyers (or other people) are stopped at the border where border patrol people insist on reviewing password-protected electronic devices? What are the odds of being stopped and searched this way? What are the odds that a client will be harmed because his lawyer was stopped at the border, and the border agent obtained and used password-protected privileged information? Very long in any event, and even more remote if the lawyer specializes in, say, dog bite cases as opposed to patent cases.

    I agree with you that lawyers must be technologically competent in order to be competent. But lawyers only have the obligation to take reasonable precautions to protect client information. This does not mean, in my view, that lawyers cannot take their laptops or cell phones abroad.

    • This conversation seems to lean towards the idea of PHI- protected health information. I have a day job in insurance/healthcare. For us, it’s illegal, without express written permission, even to disclose things such as who’s a patient, phone number, etc. Is there a national legal standard for how much is protected? Like is having someone’s phone number/email address on your phone ok, but if an actual email gets read, that’s a potential violation? Or does the content of the email matter? Knowing what little I know as a part-time paralegal years ago, it seemed like it varied state to state on some aspects of what is protectable client info.

    • Encrypted links tunneling to encrypted remote server. Does not matter where you are, as long as you have Internet access. No files on the device.

      Fixed it for the entire law profession.

      Wait until they see my bill!

    • Dan, I bet we get there very soon. If we aren’t there already. (The City Bar issues the best ethics opinions in the country. Thanks and congratulations for helping to make that so.)

        • I’ll elaborate! In my mandatory “intro to legal ethics” for the DC and Mass. bars, I always tell the new bar admittees that they need to develop the habit of check out legal ethics opinions, and recommend a few sources. The City Bar is at the top of my list, and has been for a long time (though D.C. also does an excellent job).

          It’s shocking how few lawyers ever read any LEOs.

  4. Jack- as to #1, I don’t think it’s anti-free-speech to show up to counter protest a hateful free speech rally. Like the robed pastors, arm-in-arm, singing while the neo-Nazis hurled epithets. They weren’t preventing them from speaking. Using free speech to answer hateful free speech sounds brave and smart. I also heard from a sound clip of a Charlottesville police spokesperson that their rally permit got pulled because from the very start, the ralliers violated the parameters they’d agreed to- like from the beginning of the day. And it seems from reports that police inaction, even of the “Hey, y’all, stop that!” sort, caused escalation in some of the days’ events. It’s really difficult to keep the two sides apart, but reports I saw said that the plan of the day was watch and wait, and it’s sad it got so far gone.

    • But they were preventing them from speaking. Threatening violence is exactly that. Using intimidation is exactly that. Pastors backed by hooded antifa thugs can’t pretend that they aren’t there. You get your rally, they get theirs.

    • Let me be clear: I believe “counter-protests’ are unethical per se. Their purpose is to undermine one group’s protected speech. It is like heckling in a college lecture. Interfering with speech and the heckler’s veto is not speech, it is anti-speech, no matter what the content is that is being blocked

      • When a large enough body of people act in concert together *against* any particular thing, movement, idea, object, etc, my pure numbers they’re actions take on a quality *similar to* political force, and therefore the ethics should be seen similarly.

        This is why I think organized boycotts are unethical. Even though it isn’t a government suppressing a business, it is a large enough body of people to have a largely similar effect of a government suppressing business to take on the same unethical qualities.

        Same goes for trying to shut down protests….same goes for massive movements to ‘dox’ a deplorable. Enough people banding together to engage in conduct specifically prohibited for the government, still has a similar enough effect as though the government engaged in the conduct.

        I’m not communicating this well, so I hope you understand the principle I’m trying to elucidate.

        I acknowledge immediately that my explanation is open to a “yeah, well people engaging in conduct they are free to engage in is fine…because it’s a free country”. I get that. As well as “yeah, well their ideas are deplorable and they should be isolated and marginalized”.

        But I also get that when enough people band together and coordinate conduct AGAINST another group of people, they are touching on suppressive conduct that we specifically prohibit governments from doing because of it’s greater implications.

        • when enough people band together and coordinate conduct AGAINST another group of people, they are touching on suppressive conduct that we specifically prohibit governments from doing because of it’s greater implications.

          We call the natural consequences of this several names. Oppression is one. Civil War is another. And of course the ‘final solution’ to such a situation: genocide.

  5. I have been out dealing with family medical issues, trying to figure out what is wrong and how we fix or adapt to it. Sorry if I cover ground in previous posts: I will try to catch up to the current state of discussion as I can

    1. I am hearing more and more from common Americans how the media is lying to ‘get’ Trump. People are smoked at the constant BS they hear and see, and are taking it as a repudiation of their right to vote (which is is.) We discussed the classic blunders from ‘The Princess Bride,’ and I have another one to add: ‘Beware of pissing off the Common Americans.’ Pearl Harbor and 9/11 are examples of the low information common folk getting interested in politics, and the world changes after that. Trump was a rumbling of that giant shifting in slumber, and the constant noise from progressives is waking that giant up.

    2. This behavior by the media is waking the sleeping giant

    4. Google and GoDaddy are progressive virtue signalling cesspools. Google shares all of your information (searches, web pages, and posts) with Big Brother, to be archived away for possible use against you one day. They ARE the fascists they censor, but that is all right: they are progressives, after all.

    5. People who do not understand the technology they rely on, even at a basic concept level, are juicy targets for criminals. Lawyers apparently are just like others in this regard, despite thinking they are the smartest people in any room (or doctors, or politicians, or even engineers)

    6. If you needed to be told this, you are already an ignorant moron. Sheesh

    7. He who controls history controls the present. Get rid of the history and how will the common core educated know any different?

  6. Re:4

    I think this is an excellent argument for Net Neutrality as a concept, and am surprised it’s not embraced more.

    Then again, perhaps NN will fall off the progressive agenda if this is pointed out to them, best not to say anything.

  7. Protests and counter-protests are both forms of free speech. I don’t think counter-protests are effective, but they have the same rights.

    • Rights, perhaps. Shutting down or interfering with another citizen’s right to speech is not ethical, legal or not. I got sick of having lectures ruined in college by tie-dyed assholes shouting slogans. Was “You Lie!” during Obama’s State of the Union legal? Speech? Sure. It was still wrong. He could make the point after the speech.

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