Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/26/17

Good Morning!

(My Dad was from Kentucky. He couldn’t stand Tom T. Hall…or Mitch McConnell)

1. I have been working on a legal ethics seminar for lawyers who represent seniors (I was told that the politically correct term among the groups was “older clients.” Older than what?) It is one of those areas of the law in which the usual ethics rules don’t work very well, or sometimes not at all. This anomaly requires a lawyer practicing in the field to be ready to embrace the Ethics Incompleteness Principle: to violate the letter of the professional ethics rules in the best interests of the client. For example, what does a lawyer do whose aging client lives with a son or daughter, and the lawyers sees signs of elder abuse? When the lawyer asks the client, he makes various excuses for his caretakers, and finally says that while he has been abused, it’s not serious and will only get worse if the lawyer says or does anything in response to it. Now what? The fact of the abuse, under the usual construction of the rules, is a confidence controlled by the client.

The emerging consensus is that the lawyer can ethically use the exception to confidentiality that allows an attorney to reveal a client confidence to prevent death or serious bodily injury to a “third party,” the client becoming “the third party” for his own protection.

2. A federal lawsuit was filed last week alleging that a Tennessee judge and sheriff violated inmates’ constitutional rights by instituting a program offering reduced jail time for criminals who agree to undergo vasectomies or get contraceptive implants. The suit claims the White County program amounted to “eugenics with a twist.” I don’t think it’s much of a twist; I’d say it’s eugenics, straight up. I’d assume CBS will love it: after all, eliminating criminal types is even better than eradicating Down Syndrome babies. Isn’t it?

3. Lots of people sent me this horrible story, about the cheerleader camp at a Denver area high school where young girls were being forced to do splits (it hurts me even thinking about doing splits) , with the camp’s instructor shown in a leaked video pushing down on the shoulders of a 13-year-old as she screamed for him to stop.

Boy, there is a lot of child abuse out there.

The Denver Board of Education said in a statement: “As the elected representatives for Denver Public Schools — and as the moms, dads and family members of D.P.S. students ourselves — we are deeply disturbed by the videos of cheer practices at East High School that came to our attention yesterday.”

Gee, it’s good to know that you are all disturbed that children are being tortured at schools that you are supposed to be overseeing.. This must mean you are competently doing your jobs. No, actually it doesn’t

“As the investigation continues,’’ it states, “our focus must be entirely on our students, families and educators.”

The school superintendent also said: “We have sent notification to our athletic directors emphasizing that D.P.S. does not allow the use of ‘forced splits’ or any other activity that puts a student’s physical or mental health at risk, or in which a student is forced to perform an exercise beyond the point at which they express their desire to stop.”

An Ethics Alarms note to that school system: Any athletic directors who have to be reminded that abusing children in their care, and continuing to make them perform painful acts after they have said that they don’t want to, is not something they should be doing shouldn’t be employed in the first place.

4. Garrison Keillor, the mercifully retired, so-plummy-it-make-you-want-to plotz NPR star, had an op-ed in the Washington Post that said in part,

“And now, a new anxiety that our history has not prepared us for, a fear that we have elected George III to the presidency and we may not survive three and a half more years of his madness. For the first time in our history, we are looking to generals to save us from democracy…And now we think about the man picking up the red phone instead of Twitter and ordering fire and fury like the world has never seen and the death of 10 million people. We trust the order will be disobeyed, a de facto military coup, and the man will be packed off to Walter Reed and what then?”

I’m pretty sure that the defense of this despicable and un-American essay will be that it’s a joke. After all, Keillor has no more qualifications as a pundit than the typical 7-11 clerk, and his business is, or was, satire and bad renditions of folk songs and blue grass classics. His Post entry begins,

“Anxious times in America. There was a news story a few weeks back, “Interrupted Sleep May Lead to Alzheimer’s,” and next to it, a wine review with the line “Vivacious and well balanced, with chewy tannins and flavors of fresh red fruits.” You know and I know that a vivacious beverage will not compensate for losing your marbles. And now, driving to California, I find that I must enter a password in order to change the time zone on my laptop clock. Evidently, someone is out to mess up my schedule and my clock must be secured.”

Now you have to admit, that’s hilarious! The problem is that this isn’t in the features section, but the op-ed page, and is under the banner of “opinion.” I don’t care how many faux old-time radio shows the guy has hosted in Kenosha, the position that a military coup would be good for America isn’t funny or responsible no matter whose hateful face it issues from.

Why is the Washington Post publishing op-eds calling for a military junta? What qualifies Keillor, an English major who has never run a business, served in office or evidenced any insight or skill in public policy whatsoever (he’s a performer; you know, like Rosie O’Donnell, Pauly Shore, Alec Baldwin and Mo-Mo the Worm Man), to write op-eds in the Washington Post, especially op-eds that casually call for an end to our extraordinarily successful experiment in democracy because the very same people Keillor mocked in his show for 50 years elected someone of whom he disapproves?

Now that it has published this indefensible crap, te Washington Post and its staff are estopped from bristling  the next time President suggests that mainstream media journalists are anti-American. You can’t get much more anti-American than calling for a military take-over, and the Post’s editors felt Keillor’s bitter lament was a sufficiently respectable opinion to parade before its readers eyes.

17 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/26/17

  1. “My Dad was from Kentucky.”

    Now if that don’t beat all, my Maternal Grandfather I. D. Hale (1900-62) was from Bushtown in Mercer County. I was appointed Honorary Kentucky Colonel by the Honorable Governor Wallace Wilkinson in 1988.

    Heck, we even have some Marshalls in the fold.

    A Ruth Mae Black married (and divorced) a Steven Joseph Marshall (1963-)
    the son of William Joseph Marshall and Julie Bowlen.

    I’ll forward this to WordPress, perhaps they’ll quit forcing you to moderate my comments?

    “He couldn’t stand Tom T. Hall”

    Not fan either, but will never tune out the seminal ditty (and Schlecht Clan Anthem) “I Like Beer,” because:

    ♫ As a matter of fact ♫ I LUV Beer♫!

  2. Don’t get me started on Garrison Keillor. I’ve always assumed he was clinically depressed. But he’s qualified to write an op-ed for The Post because he was on NPR and he genuinely despises most people.

    • I had a little faith in GK when he wrote a Democrat-leaning (he of course thought Kerry was going to dethrone GWB) but ok article about the 2004 election, saying that, whichever way it played America was going to have to come back together, even as one neighbor framed the headline page the next day and the other wrapped up the garbage in it. I started to give up on him after he featured the GWB-as-Texas-twanging-idiot shtick one time too many and kept on featuring it week after week (after week). I gave up completely after he wrote new words to “You’re The Top” praising Obama, revealing that he is nothing more than a partisan hack. He’s also 75 years old, on the autism spectrum, and he suffered a stroke in 2009, so not only is he not wired the same as most, not all the wires are working.

      As someone who is also on the spectrum, that does explain a few things, like his love for dumb puns (his show was where I first heard about the recipe for Martha Stewart chicken, where you boil the chicken and then dump the stock…), but it also does explain his tendency to be rigid in his views and sometimes not be too self-aware.

      Sorry, Garrison, but your time has come and gone, and it’s time for you to take care of your health, spend time with what family you are still on good terms with (he was married multiple times) and enjoy whatever time God gives you before he calls you home.

  3. The ethics of dealing with seniors are fascinating and murky in general. I was a caretaker for my grandmother in the years leading to her death, while her care was overseen by my mother, who has a degree in developmental psychology and worked for years on a study dealing with care for seniors. Balancing a decline in capabilities (whether mental or physical) with the concept that old age is another stage in human development — one that caretakers and many people interacting with them haven’t reached yet — with its own changes in priorities, considerations, and perspectives is an enormous challenge. Determining what is decline and how much is simply another change like that between adolescence and adulthood is a messy business for everyone involved.

    A grounded consideration of ethics is vital there. I wish you and the lawyers you’re talking to the best of luck.

    • My conclusion is that as we escort our parents out the door, they become our children and we become their parents. I found that analogy (or metaphor?) helpful.

      • That is a popular conclusion, and not invalid (especially in cases where degenerative conditions are involved) but it also ignores some important considerations.

        If people around your age all started dying off, and you felt (with good reason) that you only had five or ten years left to live, that would change your perspective and behavior drastically. You might start doing things you otherwise wouldn’t have done, saying things you wouldn’t say, spending your time and money differently. That’s nothing wrong with your brain– in fact, we’d probably consider it weird if the situation didn’t change you in any way.

        Then on top of that, seniors are going through physiological changes as hormones and receptors wear out and they lose the ability to absorb vitamins and minerals, all of which affect personality in huge ways but aren’t necessarily outside a normal adult range. And many are dealing with enormous mental health issues like grief for spouses, siblings, and friends; relocation; and health conditions.

        A perfectly mentally healthy senior might still be a huge change from their middle-aged self, but still a functioning adult. Mistaking normal
        (if surprising) development for degeneration can be as dangerous to people and relationships as missing the signs of actual degeneration like dementia, strokes, or Alzheimer’s.

        (And that’s not even taking into account drug effects and side effects, which are almost never clinically tested on the elderly, who take a lot of them.)

        The parents-as-children metaphor is a good rule of thumb, and a good view of personal responsibility towards them, but there’s a lot to keep in mind even within that context. It’s a messy business.

        • You’ve provided all the details for the reasons we become our parents’ parents as the age toward the end. They require our attention in the ways our children do. . They’re no longer the people they were for any number of reasons and in any number of ways. And you’re right, we need to give our elders the opportunity to what they want, just as we had to with children. And hey, my wife and I are in our mid-sixties and we’re spending money like escaped prisoners. A complete reversal of prior behaviors. So yes, things change as we age.

  4. When I was young and nimble and doing martial arts we used to do assisted splits (so we could kick the other guy in the face). They were done under very conditions because a bad move could sideline you for weeks in the best case and end your career in the worst. The splitee was always in control and at the first sign you said no the exercise was over. What this guy was doing is pure torture and I can’t think of an appropriate punishment under the legal system for what he was doing (I have some unconventional ideas though)

  5. “…we are deeply disturbed….”

    I think that the word “deeply” should be removed from the vocabulary for about five years, especially from documents issued by committees that were responsible for creating the conditions that ended up disturbing them.

  6. On #3 – the district did put the athletic director, principal and district lawyer on leave pending investigation. Apparently the principal and lawyer decided to let the coach resign quietly and wanted to bury it. The superintendent knew it should go to the police for a criminal investigation and is mad at them for not doing it when they heard of it.

  7. 1. How do state laws requiring mandatory reporting of child abuse or abuse of a vulnerable adult fit into this? The pertinent Florida statute requires that “any person” who knows of or has reasonable cause to suspect such abuse must report it. There is nothing that I can see in the law that exempts lawyers, clergy or anyone else from the class of “any person.” Members of certain occupations are specifically designated as mandatory reporters but the only significance of that in the law is that mandatory reporters must provide their name to the hot line staff.

  8. “…we are deeply disturbed by the videos of cheer practices at East High School that came to our attention yesterday.”

    See, you just have to know how to speak Government. Translation:

    “…we are deeply disturbed that videos of cheer practices at East High School came to your attention yesterday.”

    • “See, you just have to know how to speak Government.” Should be changed to: See, you just have to know how to speak organization. There is no justification for limiting this type of statement to Governments. Corperations, Churchs, Not for Profits do it, in fact all Gods chillen do it.

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