Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/30/2017: Is Robert Mueller Biased? Are The Patriots Cheating Again? Is Larry Tribe Deranged? Is President Trump A Robot?

Good Morning!

(Nothing better than waking up to a light dusting of snow!)

1 When you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…Alan Dershowitz, a Democrat and legal expert who has prominently avoided the ravages of anti-Trump mania that have crippled so many of his distinguished colleagues, tried to clarify several issues in the Mueller investigation on Fox News.

On Special Prosecutor Mueller personally and professionally: “I don’t think he’s partisan, I don’t think he cares whether the Democrats or the Republicans benefit from this.I think he’s a zealous prosecutor and if he were going after Hillary Clinton, he’d be going after her with as much zeal.”

On his investigative team: “Now that’s not true for some of the people on his staff. He should never have allowed these people to serve on this investigative staff, if they had the points of view that they’ve had towards Hillary Clinton and towards Donald Trump. That was a mistake…when you’re going after a president or a presidential candidate, you have to be ‘Caesar’s wife,’ you have to be above reproach, and he didn’t do a good enough job in vetting the people that he brought on to the prosecution and the investigative team, and that hurts his credibility.”

Correct, and obviously correct. So why is the White House and Fox News being criticized daily for questioning the legitimacy, fairness, objectivity, and independence of the investigation? It doesn’t matter if Mueller is personally fair and objective if he appoints biased and conflicted lawyers to do the work. That still means the investigation is compromised and untrustworthy. It also means that Mueller undermined the investigation exactly the way he could not afford to if he wanted its results to be accepted.

There is nothing inappropriate about those being investigated pointing out bias, incompetence and conflicts of interest by the investigators. Criticism of a legitimate complaint, backed up by facts, indicates that those critics  don’t care about bias, incompetence and conflicts of interest, if they lead to the result they crave.

2. Suspicion! Why would the NFL’s New England Patriots sign a washed-up, 39-year-old Pittsburgh Steelers veteran, James Harrison, with only one game left in the regular season, at a cost of about $60,000 for that game and for any play-off games the Patriots participate in? Harrison has barely played all season, is no longer a top performer, and was a discordant and disruptive presence in the locker room. Many sportswriters and fans believe that he is being paid by New England to be a turncoat, and to reveal  Steelers’ secrets that might provide an edge if the Patriots, as many expect, have to defeat Pittsburgh on the way to another Super Bowl. The Patriots have been caught cheating more than once. Would this be cheating?

I assume not, unless Harrison had an enforceable non disclosure clause that prohibited him from revealing Steelers plays and strategies even after he was no longer on the team. Indeed, it would be unethical for Harrison not to help his new team in any way possible. When New England signed him, they signed his body, mind and accumulated experience.

3. Tales of Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) It will be hard to top screaming at the sky, or even Rosie O’Donnell offering millions to bribe Republican Senators, but it’s still scary to observe, like a zombie apocalypse:

Retweet if you agree that, each time @realDonaldTrump says “fake news,” he’s subliminally channeling “fuck news.”

Stay classy, Professor!

Whew! This guy was once on the short list to be on the Supreme Court! Retired law prof Ann Althouse deemed Tribe’s tweet to be self-explanatory, as in res ipsa loquitur.

  • Then, after the vast majority of Althouse’s commenters pronounced Tribe a late-stage victim of TDS, one commenter called The Toothless Revolutionary  rallied to his defense, writing,

Trump derangement syndrome…Do you realize how foolish this tag sounds? Just what kind of disagreement with a clearly unhinged Oval Office resident is it supposed to proscribe (or permit)? The implication that Trump isn’t crazy enough to drive normal people up a wall is clearly not shared by a majority of the country. Or are they all crazy too, in your opinion? Yep. They’re all crazy but you and your fact-free leader are somehow the sane ones. BTW, how’s that embassy move to Jerusalem working out? Clearly we can find at least one or two other countries in the world that are willing to be dragged down with us. America vs. The World. What a winning cause. Let me know when you finish taking them all over, one-by-one. They’re all mad. You are the one in the right. The self-righteous right, at least. 

…thus illustrating the blind hate and unreasoning fury that characterizes the disorder, though one wag on Ann’s comment thread pronounced this “Trump Derangement Syndrome Derangement Syndrome.”

See, Toothless, when a man generally acknowledged to be brilliant and analytical finds himself broadcasting to the world that he has lost it by tweeting bizarre theories in vulgar messages worthy of, well, people like you, that’s derangement.

  • Ah, but the deteriorating Harvard prof and his angry fan are mere tyros compared to  Jay Malsky, an actor who has appeared in drag as Hillary Clinton. Melsky, while watching  the Hall of Presidents attraction at Disney World, began shouting at the audio-animatronic Donald Trump. (The Huffington Post said he “mercilessly” heckled the robot, showing  derangement of its own. Robots don’t need mercy, and you can’t “heckle” one either.)

Malsky began chanting “Lock him up!” and continued until security nicely told him to pipe down unless he wanted to end up as Franklin Pierce. On Twitter and in an emailed statement to a website, he tried to explain his motives, writing first,

“I protested @realDonaldTrump at the cuz I’ll never get this close in real life probs.

So you’re an idiot, then! Thanks for the clarification!

Then the statement…

“Donald Trump is a mad man with fascist tendancies [sic] who has persuaded millions of middle-class Americans to vote against their own interests. So I was worried I’d be put on some sort of list (if I’m not already) and probably incur the wrath of ignorant sheeple. But I figured a bunch of them would be at this ride and wanted to show their kids what a protest looks like before Trump murders democracy. If people are upset that I disrupted their family vacation, I hope they’ll think about the thousands [of] children being taken away from their parents because of Trump’s racist immigration policies, or the parents of the hundreds of trans people murdered each year by transphobic and homophobic people, or the negative impacts of the tax bill on poor and middle-income Americans. I encourage anyone outraged that I interrupted a ride at Disney to check their privelege”

 I suggest that he audition for the cast of “Hamilton,” and that the White House send a Mike Pence robot to see the show.

 4. What a madman with fascist tendencies! Protests have erupted in Iran again, just as they did in President Obama’s first year in office.


On June 13, 2009, Iran announced that incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won a landslide victory. His main opponent, Mir Hossein Moussavi, had already alleged blatant violations. After the announcement, angry crowds of Moussavi supporters took to the streets. The protests continued the next day as Ahmadinejad supporters turned out by the tens of thousands to hold counter-demonstrations. CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, on the streets of Tehran, reported on “riot situations, lots of marches, people shouting ‘Down with dictatorship.'”Scores, or even hundreds, of riot police were deployed, and there were “running battles between some of the street protesters and some of the riot police,” Amanpour reported. “And we’ve seen people who have been hit with batons and taken refuge in people’s homes along the march route to try to get out of the way of that…”

By the next day, June 15, Moussavi supporters were holding the country’s largest protests since the 1979 revolution. That day, June 15, Obama gave remarks on the situation. He said he was watching the news from Iran. It is “up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran’s leaders will be,” he said, adding that “we respect Iranian sovereignty and want to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran.”But, Obama said, “I am deeply troubled by the violence that I’ve been seeing on television. I think that the democratic process — free speech, the ability of people to peacefully dissent — all those are universal values and need to be respected.”

He said it was his understanding that “that the Iranian government says that they are going to look into irregularities that have taken place,” and emphasized that he would continue to seek diplomacy with the country.

A week later, after the riots and Iran’s response to them had turned bloody, Obama condemned “unjust actions.” Although the protesters were begging for support from the President via twitter, Obama never expressed any.

This, in stark contrast, was the Trump response to the latest riots, on the very first day of the protests:

Much better.

And faster.

I think I’ll go to Orlando and tell Trump in person.

18 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/30/2017: Is Robert Mueller Biased? Are The Patriots Cheating Again? Is Larry Tribe Deranged? Is President Trump A Robot?

  1. 1. Mueller never should have been hired due to his close relationship with Comey. He’s investigating the person who fired a close friend. I’m sorry, but that is an appearance of a conflict of interest.

    2. The Steelers royally screwed up here. When a player is doing what Harrison allegedly did, the proper approach is for the team to do what the Milwaukee Brewers did with Matt Garza in 2015: Send him home/suspend him, and keep him on the payroll.

    3. I suspect this guy was quite happy when Lois Lerner’s targeting of the Tea Party was revealed. The progressive Left hasn’t objected to repressive measures – they just have some quibbles over who should be repressed.

    4. The Iranian regime has been an accessory to attacks on American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, a state sponsor of terrorist groups who have explicitly stated they wish to carry out a genocide against the Israelis (Holocaust 2.0), and itself has declared its intention to “wipe Israel off the map.” It’s about [bleep]ing time we toppled that regime.

  2. 1. A stacked deck? You can not expect any investigation not to have a bias, but this one? Seems far too many have a connection either directly or indirectly to the anti-Trump faction.
    2. What a non story. Based on how the Steelers have done against the Patroits they do not need Harrison and any “inside” information. TB12 seems to know the Steelers playbook better than their team does.
    3. See Inquiring Mind.

  3. Malsky sounds just like my son and a college buddy. I’ve asked them not to bring up TRUMP! but they persist. Anyone who disagrees with them is an idiot. It’s depressing.

    • OB, not that it will be of immediate use, but I suggest you record as much as you can of your son’s rants (and his buddy’s) and store them away for, say, twenty years. Then casually hand the recording(s) over and let him chew on them in private. At that point, you see (and the further along the point, the more the truth of it), he will have conveniently “forgotten” if not the words, certainly the certainty of his conclusions. And yes, it’s quite ethical, I think, for you to lead him on a bit … though it doesn’t sound as if you can tolerate much more of his TDS.

      It will save you from having to bite your tongue every time you want to argue with him or find something that unarguably (ha!) proves you right but that is small enough for him to squeeze around and go on “resisting” on his merry way. Or when you are dying to say “I told you so” which as you well know just makes things worse. Only hearing himself will be convincing, and in the meantime, like a high interest savings bond, it will give you some hope for the future. You may never hear a thank-you but if there has been the change we all want by that time, he will know what it cost you to have to hear it in the first place.

      [This comes from having heard my own words and arrogant, adamant tone of voice in others’ mouths over the years. Twenty years isn’t really long enough – mine go back at least sixty – but you can always leave the recording in your Will, mixed in, of course, with other (more palatable?) proofs of your love for him. Not to mention your incalculable patience and wisdom! … and good luck with that.]

      • Thanks, PA. But that sounds like, in the immortal words (or word?) of the inimitable Maynard G. Krebs, … “WORK!”

        And frankly, I really wonder if my son will ever change. If Trump is not frog marched onto the White House lawn and shot by a firing squad within the next three years, my son will simply insist for the rest of his life that the fix was in. Do you know any rabid Dems that have ever conceded Bush defeated Gore?

        My college friend, at age sixty-six, is still as cocky and self assured an anti-conservative as I”m sure he was in college back before electricity. He basically considers all Republicans “despicable.” Like most New Yorkers, he clearly considers the former denizen of NYC the devil incarnate, the only real estate developer to have ever taken a project into bankruptcy or failed to pay every sub every dollar they claimed to have been owed. Trump evidently got all his lenders to lend him money for his projects against their will and better judgment. It’s bizarre and I don’t see it ever changing. I fully expect my friend’s dying words to be, “I should have assassinated Trump, God damn it!”

        Bill Clinton drove me nuts and as a kid I badgered my dad about the evil oil companies, but I don’t think I was as around the bend as these people. I just don’t know what to make of it. Lots of lefties don’t grow up, they just grow gray beards and pony tails and keep on keepin’ on speaking truth to power, etc, etc.

        • And thanks for the My Fair Lady joke. A beauty. I’d send it to my college friend, he’d get a kick out of it, he’s Jewish and loves a good joke. But I don’t think I will because he’d use it as a pretext to say something off the wall about you know who.

        • ”Lots of lefties don’t grow up, they just grow gray beards and pony tails and keep on keepin’ on speaking truth to power, etc, etc.”

          A visual for your Peter Pan Lefty, courtesy of local Lefty cartoonist Phil Hands.

          Required accoutrement: de rigueur purple scrunchy and tres foppish granny specs.

  4. “Robots don’t need mercy, and you can’t “heckle” one either.”

    You should date this and file it, because I guarantee you, the way you treat Siri and Alexa and Cortana and Ok Google is *already* being described as problematic.

    “Sexual harassment: there are no limits
    According to Dr Sweeney, research indicates virtual assistants like Siri and Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa find themselves fending off endless sexual solicitations and abuse from users.”

    ut because humans don’t (yet) attach agency or intelligence to their devices, they’re remarkably uninhibited about abusing them. Both academic research and anecdotal observation on man/machine interfaces suggest raised voices and vulgar comments are more common than not. It’s estimated that about 10% to 50% of interactions are abusive, according to Dr. Sheryl Brahnam in a TechEmergence interview late last year.

    These behaviors are simply not sustainable. If adaptive bots learn from every meaningful human interaction they have, then mistreatment and abuse become technological toxins. Bad behavior can poison bot behavior. That undermines enterprise efficiency, productivity, and culture.

    That’s why being bad to bots will become professionally and socially taboo in tomorrow’s workplace. When “deep learning” devices emotionally resonate with their users, mistreating them feels less like breaking one’s mobile phone than kicking a kitten. The former earns a reprimand; the latter gets you fired.

    Just as one wouldn’t kick the office cat or ridicule a subordinate, the very idea of mistreating ever-more-intelligent devices becomes unacceptable. While not (biologically) alive, these inanimate objects are explicitly trained to anticipate and respond to workplace needs. Verbally or textually abusing them in the course of one’s job seems gratuitously unprofessional and counterproductive.

    Crudely put, smashing your iPhone means you have a temper; calling your struggling Siri inappropriate names gets you called before HR. Using bad manners with smart technologies can lead to bad management.

    • You need to go on Netflix and watch “Black Mirror”, especially the last season. It’s a series of short stories set in a dystopian future, and examines a bunch of the potential pitfalls of our exponentially-growing technology, including AI. It’s a phenomenal, disturbing, and unforgettable series.

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