Morning Ethics Warm-Up,1/28/2018: Looking For The Silver Lining

Good Morning!

1 Phooey. This was one of those annoying weeks where the blog covered a lot of diverse topics (28 posts in the last 7 days), featured excellent comments, and was rewarded by a kick in the teeth. There was a big drop in followers, especially after the post about the Larry Nassar sentencing fiasco (I got slammed on Facebook, too.) That one is not open to legitimate controversy: the judge was unethical, the manner of sentencing did breach the Judicial Canons in Michigan and elsewhere, the length of the sentence was  disproportionate, and the parade of victims was a disgrace to the system. Never mind, though: he’s a monster and didn’t deserved to be treated any better by the judge, so good for her. No wonder trying to get people to reason using ethics tools and systems is so difficult. Most people default to emotion; some lawyers on Facebook even expressed that sentiment—“You go girl!”

It is such basic ethics, and so core to the justice system, that even the worst human beings deserve to be treated with the same respect and fairness as anyone else in the justice system. It is the bedrock of professional ethics that those with the job of protecting the public’s health, safety and welfare must be role models and eschew the passions and indulgences of the public they are pledged to serve. Yet people are frustratingly resistant to both concepts, giving lip service, pretending to understand, then  regularly bouncing back to rationalizations and mob reasoning like their values were on a bungee cord.

Silver Lining: It is satisfying to be 100% sure you are right in principle, even when, indeed especially when, you are getting beaten up for it.

2. And speaking of bitches…Contemporaneously with Hillary Clinton’s transparently cynical and damning response to the revelation that she responded to a campaign staffer’s complaint about sexual abuse by Hillary’s “spiritual survivor” in 2008 by transferring the accuser while keeping her advisor around (to harass others, it seems), she released a video…

…that began with the words, “And let me just say, this is directed to the activist bitches supporting bitches.” And thus we see how the Nation of Assholes is progressing. Somehow, I didn’t see the coarsening of the culture as Americans, as they always so, emulate the conduct of the President, extending to  Hillary Clinton, but why not? She has no integrity or ethics alarms. If she thinks going potty mouth will bring her money and power, why wouldn’t she ditch civility? The woman is first and always an ethics corrupter.

Silver Lining: It is remarkable, and reassuring,  how few defenders Clinton has now. On Althouse’s blog—the video is exactly the kind of this Ann loves to post about—her 136 comments, hardly from right-wingers, were unanimous in expressing disgust at Hillary. Brutal—but funny! Like:

  • “I take it calling women “bitches” is more acceptable than calling shitholes “shitholes”?”
  • “This might be more effective if one couldn’t see the raw calculation in her eyes.”
  • “Laying the groundwork for an insanity plea.”
  • “Poor Hillary. She has none of Richard Nixon’s virtues and intelligence and has all of his vices. Will she run again in 2020? Why not?” [Me: It’s funny because it’s true.]
  • “Now why wasn’t she 50 points ahead?”
  • “As a dog that returneth to his vomit, so is the fool that repeateth his folly. ‘Sicut canis qui revertitur ad vomitum suum, sic imprudens qui iterat stultitiam suam.'”
  • “And they say that Trump has a gender gap problem…”
  • “Learning more about the essential Hillary is like peeling back the layers of an onion: When you are all done there is nothing in the middle, you’ve made a mess and your hands stink.”

3.  What a surprise...Real estate and casino magnate Steve Wynn resigned as finance chairman for the Republican National Committee on Saturday after The Wall Street Journal reported an alleged pattern of sexual misconduct and sexual assault involving employees of Wynn Resorts. Wynn denies them all, but the story seems thoroughly researched. The story portrays Wynn as a serial abuser of his employees who allegedly pressured some to perform sex acts on him. Wynn allegedly pressured a manicurist to have sex with him on his massage table, then  paid her $7.5 million in a settlement after she filed a detailed report to human resources. Naturally, the left-wing media is working hard to argue that this cancels out the Democrats’ Harvey Weinstein embarrassment. It doesn’t. Neither cancels the other, and Weinstein is to Wynn like Matt Lauer is to David Letterman. There is also an obvious distinction between party leaders whose shtick is women’s rights and condemning the misogynist ways of the GOP extolling Weinstein as they accepted his money, knowing what he was and was continuing to do, and that other party having a major donor and finance head who demonstrated pretty much what you’d expect from a Las Vegas casino mogul. In the hypocrisy competition, there’s no contest.

Salon does make a valid point that after the Weinstein scandal broke, the GOP tweeted, “Still no word from DNC on returning all of Harvey Weinstein’s donations,” and should be held to their won declared standard. It’s a stupid standard, though, the absurd “dirty money” concept. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are obligated to return donations because their donors or fundraisers are revealed as scum. If a donation is legal, the money not the result of criminal activity, and it isn’t a bribe, it doesn’t matter ethically whether it came from Jack the Ripper or Joan of Arc.

Silver Lining:  That’s easy. Any time one of these sexual harassers is exposed and shamed, it’s a good thing—if he is a sexual harasser. In Wynn’s case, as with Weinstein, there seems little doubt.

4. Nothing to fear. Once again, a “resistance” mouthpiece, in this case the New York Times editors (for the second time), stooped to using the Orwellian If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear’ poison to attack the President of the United States. This is signature significance for a totalitarian mindset, and shows vividly the alienation of the Times from its own alleged values. The editorial is stunned that the President would distrust the fairness and motives of the Justice Department and the FBI as it pursues an investigation concocted by Democrats to undo the 2016 election. Why would he distrust DOJ, where an acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, left over from the Obama administration breached ethics rules to defy her client, the President, and publicly grandstanded her “resistance” to an Executive Order? Or the Justice lawyers who have been unethically and illegally leaking to the press at a record pace? Why would he distrust a Special Counsel who appointed FBI agents to his team revealed later to have pronounced a Trump presidency to be a disaster to be avoided at all costs? Why would Trump be wary of an FBI team assembled by James Comey, who leaked classified materials to undermine him, or the same agency that now appears to have rigged the Clinton investigation to ensure his defeat in 2016? It’s a mystery!

But never mind: the Times editorials jumped the rationality shark on all things Trump more than a year ago. That still doesn’t excuse ending a screed called “Why Does the President Fear The Truth?” with this Orwellian line:

This leads to the third and most pressing question of all: If Mr. Trump and his associates are truly innocent of any wrongdoing, what are they so afraid of?

Oh, gee, I don’t know—because they have every reason to believe the objective of the investigation isn’t the truth, but political warfare, electoral gains, propaganda, interference with governance and a achieving a soft coup? Because every American would have reason to fear if a prosecutor determined to find a reason to prosecute was digging into his or her affairs? Be Mueller’s investigation is at least as much about partisan politics as it is about “justice”?  Because a prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich, as the saying goes?

There are many sources explaining what is so sinister about the Times’ question–I’ve written about it here too, but let’s consider some of the myriad others: here, here, here, here, here, and here.

The Times itself would have once loudly condemned the premise of their editorial as a deadly slippery slope–before Donald Trump.

Silver Lining: The sooner the mainstream news media’s abandonment of objectivity, ethics, fairness and principle becomes so obvious that even its current enablers shout “Enough!”, the sooner reform and healing can begin. This outrageous embrace of a “1984” mentality by the New York Times has to represent progress toward the moment when journalists, like Michael Douglas in “Falling Down,” realize, “Wait…I’m the bad guy?”

5. Geoffrey C. Hazard Jr. (1929-2018). Hazard, who died on January 11,  was not only  one of the nation’s most respected authorities on legal ethics, he was one of a small group of law professors who made it the crucial and dynamic field it is today, and in so doing, vastly improved the integrity of the legal profession. He also authored and updated the classic legal ethics textbook, one that I used  when I taught a legal ethics course at American University. His obituary is here.

Silver Lining: A life well-lived, with an enduring impact and legacy. You can’t hope for more than that.

17 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up,1/28/2018: Looking For The Silver Lining

  1. 2- Gotta say, when I first read that headline yesterday, I thought it was a joke.

    Even though most reports confirm that HRC’s foul mouth would embarrass a longshoreman, IMHO it’s still a “hold muh beer & watch this” level of breathtaking stupidity.

    • “Activist Bitches Supporting Bitches” is evidently the name of some Brooklyn-based group. So I guess it’s just HRC playing to her base rather than trying to out Jay-Z Jay-Z. Or something.

  2. Professor Hazard taught me civil procedure. In addition to everything you say, he was an excellent teacher, which is rare for professors who are so accomplished in their scholarship. I suspect that just about everyone who took a class with him feels this loss.

  3. On point one: A drop in followers demonstrates only that they followed you when you validated their entrenched ideas. I am neither a lawyer or an ethicist but even I could see the gross unfairness of parading dozens of victims to tell their story prior to sentencing which by her own admission affected the total sentence. What would these SJW’s say if hundreds of Freddie Gray’s victims (users, homeowners, police, EMS personnel) who were negatively affected by his peddaling of narcotics in the neighborhood came forth and told the court how they suffered as a result of his illicit behavior?

    On point 2. HRC probably speaks that way anyway. She sees such utterances in a different context just like blacks who use the word nigger when referring to another member of that ethnocentric group. Much like saying I’m Polish so I can tell a Pollock joke, members within the community are given license to use terminolgy that would be damned if another outside the group said the same thing. As I have stated before, Trump is a reflection of us and not responsible for the general coursening of the culture and degradation of what is consideted socially appropriate speech. Some women wear the term bitch as a badge of honor to demonstrate that they are tough and able to bring men to their knees. Other women gravitate to self proclaimed bitches for the same reason people gravitate to money an power; they bathe themselves in the glory of others, and by association they too are tough.

    Point 3. I agree, What if we start demanding that all donations be returned to anyone accused of something? Should the Red Cross , Easter Seals, or other charities be required to give back donations as well. Political or charitable donations do not reflect the bad behavior.

    Point 4. The mantra that if you have nothing to hide is only used against the object of desired scrutiny. I doubt seriously that the NYT would agree to a complete and totally intrusive investigation of their operations. I doubt it.

    Notwithstanding the concepts embodied in the 4th and 5th amendments of the Constitution, the ill conceived concept of total transparency is lost on most Americans until the police come a knockin on their door. The mere fact that Mueller is trying to establish an obstruction case when no evidence of an underlying crime has been presented to a grand jury is prima facie evidence that the goal is to gain a conviction and not to determine if a conspiracy to collude with an adversarial government to affect the outcome of the election by the Trump team existed is enough to make any citizen worry that government will expend any amount of resources to get you if getting you is the objective. We should all worry about this if we want honest government. Consider what we will become if the party in power unleashes its prosecutorial powers on all threats to its power. Harry Reid exemplified this when admitted to lying about Romney. When confronted with the lie he said “he didn’t get elected did he” referring to Romney.

    Funny, no one lodged the nothing to fear claim when the DNC refused to allow FBI forensics to examine the supposedly hacked servers and only allowed Crowd Strike to push the Russian hacking narrative.

    5. Your silver lining would make a great epitaph.

    • …make any citizen worry that government will expend any amount of resources to get you if getting you is the objective.

      There are so many rules with the force of law these days, that anyone can be gotten to. Everyone breaks the law, even if they do not know they do so. This video is well worth the time to view: it was reinforced by my local detective during a ‘Citizens Police Academy’ course.

      This is why the NSA keeps all data from everyone’s cell phone. All texts, all call metadata, (I suspect, it being easy to do in a digital environment) recordings of many calls, and all browser history are databased, ‘in case they are ever needed.’

      My point: if the federal government wants you, they can get you. They no longer need to spend more than it takes to query a database. This will get them a warrant, and then a search of your premises, bank records, what-have-you will give them enough to arrest you.

  4. In the South, when we call a woman the “B” word we mean she is a real spiteful, mean, disgusting woman. No wonder we don’t understand the rest of the country if bitch means a woman is good. But I will say this, I do think Hillary and the rest of those “nasty women” meet the Southern definition of BITCH. Please excuse my bad language since I try to avoid it but sometimes you just have to call a duck a duck.

    • Have we all been intimidated by the Niggardly Principle to avoid that old classic, ‘call a spade a spade’? It seems so. From Wiki:

      To ‘call a spade a spade’, or, ‘to call a spade a shovel’ are both forms of the figurative expression which requests that the speaker should, or has, called a person, place or thing, by the most suitable name it could have without any reservation to the feelings or strained formalities that may result from its use. The implication is that one tells the truth regarding the nature of the thing in question,[4] speaking frankly and directly about it, even if it is considered coarse, impolite, or unpleasant.

      The ultimate source of this idiom is a phrase in Plutarch’s Apophthegmata Laconica:’τὴν σκάφην σκάφην λέγοντας (tēn skaphēn skaphēn legontas).The word σκαφη (skaphe) means “basin, or trough.” Erasmus translated Plutarch’s σκαφην (skaphe), as if from σπάθη (spáthe), as ligo “shovel” in his Apophthegmatum opus. Gandhi Lakshmi speculates that the introduction of the word “shovel” may have been a conscious, dramatic choice rather than a mistranslation.

      The phrase was introduced to English in 1542 in Nicolas Udall’s translation of Erasmus’ work, Apophthegmes, that is to saie, prompte saiynges. In the expression, the word spade refers to the instrument used to move earth, a very common tool.The same word was used in England, Denmark, and in the Netherlands, Erasmus’ country of origin.”

      • From my experience, feminists use the term as a badge of honor when they apply it to themselves or others in their cohort connoting an unyielding force against the patriarch. In contrast, the word bitch or bitchiness when uttered by anyone outside the cohort is considered a term of derision and contempt. This is how language gets bastardized and manipulated which leads to that coarsening of society.

        This goes beyond the term bitch. I saw signage carried by very young girls during the women’s march with terribly profane language. Apparantly, profanity is thought to be the means to assert a sense of power when in fact it is simply a means to shut off communication.

        • I personally have no problem with women using the term “bitch” to connote strength or even just close friendship–I generally find it pretty funny.

          Someone who nearly got elected president a year ago shouldn’t be speaking to the public this way, though. Perhaps more importantly, given the recent revelations about her behavior and her terrible response to those revelations, Hillary Clinton shouldn’t be talking about feminism at all for a long, long time.

    • Speaking of Southern patois, not too long ago I discovered (possibly here) that “Bless your Heart” means “Yer an idiot/dumb shit!”

      Mr/Ms Google puts it more diplomatically: it’s “a passive-aggressive way of insulting someone.”

      Regrettably, my “Heart” had been “Blessed” times far too numerous to mention.

  5. I didn’t respond earlier but very much appreciated your thorough dissection of the Larry Nassar sentencing phase of the trial. Yes, I had determined he was guilty as charged — being guilty had nothing to do with the circus his sentencing had become with the presiding judge. Thanks for the great job you do.

  6. #2 ““As a dog that returneth to his vomit, so is the fool that repeateth his folly. ‘Sicut canis qui revertitur ad vomitum suum, sic imprudens qui iterat stultitiam suam.’””

    Not that the comment isn’t inaccurate…but why the need to Latinize that aphorism? It’s straight out of Proverbs…not some Roman philosopher.

  7. #1 I’ve been saying it for a while, our society is leaning towards vigilante justice and the Larry Nassar sentencing is a perfect example of how society is negatively infecting our justice system.

    #2 Potty mouth has become more acceptable in our society, almost expected now for political activists, and Clinton has climbed on the activism bandwagon and is showing off her potty mouth, big freaking surprise. Note: Usually people that feel free to exhibit a potty mouth on video (a permanent record) use it as standard language off video; the video with Hillary Clinton’s potty mouth is signature significance.

    #4 Governor Walker in Wisconsin had to face Orwellian “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” propaganda poison in a myriad of political attacks and witch hunting John Doe investigations after Act 10 was passed in Wisconsin. When you’re part of the political left and your tunnel visioned goals make you believe that the ends justify the means, this kind of unethical shit becomes standard fare. Now they’re talking about investigations of investigations of investigations in Wisconsin. This tactic the political left is using to constantly keep their political opposition on the defense is completely surrounding their political opponents with attacks from all directions in an effort to turn over every rock on the planet searching of dirt and prevent elected officials from governing; this shit is really getting old.

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