Monthly Archives: April 2018

Ethics Hero: U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley

Usually it is a sign of loyalty and responsibility when a subordinate takes the fall for his or her superior in the best interests of the organization. Not in this instance, however. U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley was the victim of another inexcusable example of  White House incompetence, and was designated to take the fall. She refused.

Brava.

White House aides tried to blame Haley for speaking on national television about the administration’s plans to roll out new sanctions against Russia when the President had decided to defer them but never informed her of his course correction.White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, either on his own or according to direction, said in a statement that Haley had suffered “momentary confusion” and gotten “out ahead of the curve.”  Haley didn’t stand for it, and demanded and received an apology. “With all due respect, I don’t get confused,” she said.

Says Politico:

“But the sanctions episode is a stark reminder that this president has little compunction about letting his top staffers and appointees dangle. As the White House scrambled to explain the president’s change of heart on issuing Russia sanctions, Haley became a convenient target for West Wing aides working to smooth a ragged decision making process without blaming the president himself.”

Good. The White House needs such a reminder, and needs to be embarrassed, publicly. This kind of ridiculous sloppiness has plagued the Trump Presidency from the start, and while I doubt that he is capable of learning and reform, covering for his incompetence will just guarantee more and worse.

Before Kudlow tried to make Haley Trump’s scapegoat, the White House spun that while the President signed off on sanctions legislation last week, the announcement was delayed because the Treasury Department did not have the legislation ready.  Oh, it was the Treasury Department’s fault then. Welllllno. The White House sent talking points to spokespersons the day before Haley’s TV appearance. It just forgot to alert the President’s official voice in the international body known as the United Nations. Hey, anyone can make a mistake!

Morons. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: “Boy, Am I Sick Of This Stuff” Edition

Morning….

1. Once again, the Orwell Catch-22. Ethics Alarms has several times flagged the unconscionable use of the Orwellian ” If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear’ in the news media and among the resistance as they try to demonize the President of the United States for insisting on basic principles of due process and legal procedure. (Here, for example.) How did the Left come to such a state where they embraced this unethical concept, which is totalitarian to the core, and the antithesis of liberal thought? It is pure corruption, and forces fair Americans to side with the President and his defenders whether they want to or not.

To get a sense of how insidious this trend is, read Jonathan Chait’s recent effort for New York Magazine. Chait isn’t an idiot, but he’s so biased that he often sounds like one, as in his ridiculously blind 2016 essay declaring that “The 2016 Election Is a Disaster Without a Moral.”

This time, he makes the argument that President Trump must be guilty of horrible crimes because various Trump allies have denied that Michael Cohen will “flip” on his client, meaning that he would testify against him. Lawyers can’t testify against their clients, even if they have knowledge of criminal activity. They can testify to client efforts to involve them in criminal activity prospectively, because requests for advice regarding illegal acts are not privileged. Chait, however, doesn’t observe this distinction: he is simply towing the ugly If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear’ position that has been adopted, to their shame, by many left-leaning pundits and supposedly legitimate news organizations like the New York Times. Look at this section in Chait piece, for example: Continue reading

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From The Ethics Alarms “Horrible People Files”: The Vile Progressive Professor (Yes, Another One, and Yes, I Would Fire Her)

Randa Jarrar, a professor in the English department at California State University, Fresno (That’s her above: am I the only one that finds her expression unsettling?)  tweeted an hour after Barbara Bush’s death was announced,

“Barbara Bush was a generous and smart and amazing racist who, along with her husband, raised a war criminal. Fuck  outta here with your nice words.”

Later, she added that she was happy that George W. Bush was probably sad that his mother had died, and…

“PSA: either you are against these pieces of shit and their genocidal ways or you’re part of the problem. That’s actually how simple this is. I’m happy the witch is dead. Can’t wait for the rest of her family to fall to their demise the way 1.5 million Iraqis have.”

After her ugly Twitter hate-storm tweets generated more than 2,000 critical replies, the professor posted a phone number suggesting that it was a way to reach her. No, it was really the number of a  crisis and suicide prevention center, causing their phones to be swamped.Tweeted Eugene Gu, MD, a pediatric surgeon,

“Replying to @randajarrar. Your freedom of speech does not entitle you to have all these people spam an actual mental health crisis line. Please stop,”

This completely gratuitous embarrassment to CSU Fresno caused the president of the school to respond with a public statement, also via Twitter: Continue reading

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The Unknown Ethics Dunce And The Date Refund Invoice

Indianapolis  resident Amanda Burnett, 23, had a dinner date with a man she didn’t relate to very well. What she ate is pictured above: it’s not exactly Le Cirq, but he paid the tab.

She decided to stop answering his texts, cutting off contact with him. A few weeks later, he sent her this, an invoice for the cost of her meal and drinks…

…followed by this text… Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/18/2018: The Bad, The Beautiful, And The Stupid

Good morning, everyone…

1. Tales of the King’s Pass. Fox News put out a statement saying that Sean Hannity had its “full support.” We can assume that means no punishment, no sanctions, not even any public regrets, despite the fact, and it is a fact, that the right-wing talk-show host-turned-Trump propagandist went on the air and defended Trump’s fixer, Michael Cohen, without mentioning the fact that Hannity was Cohen’s client. Thus Fox is announcing, in effect, that undisclosed conflicts of interest are just fine and dandy if your ratings are good enough. This also means that Fox News is admitting that it really doesn’t care about candor, honesty, and objectivity, since it will ignore blatant violations of all three if the profit is sufficient.

In fairness to Fox, Hannity’s blatant biases toward all things Trump are no more egregious than the open Obama bias displayed across the mainstream media’s full spectrum of journalists and pundits; it just stands out more because he has less company. However, this is a specific conflict of interest, with Hannity having undisclosed connections to a newsmaker that could reasonably affect his commentary. The closest parallel would be ABC’s George Stephanopoulos reporting on the Clinton Foundation’s dubious activities without telling viewers that he was a $75,000 donor. ABC didn’t discipline him, either, but at least he made a public apology on the air.

To make the King’s Pass case even stronger, after Politico reported this week that dinnertime news anchor Bret Baier played nine holes of golf with President Trump over the weekend, Fox News acknowledged that Baier was admonished by the president of the network.  I don’t agree with the reprimand at all. The opportunity to spend that kind of time with a President is invaluable, a rare opportunity to acquire insight and access over an extended period of time. The idea, I assume, is that it creates the illusion of chumminess. It’s a dumb illusion. If I were a journalist,  I would play golf with anyone if it allowed me to learn something. If I were president of a network, I’d reprimand a reporter for turning down such an opportunity.

2. The Virtue-Signaling Hall Of Fame. Starbucks is reacting to the PR nightmare arising out of the arrest of two black men for refusing to order anything while waiting for a companion in a Philadelphia Starbucks by a grand gesture: it will close all U.S. stores and corporate offices on the afternoon of May 29 for “employee racial bias training.” I suppose this is good crisis management, though cynical and non-substantive. It also permanently tars as a racist the Starbucks ex-manager, who says she was following a locale-specific company policy in an area that had experienced problems with loitering. Continue reading

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Ethics Hero: Justice Neil Gorsuch

The Supreme Court today struck down a law that allowed the government to deport legal immigrants who commit certain kinds of crimes, ruling that the law was unconstitutionally vague. The vote was 5 to 4, with Justice Neil Gorsuch voting with the court’s left-leaning block. The case was Sessions v. Dimaya, first argued in January 2017 before the  eight-member court left vulnerable to deadlocks by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. And a deadlock it was,  4 to 4. The case was reargued last October after Justice Gorsuch’s confirmation again gave the Court a full contingent of nine.

The dispute concerned James Dimaya, a native of the Philippines who became a lawful permanent resident in 1992, when he was 13. In 2007 and 2009, he was convicted of residential burglary. The government sought to deport him under a law that made “aggravated felonies,” which the immigration law defined to include any offense “that, by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense,” justification for deportation.

In concurring with the majority opinion, authored by Justice Elena Kagan, Justice Gorsuch wrote that the law violated due process requirements by being unconstitutionally vague. “Vague laws,” he wrote, “invite arbitrary power.”

The interest here at Ethics Alarms isn’t whether the decision was right or wrong. It is that Gorsuch decided the case on the law and his view of it, not partisan loyalties, not knee-jerk cant, and not as a cog in a ideological block. In other words, he did what  judges, and especially Supreme Court Justices, are supposed to do, but which the news media, politicians, activists and those who neither understand nor respect the law always assume they don’t do: analyze each case according to the law and the facts, and decide without being influenced by political agendas.

Judge Gorsuch’s vote demonstrates his integrity, and speaks for the integrity of the entire Court and the judicial system. There were countless articles, when Gorsuch was nominated by President Trump, that represented him as an automatic reflex vote for whatever future results conservatives lusted for. This was an insult to Gorsuch, judges, the Court, and the United States.

You can read Gorsuch’s opinion here. Continue reading

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Clearing Up A Matter Of Widespread Confusion: How Lawyers Acquire Accidental Clients

When I pointed out this morning that by Sean Hannity’s own description of his relationship to Trump fixer Michael Cohen, he was Cohen’s client, several commenters protested, including a lawyer or two. This suggests that many more were similarly confused, and it is no surprise. A disturbing number of lawyers fall into the trap of acquiring “accidental clients.” There are many ways this can happen, but the most insidious of them is this, which people like me constantly and repeatedly warn lawyers about, often to no avail.

A relative or a friend approaches you, a lawyer, at a party. He or she asks you a question about some legal issue, and you give an off-the-cuff answer. Because you are a lawyer, and because you gave advice, however vague, that individual accepts it as a free legal opinion, and also assumes that the conversation was confidential. Usually nothing happens. Sometimes, however, the friend or relation acts based on your advice. If the results turn out badly, he or she may sue for malpractice, and sometimes will win damages. In an infamous case that is still good law, an individual went to a medical malpractice specialist to engage him to sue a hospital. After describing the facts, the potential client was told, “You have no case,” and informed that the lawyer would not accept the representation. But the individual relied on that statement, and didn’t bring a suit until the statute of limitations had run. Then he learned, from another lawyer, that he did have a valid case, though one he could no longer pursue. The first lawyer was sued for malpractice, and the court found that indeed “You have no case” constituted legal advice, and the advice was relied upon, meaning that an attorney-client relationship had been formed. Continue reading

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