Mid-Day Ethics Refreshment, 6/12/2018: “Ethics Isn’t A Horse Race, It’s A Marathon” Edition

Good afternoon…

1. Culture rot symptoms. Once upon a time it would have been unthinkable and shameful for the owner of a losing horse in a Triple Crown race to claim that dirty tactics have affected the outcome. That, however, was before the loser of the 2016 Presidential election did the equivalent sour grapes act, loudly and continuously. This is how important cultural ethics norms fall off in chunks.

Justify becoming the only undefeated Triple Crown champion after Seattle Slew as he won the Belmont Stakes was immediately smeared  by Mike Repole, co-owner of fourth-place Vino Rosso and last-place Noble Indy. He didn’t claim Russian collusion, just equine collusion.

“Justify is a super horse. He is a Triple Crown winner and he’s undefeated,” said Repole “But I can see the stewards looking into this over the next couple of days. I probably expect them to look into reckless riding by Florent and bring him in to question him about what he was thinking and what his tactics were.”  He accused jockey Florent Geroux of riding Restoring Hope, Justify’s stablemate, to clear the way for Justify to win the race.

“It definitely seemed to me [Restoring Hope] was more of an offensive lineman than a racehorse trying to win the Belmont,” Repole told reporters, “and Justify was a running back trying to run for a touchdown.” Nice. the complaint instantly became the main story of the race, before Justify’s jockey and owners were able to bask in the rare accomplishment for a day or two. Ironically, Repole’s own Vino Rosso was assisted by similar “lineman” tactics by another horse, Noble Indy, like Vino Rosso trained by Todd Pletcher. Concludes racing expert Pat Forde,  “It’s almost certainly why Noble Indy was entered. Basically, Pletcher’s two-horse racing tactic simply ran up against a better two-horse racing tactic.”

And the tactic is legal. Never mind. Graceful losing is on the way out, thanks to our politicians.

2. He gets it, and he doesn’t even read Ethics Alarms! The Ethiopian cabbie who drove me home from the morning mandatory legal ethics seminar that I teach every month for newly-minted D.C. lawyers spent that first half of the trip complaining about President Trump. Then he said, “Now, I didn’t vote for him, but I respect him. I respect him because he is the President of my country, and my fellow citizens elected him. I can complain about him to you, because you are an American too. If a foreigner gets in my cab, however, and starts insulting the President, I pull over and order him out.”

3. Pity the EPA. There’s no denying it: EPA chief Scott Pruitt is already in the Hall of What? You’re kidding! for his deliberate flouting of government ethics rules. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I doubt there has ever been anything like it. Agency heads who do a tenth of the stuff Pruitt does are canned. The Verge has a useful compendium of his scandals big and small here. Pruitt is currently under 12 federal investigations for misuse of public funds and abusing his position to promote or demote EPA staffers.

Nevertheless, President Trump refuses to remove him, because Pruitt is a friend and confidante, and because, in the President’s eyes, he’s “doing a great job.”

The news media has been relentless in its criticism of Pruitt, and if the same biased, partisan reporters and pundits exposing him didn’t routinely attack any one connected to the administration whether they deserved it or not—Trump, you know—there might be a public outcry to get somebody in charge who knows the difference between ethics and a candied yam.

4. Here’s another Supreme Court decision that everyone is misrepresenting… The Supreme Court yesterday upheld Ohio’s method of cleaning its voting rolls. The court ruled that states may kick people off the rolls if they skip a few elections and then fail to respond to a notice from election officials. The vote was 5 to 4, the  conservative block of justices plus libertarian Kennedy prevailing over the three liberal women and Justice Breyer.

In Ohio, skipping a federal election cycle causes registered voters to be sent a notice. If they fail to respond to it and do not vote in the next four years, their names are taken off the list of eligible voters. A 2012 report from the Pew Center on the States determined that 24 million voter registrations were estimated to be invalid or significantly inaccurate, and that 2.75 million people were registered to vote in more than one state. This seems to justify periodically cleaning up the rolls, but no: like every other effort to maintain the integrity of elections, Ohio’s efforts were attacked as racist. In his dissent, Breyer wrote that the goal of ensuring the accuracy of voting rolls did not justify erecting obstacles to prevent eligible voters from casting ballots. What “obstacles,” though? If you vote, you stay on the list, if you don’t, all you have to do is return a card.

In his majority opinion, Justice Alito wrote that Congress “plainly reflects Congress’s judgment that the failure to send back the card, coupled with the failure to vote during the period covering the next two general federal elections, is significant evidence that the addressee has moved….The dissents have a policy disagreement, not just with Ohio, but with Congress. But this case presents a question of statutory interpretation, not a question of policy. We have no authority to second-guess Congress or to decide whether [Ohio’s notification program] is the ideal method for keeping its voting rolls up to date. The only question before us is whether it violates federal law. It does not.”

31 thoughts on “Mid-Day Ethics Refreshment, 6/12/2018: “Ethics Isn’t A Horse Race, It’s A Marathon” Edition

    • If four SCOTUS Justices can’t agree on this, what can they agree upon under the Constitution? Encouraging majority opinion. Discouraging dissent.

      For now, the electoral process and election integrity is marginally safer in Ohio and perhaps elsewhere. Let’s hope it stays that way.

    • If somebody’s removed after two years, a card, and four more years of not voting, can’t they simply re-register? Anyone? Beuhler?

      • That would require personal responsibility and some minor modicum of effort. This is not the society some are trying to build in the place of the one we built and have attempted to maintain.

    • By the way, Senator Schumer (D-NY) has already comlpained about this decision on twitter, how it goes against the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, how it suppresses voters, disenfranchises minorities, and so on and so forth.

  1. #1 I guess they were employing some Ricky Bobby Shake’n Bake tactics!
    #4 Yeah, but how are the dead people supposed to vote if they get purged off the lists? This is clearly discrimination against the non-living. It’s 2018, this kind of bigotry is totally unacceptable! Dead people’s voices are as equally valid as live people’s! /s

  2. “…claim that dirt tactics have effected the outcome.”

    At first I thought they rigged the sod on the track somehow!

  3. Your Ethiopian cabby probably became a naturalized citizen due to the diversity lotto which he won thanks to Teddy Kennedy. He should keep his mouth shut about any president in my opinion.

      • …and he was driving a cab?

        See, getting the ‘best’ people only works if you use them in their expertise.

        Maybe legal immigrants should show they have a job waiting, and they move to the front of the line? I dunno, this issue is needlessly complex and screwed up on purpose.

        • The question isn’t – we got a trained economist over here, how should we use him, as a cabbie or as a strategic advisor at a financial firm? (because there may not be any huge demand for strategic advisors at financial firms at the moment…the spots may be filled with more qualified candidates currently).

          The question IS – we have openings for cabbies, who do we want filling them? A trained economists who has aspirations beyond driving cabs just as soon as the opportunity arises or Derka Dan who may or may not be sympathetic to ISIS and …

          Now of course those options are polar opposites, but they do provide us clarity in what we ought to value.

    • And because he had to actually make an effort to become a citizen most likely knows more about the USA and it’s government then most “real” citizens.

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