Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/27/18: Welcome Nausea, Disillusionment, Guilt, And Apathy…

Well, it’s morning.

1. Nausea. This is a real headline from this morning’s New York Times:

Truce on Trade Follows Route Obama Paved; Trump Claims Victory in Crisis He Started

Gee, the Times morphed into Media Matters so slowly that I hadn’t noticed!* In fact I had noticed, but that headline is a virtual declaration that the Times is now a fully committed partisan organ of the Democratic Party, and is no longer even pretending to be practicing ethical or objective journalism. Not only does the headline represent opinion rather than reporting, the Times was so desperate to color the story of the European Union tentatively reaching a new trade agreement with the U.S. that it felt it had to project its bias before anyone could read the story.

*With a nod to blogger Glenn Reynolds, who uses this as a regular jibe

2. Disillusionment. Netflix has finally concluded “The Staircase,” the now 13 episode documentary following the bizarre case of novelist Michael Peterson, who was convicted of murdering his wife Kathleen in 2001. Directed by French filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, the first eight episodes aired on the Sundance Channel in 2005 and were an immediate sensation. It would be unethical to spoil the story or the documentary for you if you haven’t seen it, but a couple of spoilers lie ahead.

Anyone who continues to argue that it is ridiculous and “treasonous” for anyone to challenge the competence, objectivity, motives and trustworthiness of law enforcement, including the FBI, and prosecutors after watching this horror show has astounding powers of selective outrage.

The series also made me want to throw heavy objects at the TV screen as a result of the lazy, passive, indefensible conduct of the prosecutors and the North Carolina judge, who resided over every iteration of the case for 15 years. Since there was no way a rational jury could find Peterson guilty beyond a reasonable doubt based on the evidence, ethical prosecutors would never have charged and tried Peterson. (A jury finding a defendant guilty on inadequate evidence doesn’t necessarily mean that the case was a just one.) It is especially infuriating for the viewer (so imagine what Peterson thinks) to hear the judge today blandly concede that two controversial pieces of evidence he allowed into the trial were, upon reflection,  unjustly prejudicial, and that he believes that there was ample reasonable doubt for the jury to acquit. Then he tries to make the argument that the “system works” based on a mess of a case and an investigation that still hasn’t explained how Kathleen Peterson died.

It does explain, however, why so many Americans don’t trust the justice system or the alleged professionals who run it.

3. Guilt.  Schadenfreude occurs when one experiences pleasure, joy, or satisfaction from the troubles, failures, or humiliations of someone else. The feeling itself is not unethical, for emotions, feelings and thoughts are never unethical. Nonetheless, it is a good idea for someone aspiring to be more ethical to minimize the ugly, mean or ethics-undermining thoughts rattling around in his or her skull, to the extent that it’s possible.

I am pondering this question because last night, while playing the Kansas City Royals, The New York Yankees’ best player (I would have voted for him as last season’s American League MVP), rightfielder Aaron Judge, was hit by a pitch and suffered a chipped wrist bone. He will be out of the line-up for at least three weeks.

This is bad news for the Yankees, which means it is good news for the Red Sox, who are currently 4.5 games ahead of New York in the AL East. The teams are extremely close in talent: both project to win over 105 games this season. Good news for the Red Sox means good news for me, since the fate of my emotional well-being has been embarrassingly dependent on the team since I was 11 years old, and in that respect, nothing has changed.

But objectively, I like Aaron Judge. He’s a wonderful, unique player; he is, unlike so many Yankee stars of the past, a genuinely nice guy; he is fun to watch and great for baseball, which is very important to American culture. Taking pleasure in his misfortune is straight-up Golden Rule defiance: if Boston’s best player—opinions differ regarding whether that would be Mookie Betts or J.D. Martinez–suffered a similar injury, someone would be talking me off a ledge right now. Ethically, I should be feeling sympathy for my Yankee fan friends, even the ones who mocked me mercilessly in 1978, when Bucky ^%$$#&$# Dent got lucky and popped a ball into the Fenway Green Monster net to win the single play-off game that gave the Yankees a title that the Red Sox seemed to have all wrapped up two months earlier.

I should be feeling compassion and pity for Judge, too. Nonetheless, self-interest is the most powerful bias of them all, and also a necessary one, essential to survival. I’ve concluded that it isn’t reasonable to hold human beings to an artificial standard that requires them to ignore the fact that an event benefits their interests. It is sufficient to recognize the ethical conflicts, make a note, be aware of the bias, and then move on.

Therefore, I’m officially glad Aaron Judge is injured.

4. Apathy. In case you wondered,I don’t care two shakes of a lamb’s tail about Michael Cohen’s tapes. The only reason they are newsworthy is as part of the concerted mainstream media effort to embarrass and undermine the President. Cohen, whom I flagged as incredibly unethical and sleazy years ago, will soon be disbarred. Tapes of client conversations are per se unethical, and also inadmissible in court. The tape played by CNN was incoherent, and did not provide evidence of any crime. The recording also did not involve acts occurring during Presidency. The election law violation theory is and has always been a ridiculous stretch by “resistance” lawyers like Richard Painter.

I always assumed that Trump, being the kind of person he obviously is, has numerous affairs, abortions, pay-offs and the like in his past, and anyone who voted for him (I did not) who didn’t assume that has the acumen of a door-stop. (This applies to Melania as well.)

The anti-Trump deranged are excited because Cohen says he’ll testify that the President knew—contrary to his claims— about  the “attempted collusion” meeting between Natalia Veselnitskaya and Jared Kushner, Don Trump Jr., and Paul Manafort in June of 2016, a meeting, it must be emphasized, that was neither illegal nor that resulted in anything substantive. From Business Insider:

CNN and NBC News reported on Thursday night that Cohen has no evidence that Trump had advance knowledge of the meeting, but is willing to testify about it under oath to the special counsel Robert Mueller… Cohen reportedly did not mention this new claim when he testified to two Congressional committees in 2017, according to CNN. Additionally, a person familiar with Cohen’s House Intelligence Committee testimony told CNN that Cohen said nothing at the time about whether or not Trump knew of the 2016 meeting.

This guy is an astoundingly unethical lawyer and a desperate creep.  He has no credibility at all. Cohen’s greatest negative impact on Trump is his existence: only a slimy individual who values ethics as much as I value the NFL would have a lawyer like Michael Cohen anywhere near him.


26 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/27/18: Welcome Nausea, Disillusionment, Guilt, And Apathy…

  1. And isn’t it interesting that Cohen is now represented by Clinton flak extraordinaire, Lanny xy$#% Davis? Gee, I wonder who’s paying Lanny’s fees? Remember when Cohen was being driven broke by having to pay a McDermott Will and Emery partner to defend him? Now he can afford Lanny Davis? Give me a break. Like that Michael Avenetti guy, I think or some other Democratic group (or even Bill and Hill) is (are) funding both these efforts, Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels. I really think the Clintons are furious. It’s their attempted revenge for Whitewater and Ken Starr and Monica Lewinsky and all the other sleaze and bimbo eruptions they had to deal with.

      • Yep. He’s the old joke. How do you tell a lawyer is lying? His lips are moving. And the NYT lionizes him almost daily.

        I bet Lanny and whoever is paying him essentially made Cohen an offer he couldn’t refuse. They probably paid his bill from McDermott Will for him.

  2. Here is an ethical out. Instead of saying you are glad he is injured why not say you are happy that the Yankees are not as strong a team for awhile. That is your self interest not that he is injured.

      • Would you be equally happy to see Aaron Judge temporarily out of the lineup for three weeks because he needed to attend to family matters or if the Yankees traded him away to Boston? Only if you wished him harm would you be happy to see him hurt. You praised him as a player so I see no deceit in saying you are glad he isn’t in the Yankee lineup as we head into the final stretch. I don’t think you want him hurt. You just want Boston to have a better chance at the playoffs.

  3. “Truce on Trade Follows Route Obama Paved; Trump Claims Victory in Crisis He Started.”

    Yeah, see, because it takes all of 8 years to set up a trade deal, and then just one meeting to execute it.

    I’m loving Obama’s third term much more than his first two.

  4. 1. It drives progressives MAD, MAD I say, that what Trump is doing works. Yes, he never should have been elected( and would not have been, had the progressive media not given him so much air time during the primaries.) Yes, he tends to act like a boor. Yes, they should take down Twitter for the sole purpose that it would stop him tweeting.

    All of that does not matter. Where it counts, Trump is getting results, and doing it in a way the so-called ‘experts’ have told us for years would not work. The State Department is have the galloping vapors over his conduct. Congress cannot decide to applaud, lynch him, or just stay drunk for the next 6 years. Hillary is beside herself: all this would have just happened on her watch, she believes, and the office was stolen from her! 🙂

    The NYT still the ‘paper of record?’ When they admit they are gaslighting you every day? They are never coming back as the entity you once believed in, Jack. They have fallen too far.

    2. Common Americans do not trust the justice system, nor the politicians who write the laws such that they personally profit. We are just becoming aware of how far our Republic has fallen, and wondering what to do about it.

    3. Any other team and I would frown on your reaction: it is bad luck, to say the least. However, this happened to the Yankees, who can have whatever is coming to them in spades.

    4. Can we end the investigation yet? The only ‘Russian Collusion’ was by Hillary and the Democrats, who we all know will never face justice for their actions.

  5. 2. During my relatively brief stint as a federal prosecutor, I was under the impression that wielding power on behalf of the state meant that you not only had to be a zealous advocate, but also were required to temper the incredible power that you had with a sense of justice. I believed that it was manifestly inappropriate for prosecutors to engage in the kinds of obfuscation and deliberate misdirection that I saw defense counsel aim at juries every day. That does not seem to be the case anymore. Federal and state prosecutors routinely work to improperly influence juries (New Orleans police shootings cases), conceal crucial evidence (Ted Stevens prosecution), overcharge luckless defendants (the Treyvon Martin and Baltimore police prosecutions) and use the enormous resources of their offices to establish a win at almost any cost. Given the wide reach of federal and state criminal law, where even selling straws get you hauled up before the magistrate, a prosecutorial bar with this kind of mindset is terribly dangerous. I haven’t seen this series but another Netflix series, “The Making of a Murderer” also gives you a sense of how badly the justice system could be contorted by unethical prosecutors.

      • the big issue is the qualified immunity prosecutors have, thus shielding them from accountability. Contrast to the private sector which is subject to strict liability in criminal cases.

        One thing I have noticed is that what deters people from taking the law into their own hands is the belief of a fair and impartial criminal justice system. If this perception is eroded, the deterrent effect would be reduced and more people will resort to taking the law into their own hands. Against these prosecutors, such an act may very well be ethically justified.

  6. 2. I’m not married so it’s not something I think I have to worry about. However, stories like these and others make me wonder what I would do if I had a spouse who was found dead under suspicious circumstances and I was innocent. I realize the justice system usually gets it right but would I be willing to cooperate and give an immediate statement to the police if my life were on the line? Or would I “lawyer up” immediately?

  7. I was told, during a Citizens Academy, to watch this video. The police are interested in making an arrest, and they are good at it.
    This is well worth the time to watch: it agrees with the interrogator I first heard this from.

    • Professor Duane, of Regent University here in Virginia, is a compelling speaker on many criminal law subjects and has written a book entitled “You Have the Right to Remain Innocent,” dealing with this topic

  8. “Tapes of client conversations are per se unethical, and also inadmissible in court.”

    Are you sure about that last part? The one bit of tape I heard had multiple voices on it, at least one of which has been identified as one of Trump’s employees. The presence of third parties would break privilege, wouldn’t it? In addition, it’s been reported that Trump (through his lawyers) has waived privilege. I think that makes the tapes admissible.

    • Always distinctions worth reminding people about (Not me, of course.) I wasn’t aware of the claim that there was a third party in the meeting taped. That still makes doing so unethical, but it would remove the privileged status. And most inadmissible evidence can be let in if the other side waives or consents.

  9. 3) I like Judge as well. However, given that the Yankees are a founding member of the Axis of Evil, what I hope is that they will fall out of the wild card in favor of the Mariners and A’s. That would make me happy.

    Of course I am prejudiced — those damn Yankees have broken my heart on more than one occasion in the playoffs and in more than one year. So it gladdens me when they — as a team — suffer misfortune. I really don’t wish ill onto (almost) any of their players, and certainly not Judge.

  10. I don’t normally jump into two year old entries, but I finally finished “The Staircase” this evening, having watched it over the last couple of weeks. I was familiar with the case thanks to true crime shows, such as “Forensic Files” and “Dominick Dunne’s Power, Privilege and Justice”. Of course, those episodes are old and end with Peterson’s conviction and the satisfaction that another bad guy has got what was coming to him.

    * You are correct that we were both more than a little disturbed at Judge Hudson’s attempt to justify his belief that the justice system worked in Peterson’s case, despite the fact that he himself admitted to allowing evidence that shouldn’t have been admitted (to say nothing of rejecting a dismissal of the charges against Peterson even after admitting from the bench that the evidence was prejudicial).
    * Peterson’s admonition to his children not to hate reminded me of Nixon’s words about not hating in return those who hate you.
    * Speaking of which, hate oozed out of the late Kathleen’s sister, Candace. My overall impression is of an angry woman who found a way to make sense out of her sister’s senseless death. I just shook my head during the Alford plea scene when she explained how she went from her brother-in-law’s advocate to his persistent accuser when she saw the photos of Kathleen’s injuries. She repeatedly cited as evidence of Peterson’s guilt the blood splatter testimony that had already been discredited. This is what happens when emotion is allowed to rule the day over reasoned debate. People actually think laws should be written because of the emotions of grief-stricken relatives.
    * Her snarky comments about defense attorney David Rudolf reminded me of those customers who used to come into McDonald’s in a bad mood and try to find fault with any small thing that they could embellish by leveling personal attacks against the employee by suggesting the person didn’t graduate high school or was a single mother on welfare.
    * That being said…my perspective changed when I realized that Peterson had commissioned this documentary. I found I was having trouble trusting his monologues, interviews and family scenes. As Paul Peterson (no relation) has pointed out, people’s behavior changes when the cameras are on. It’s why reality shows aren’t authentic. It makes me wonder what didn’t get in (besides the Petersons’ financial difficulties and Kathleen’s giant life insurance policy, that is). These scenes weren’t family videos to pull out and show at Christmas. When Michael kisses his baby grandson, quotes Shakespeare, visits Kathleen’s grave and bonds with his adopted daughters, it’s done for the camera. He may have done those things on his own anyway…but, what was done on camera was done for the camera.
    * And he could still be guilty. Clearly the evidence was tampered with and the expert testimony fabricated, but it doesn’t mean he’s innocent.

    It made an interesting complement to another Netflix series we finished this summer, “The Innocence Files”.

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