It’s a beautiful morning!
1. When “Everybody Does it” isn’t just a rationalization. I was asked by a law firm to render an opinion as to whether particular conduct was a violation of the legal ethics rules. A legal ethics opinion—bar associations issue these periodically to cover gray areas– in the jurisdiction said that it was, but the opinion was over 20 years old. The reasoning given in the opinion for declaring the conduct unethical was that the practice was “new to the jurisdiction” and might mislead or confuse the public.
Today, however, my research showed, the conduct is commonplace in that jurisdiction. Many, many law firms engage in it. What was new two decades ago is new no longer, and the reasoning for the opinion’s conclusion was based on conditions that no longer exist. Moreover, no firm has been punished for the conduct, and won’t be.
The firm was concerned that the legal ethics opinion had not been over-ruled or withdrawn. I said that it didn’t have to be. “Everyone” was engaged in the conduct it forbade, the bar had allowed “everyone” to do it, and if an issue was raised now, I am 100% certain that the old opinion would be withdrawn as no longer reasonable or germane.
2. One more human feature that makes ethics harder: the ability to simultaneously hold two contradictory and mutually exclusive beliefs.
I was watching one of the apparently inexhaustible supply of cable shows about haunting and paranormal investigations with my wife. This one climaxed in a session with a Ouija board, and the love of my life uttered, within seconds of each other, these two statements:
- “It’s amazing how many otherwise intelligent people really believe in ghosts and demons.”
- “Ouija boards! I wouldn’t allow one of those things in the house. I’m not taking any chances.
I have heard many other friends and acquaintances endorse both of these positions as well.
3. It is the study of how one discerns the truth, after all. Who needs it? They no longer teach ethics in our education system, and now apparently philosophy is on the way out. Claremont Graduate University in California will be closing the PhD program in philosophy and terminating two tenured faculty. Apparently the move was dictated by budget and “market considerations.” The Claremont colleges in Southern California are a distinguished and growing batch consisting of Pomona, Scripps, Harvey Mudd, Claremont-McKenna, and Pitzer. They still have a philosophy faculty, but I wonder for how long.
I was tempted to check the curriculum of these schools to see what kinds of courses were deemed worthy of support while a graduate degree in philosophy was not, but I decided that it would make my head explode.
4. Where are the fact-checkers? Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been making the rounds on the news media, and this “Face of the Democratic Party” utters one non-fact after another with total certitude and charm, and resembles, for all the world, the worst bullshitter-activist you knew in college. Here is a painful segment from “The Daily Show”…
You probably noticed that she represented the total military budget as the budget increase. Whatever.
The question is: where are the fact-checkers, who would have a field day with her pie-in-the-sky nonsense? In the New York Times today, the paper wastes type disputing President Trump’s claim that the 4.1 GDP report is “historic.” Seriously? Doesn’t everyone understand by now how this guy talks? Besides “historic” can mean anything that happened; it’s a part of history, so it’s historic. Trump uses superlatives interchangeably, randomly, and often imprecisely. If the news media is going to dispute every politician’s use of a silly hyperbole–well never mind, they aren’t going to. Mostly just Trump’s. But Ocasio-Cortez is seriously misinforming people, and the news media has a duty to point that out. Ten days ago, PolitiFact and FactCheck.org did rebut her especially absurd explanation of the positive employment figures but she has been spewing non-stop socialist gibberish since.
Too cute to fact-check?
5. And the The NFL Anthem Protest Ethics Train Wreck, dumb as ever, is still rolling. I considered writing a full post on this, because it really irritates me, but this particular train wreck is fueled by sheer ignorance, arrogance and stupidity, and ethics is powerless against them.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has ordered that his players must stand for the National Anthem. It’s his team, his product, his employees, and the field is their workplace. He has every right to set their working conditions. Never mind…the athletes who presume to “make their voices heard” on complex issues “are loath to give up what many see as their right to speak freely in a public square, say they are not protesting the national anthem but trying to raise awareness about police brutality toward African-Americans and other forms of social injustice.”
The players can see protesting in their uniforms before a stadium full of people who paid to see them give each other concussions and not presume to play politics as their right all they want, just as they can believe the world is flat and that the moon is made of cheese, but the fact is that they have no such right. The fact is that the workplace, in their case a football field, is not “the public square.” The fact is that if you pick the playing of the National Anthem as the time to stage your meaningless protest, you cannot claim that you are not protesting the anthem—especially when some players say that they are protesting the anthem.
Meanwhile, the players have moved the metaphorical ball not one inch in explaining how their knee-fest raises “awareness about police brutality toward African-Americans and other forms of social injustice.” It’s been almost two years, and the protest remains incoherent. What “other forms of social injustice”? What specific policy changes are the players advocating? How does their weekly stunt help inform, or build consensus? The answers are “none,” “none,” and “it doesn’t.”
One of the more articulate and outspoken kneelers, Malcolm Jenkins of the Philadelphia Eagles, called Jones a “bully.” Are all employers who tell employees how they want their business run “bullies”?
“I think it’s unfortunate that you have owners like him that use his position to intimidate and intentionally thwart even the idea of his players thinking individually or having a voice about issues that affect their communities daily, which is unfortunate,” Jenkins told reporters.
Oddly, no reporter asked, “How has Jones stopped you from thinking or speaking about anything? He just requires that you do it on your own time, like every other American.”
Then there is Kenny Stills, a wide receiver on the Miami Dolphins, who said the league didn’t need an anthem policy and that players should be able to “do what they wanted.” No, employees can not “do what they want” while they are collecting a salary. Has any group of employees in labor history articulated a weaker, more ignorant, less justified position? The NFL players’ union has told the NFL now that it will fight what it sees as limits on the right to free speech. There’s that “sees” again. It’s not a limit on free speech.
That is a fact.
Why should I care about the political views of people who don’t know what they are talking about? Why should anyone?