Easter Ethics Warm-Up, 4/21/19: As Ethics Lays Some Eggs…

Happy Easter!

1.  A cultural note: there is no discernible Easter programming anywhere on TV, cable or network. Oh, TCM is playing “Easter Parade” and “King of Kings” in prime time, but that’s it. ‘Twas not always thus.

2. Speaking of TCM…Bravo for the classic movie network’s teaming with Fandango to offer big screen presentations of John Wayne’s “True Grit” in May. They could have justifiably chosen many other Westerns equally worthy or more so, like “Shane” or “High Noon.” I like to think that choosing the Duke’s Oscar winning performance is an intentional rebuke to the recent attack on Wayne’s legacy by the social media mob, a true “Fill your hand, you son of a bitch!” to the cultural airbrushers and statue-topplers.

I’ll be there, cheering Rooster on.

3. Other than journalists, have any other professionals debased themselves and their professional integrity more flagrantly that lawyers and law professors in their determination to Get Trump? This article in Slate by a law professor argues that asking or telling one’s lawyer to do something that the lawyer refuses to do—like firing Robert Mueller—can be criminal obstruction of justice. By this theory, every time a client says that he wants the lawyer to assist in an illegal act, it’s a crime.  But that’s not how attorney-client relationships work. The attorney is obligated to say, when appropriate, “No, you can’t do that, and I won’t do that for you, and here’s why.” In the end, it is indistinguishable from the client asking the lawyer’s advice, because clients only have the power to order a lawyer to do a very limited number of things, like accepting a settlement.

The professor’s argument also assumes that Trump firing Mueller would be obstruction of justice. Not only is this unprovable—that would have to be his intent—the President had a perfectly good reason to fire the special counsel, just as he had good reason to fire James Comey. Mueller’s investigation had been tainted many ways, and since Trump knew he was innocent, he saw the exercise as a calculated scheme to make it impossible for him to do his job. Firing Mueller and ending the investigation  would have been really, really stupid politically, but it wouldn’t be obstruction.

This, however, is how desperate “the resistance” is to bootstrap some kind of impeachment theory.

4.  Shouldn’t college students have learned the definition of “safe”? At a “town meeting,” George Mason University’s president and other administrators had to listen to this idiocy from students protesting the hiring of Justice Kavanaugh for a part-time teaching gig in Great Britain:  “In hiring Kavanaugh, to what extent did you consider the mental health of the survivors on campus and how that might affect them and their education?” one male student asked. Boy, would I be a lousy university president. I would have answered, “If any student here has her mental health damaged because a Supreme Court Justice is teaching a course across the Atlantic, and a politically motivated accuser tried to derail his nomination with a 30-year-old, unsubstantiated, recovered memory of alleged misconduct when he was in high school, then that student’s education is already at risk, because that student has lost touch with reality.”

Instead, the University refused to engage with the protesters, simply listening and saying, in essence, ‘We acknowledge your concerns, but our decision stands.’

5. Stop making me defend Eric Swalwell! Or, if you like, “Stop making me defend facile anti-gun fanatic single- issue Presidential candidates with as much chance at being elected as my dog.” NRA  spokesperson and right-wing commentator Dana Loesch challenged Rep. Swalwell to a Second Amendment debate, and he tweeted that he wouldn’t debate a “mouthpiece. I don’t aim down, so I don’t debate mouthpieces. But send me your president, Oliver North. I’ll debate him anywhere.”

Loesch then pulled the gender card pulled the gender card. “Your response is pretty sexist — you’ll debate a man but not me, a woman, got it. I’m a mom and a lifetime member,” she wrote. Naturally, other feminists piled on via social media.

No, Swalwell’s tweet wasn’t sexist at all. Loesch is a mouthpiece, and Swalwell is completely within fair political practice to insist on debating the NRA’s head rather than his surrogate. He would have had the same response if Loesch were a male.

Conservatives can’t complain about progressives using cheap accusations of racism and sexism  to deflect criticism if they do it themselves.

I must also point out that Loesch is a poor gun advocate, and I suspect chosen for the role more for her pulchritude than her skills at advocacy. North is a much tougher adversary . I will give Dana kudos for tweeting to Swalwell, “I’m your huckleberry,” a clever reference to another fine Western.

30 thoughts on “Easter Ethics Warm-Up, 4/21/19: As Ethics Lays Some Eggs…

  1. Had Trump been smart, the moment Sessions recused himself he should have relieved Sessions on all AG responsibilities. The Dems push for recusals of Sessions and now Barr is to ensure there is no AG that could have demanded to see a predicate crime before a special counsel was appointed. With Sessions recused and Rosenstein somewhat questionable as to objectivity Comey got his special counsel which in I truly believe was designed to “F” up the Trump presidency.

  2. The professor’s argument also assumes that Trump firing Mueller would be obstruction of justice. Not only is this unprovable—that would have to be his intent—the President had a perfectly good reason to fire the special counsel, just as he had good reason to fire James Comey. Mueller’s investigation had been tainted many ways, and since Trump knew he was innocent, he saw the exercise as a calculated scheme to make it impossible for him to do his job. Firing Mueller and ending the investigation would have been really, really stupid politically, but it wouldn’t be obstruction.

    Is there a strict, rigorous definition of obstruction of justice?

  3. There have been a lot of Easter themed documentaries in blocks on archaeology and Christianity on channels like Travel, Science, and Nat Geo channels. (I remember an interesting factoid that there was more than one Bethlehem but only one Nazareth with a contemporary dig) None today though.

    2: While not a big fan of that particular movie (I like Quiet Man better) I am getting so tired of this infinite extension of teenage angsty wallowing and desperate need to reject as much as possible of what earlier generations valued and sacrificed for. It is a trope about teens rejecting so much of their parents, but it is a natural stage, usually ended with marriage and parenthood. Then the grownup willingness to put in time and effort for gradual long term reward makes flash in the pan rebellion and tantrums blind to reality.

    My first political tantrum came when I was under eighteen when a challenger split the incumbent’s party and the other party won with a candidate I had serious doubts about their skill. Sadly, almost no presidential candidate I wanted to win did. So I’ve had a lot of practice sucking it up until next time. I’d thought that happened to most people, but people seem to have lost the ability, the sportsmanship or graciousness, to accept losing. And that seems to have become a virus- affecting so many who are surely old enough to have lost before helicoptering. They just keep rejecting anything their parents or grandparents valued: history, ethics, culture, morals, etc. The Eagles’ song ‘Get Over It’ should be an anthem.

    I’m beginning to think it’s becoming a confluence of boomer remembered anti-Duke and anti-Vietnam, along with the Millenials being sheltered from economics and consequences. The other generational cohorts who resist this tsunami aren’t enough.

    4: ‘the University refused to engage with the protesters, simply listening and saying, in essence, ‘We acknowledge your concerns, but our decision stands.’

    This is probably the only way to disengage from crazy, and far better than many colleges of late.

  4. 3. Professionals debasing themselves

    One of the problems discussing Trump’s actions in regard to the Mueller investigation is that his opponents are completely convinced he is incapable of a non-criminal motive. Yes, some of them are so far gone that even God whispering that Trump’s motives were non-criminal wouldn’t matter to them.

    However, I do think many of Trump’s detractors honestly believe that Trump is an evil man, and that his every act is inspired by moral turpitude rather than something as banal as anger or self-interest. Given that, it is impossible for these people to see the weakness of their own argument. There is certainly evidence, when construed in the light of a presumptive malicious will, that would support that thinking. They are convinced that it could not be otherwise.

    So it seems to be with the law professor. Yes, his bias probably handicaps his reason to the extent he can’t conceive of Trumps actions as being other than obstruction. It’s sad, but the reality is, this is more of a disability inflicted by irreconcilable bias than anything else.

    4. Definition of safe

    Better if they simply asked students who felt the could not feel safe at a school that hired Kavanaugh to go to school somewhere else. That, at least, would’ve focused their minds on the choice that should face them when their demands are ignored.

    5. Swallwell

    Conservatives can’t complain about progressives using cheap accusations of racism and sexism to deflect criticism if they do it themselves.

    Sure they can. It’s called a refusal to bring a knife to a gunfight. You can ask conservatives not to stoop to the level of the Left and fight with the same weapons used against them, but that has been a demonstrated losing strategy for years.

    But having said that, it surely is your job as an ethics expert to make this point, and it’s our job to nod our heads sagely and agree. I can lament the necessity of fighting dirty while understanding the necessity of doing it anyway.

    North would be much too tough an adversary for a fool like Swallwell. Swallwell’s arguments are so transparently stupid that any unbiased scorekeeper would declare such a debate over before it began. Even Loesch is too tough for Swallwell, who, regardless of his skill (assuming he has some that he has not yet revealed), is, in the vernacular of poker, drawing dead.

    Finally, Loesch’s use of Val Kilmer’s words as Doc Holiday are priceless.

    • There are ways of turning an someone’s cheap shots back at them without being a hypocrite. One way would be the next time the Dems try the sexist/racist/homophobe dodge, somebody points out, “Remember when Swallwell turned down debating Dana Loesch, a woman, but said he’d debate Oliver North, a man how is THAT not bigoted, by your standards?” Basically, you don’t actually use said cheap shot yourself, you point out how the cheap shot COULD be used against the shooter.

      • Yes, but unfortunately, the only way these “ways” you describe don’t amount to unilateral disarmament is if they actually work.

        Time and again, the attention span of the American public has proven not to be up to the task of the kind of rebuttal you describe. It also appeals to reason instead of the viscera, a strategy we know does not work in the social media age. Alas.

    • I’m torn about the whole Dana Loesch thing. She is an NRA spokesperson, but most NRA spokespeople are not that exclusively. It is sort of like being an actor who does ads for Miller Lite, but you also have a site that does beer reviews. Yes, you work for Miller Lite, but you also have an voice separate from Miller Lite in the beer industry. Colion Noir is similar. They speak for the NRA sometimes, and sometimes they have a voice separate from the NRA.

      Loesch seems mostly known for her NRA work, while people like Noir have a following that would be undiminished if their status with the NRA was severed altogether.

      • You are right, of course, about both Loesch and Noir. Loesch is mainly the face, or a face of the NRA, of which there are several.

        After thinking about this, I think it even more fair that Swallwell debate a high-profile NRA representative like Loesch, and not be able to demand the attention of the president of the organization.

        Swallwell is just a congressman, and congressmen who do not chair committees of import simply don’t have the standing to demand a debate with the head of an organization that has millions of members and purports to represent as many as 100 million gun owners. Congressmen have considerable power acting as a collective, but as individuals, they simply don’t command enough authority representing only a few hundred thousand people.

        So while a U.S. Senator, the Speaker of the House, or a powerful committee chair might have the standing to demand the NRA send it’s president to a debate with them, a back-bencher like Swallwell, even one in the midst of a Quixotic primary campaign for president, does not.

    • As many people have pointed out, Swalwell, as a candidate, is barely in the single digits among 2020 contenders. Someone in his position should be glad to publicly debate anyone. Unless, you know, he’s just grandstanding because he knows he would lose.

    • While I can’t recall when I last watched a pay per view episode of anything, a debate between House Member Salwell and Ms. Loesch would interest me up to, or beyond, a price point of several hundred dollars.

  5. I have to say that my own field of psychology is not impressing me much. Offering a public diagnosis of someone with whom you have never spoken is clearly against the ethics of my one-time profession.

  6. Re #4: Somehow I thought Supreme Court Justice was a full-time job. Just how busy are they in the average year that Justice Kavanaugh can get away to do this?

  7. I enjoy FathomEvents.com screenings with TMC. Nothing like South Pacific on the big screen. I’ve been wanting and waiting for Lawrence of Arabia. It’s showing in September. I’ll be there in May for True Grit. Rooster and The Duke are larger than life.

  8. Am I alone in my certitude that if Oliver North agreed to debate Swallwell, Swallwell would find some excuse not to participate in that debate, either? There’s no way he would actually debate a knowledgeable, well-spoken adversary on the topic, because he doesn’t really know that much about the subject, and is just trying to use it as his emotional-appeal gimmick to overcome his disqualifying white-maleness and break out from the rest of the crowd of clowns running for the Democratic nomination.

    • has Rugby ever ‘done business’ with a Russian wolfhound?

      Since both are consenting adults, that would be a private matter and none of your business. Also, everyone does it, and why are you such a prude? A cigar is just a cigar.

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