A Monstrous Halloween Open Forum, Starting This Evening…

I am about to drive to New Jersey, where master singer/musician Mike Messer will assist me in presenting a special Halloween edition of “Ethics Rock Extreme,” our classic rock legal ethics seminar.  The three hour extravaganza will end around noon, whereupon my wife and I will commence the four+ hour trip back to Alexandria. I can’t promise that I’ll get a post or two up when I return, and I don’t want anyone thinking I’m dead if I don’t (liek last time), so here’s an open forum for Ethics Alarms readers to sound off and go crazy.

Ethically crazy, of course.

Observations On The Washington Post Op-Ed, “Why America Needs A Hate Speech Law”

Richard Stengel, a frequent contributor on MSNBC, a former editor of Time magazine, and the  State Department’s undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs in the Obama administration from 2013 to 2016 wrote this embarrassing, anti-free speech screed.

Observations:

1. In the past I have criticized newspapers and other publications for publishing irresponsible opinion pieces. This time, I want to thank and praise the Washington Post. Either intentionally or inadvertently, it has performed a public service by using its op-ed pages to expose the hypocrisy, intellectual bankruptcy, ethics ignorance and relentless totalitarian rot of their own ideological compatriots.

2. I might say the same about  Stengal, but he really seems to think that he is making a persuasive case. Imagine: a man whom President Obama  and his Democratic administration trusted as a high level State Department official  can make an argument like this…

Why shouldn’t the states experiment with their own version of hate speech statutes to penalize speech that deliberately insults people based on religion, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation?

Why, Richard? Oh, gee, I don’t know…maybe because “insult” is a completely subjective standard? Perhaps because Massachusetts, Vermont,California, and Oregon might decide that arguments against climate change cant is hate speech, like Holocaust denial? Maybe  because the 14th Amendment prohibits states from abridging the Bill of Rights? Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/30/2019: “Happy Birthday Little Sister!” Edition

Good Morning!

Today marks the birthday of my younger sister, whom I have referred to here frequently. Growing up with her and following her life and career imbued me with an early and ongoing appreciation of the effects of sexism and pro-male bias in society, and I’m indebted to her for that. She has always equaled or surpassed me in ability and enterprise, yet often watched me receive more credit or praise for the same things she could do and did without similar acclaim. I know she resented me for that (probably still does—she won’t read Ethics Alarms, for example), and it frequently bruised our relationship over the years. She also taught me about moral luck: in general, I have been persistently  lucky, and she has not, and the difference was so evident that I learned very early in life not to congratulate myself for how the dice fell. She is finally happy in retirement, is about to welcome the first grandchild for this generation of Marshalls, her two adult children are healthy and prospering, and her beloved Nationals just forced a Game 7 in the World Series. She will have a happy birthday. Good. She deserves it.

1. Tales of the double standard, and the imaginary double standard. MSNBC and much of the progressive noise machine has decided to paint Rep. Katie Hill as a victim of a “vast right wing conspiracy,” in Hillary’s immortal phrase, and a vicious husband. If he indeed was the one who shared the salacious photos of Hill involved in various sex acts,  vicious he certainly is. But how can anyone say, as lawyer Carrie Goldberg does, that  “Katie Hill was taken down by three things: an abusive ex, a misogynist far-right media apparatus, and a society that was gleeful about sexually humiliating a young woman in power…None of those elements would be here if it were a male victim. It is because she is female that this happened’? Nonsense, and deceptive nonsense.

Hill resigned because a House ethics investigation was underway regarding her admitted sexual affair with a Congressional staffer and an alleged affair with her legislative director. She was not going to be kicked out of Congress for either or both; she probably resigned in part because she knew the investigation was going to turn up more and worse. The Naked Congresswoman Principle also played a part, as I discussed here. Does anyone really believe that equivalent photos of a male member of Congress displaying his naughty bits in flagrante delicto (my late, great, law school roomie loved saying that phrase) with both sexes would be shrugged off by his constituents and the news media? Who are they kidding?

Hill was arrogant and reckless, and is paying the predictable price, though she was not smart enough to predict it. Trail-blazers—I’m not sure being the first openly bi-sexual member of Congress is much  of a trail to blaze, but never mind—are always under special scrutiny and have to avoid scandal at all costs. Did Hill ever hear of Jackie Robinson? Allowing those photos to come into existence showed terrible judgment; using her staff as a dating resource was hypocritical for a member of the  #MeToo party and workplace misconduct too.

The fact that she is being defended tells us all we need to know about the integrity of her  defenders. Continue reading

Wait, WHAT? Somebody’s Incompetent Here, And I Don’t Think It’s Me.

According to Breitbart, A USA TODAY/Suffolk poll found that only 36 % of those polled support the House voting to impeach the President, with 22%  telling pollsters that  Congress should continue with its impeachment inquiry but should not vote to remove him. Thirty-seven per cent say lawmakers should end their impeachment probe, while four percent remain undecided on the matter.

Regarding a Senate impeachment trial, however, 46 % are in favor of convicting President Trump and 47% are against. The pollsters  used telephone to contact 1,000 registered voters and was taken between October 23rd and 26th.

How is this possible? Saying that you don’t want the House to impeach but want the Senate to convict is like saying you don’t want someone arrested and charged with a crime, but you want him to be convicted and jailed. It makes no sense. Continue reading

And Yet Another Evening Ethics Watch, 10/29/2019, Because Everything Has Been Upside Down At ProEthics Lately…

Good evening again.

We’ll have to stop meeting like this.

1. Can’t make up my mind if I want there to be disastrous botched ball/strike call in Game 6 of the World Series or not. It will take one of those—a bad call that turns the game and eventually the World Series around to get MLB off its metaphorical butt and force it to establish an electronic pitch-calling system. Of course, it is worth noting that one of the most devastating wrong umpire calls in history stole a World Series away from the St. Louis Cardinals in 1985, and it took another 30 years for baseball to adopt an instant replay system that would have reversed it.

Don Denkinger was the first base umpire in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series in Kansas City.  The St. Louis Cardinals led the home team Royals by 3 games to 2, and tooka 1–0 lead in the 8th inning. In the bottom of the ninth, Jorge Orta, the leadoff batter for the Royals, hit a slow roller to Cards first baseman Jack Clark. Clark tossed the ball to his pitcher, Todd Worrell, who was covered first base. Orta was out by half a step, but Denkinger called Orta safe, even though television replays and photographs clearly showed that he was out by half a step. Orta eventually scored, allowing the Royals to go  on to win Game 6 by the score of 2–1.

Denkinger was the home plate umpire in the Series-deciding Game 7, apparently driving the angry Cardinals mad. Denkinger ultimately ejected both Herzog and pitcher Joaquín Andújar in the fifth inning, as the game deteriorated into Royals rout,  11–0 . Denkinger accepted that he had made a terrible call, but as was the ethics in baseball at the time, took the position that such mistakes were an unavoidable part of the game. In  aftermath of the 1985 World Series, Denkinger death threats, from Cardinals fans. Two St. Louis disc jockeys doxxed him, giving out the umpire’s telephone number and home address. He was a well-regarded umpire, who at 83 years of age will still sign photographs of “the Call” when asked.

I guess I don’t want to see another umpire suffer Denkinger’s  fate tonight. It is inevitable that there will be a bad call of a strike or ball that makes an umpire a lifelong pariah, unless baseball locks that barn door as soon as possible. Continue reading

Another Leap Down A Slippery Slope: Massachusetts Repeats The Michelle Carter Debacle

The Suffolk County (Mass.) District Attorney has charged Inyoung You, a 21-year-old South Korean native and former Boston College student,  with involuntary manslaughter in the suicide of 22-year-old Alexander Urtula, who jumped to his death on May 20, 2019, the day he was going to graduate.  You was in cellphone contact with her boyfriend that day, and was at the scene when he plunged to his death.

While Urtula struggled with mental health issues throughout the pair’s 18-month relationship,  You was “physically, verbally, and psychologically abusive, and was so “wanton and reckless” that it  “resulted in overwhelming Mr. Urtula’s will to live,” the DA told reporters. “She was aware of his spiraling depression and suicidal thoughts brought on by her abuse, yet she persisted, continuing to encourage him to take his own life.”  Among the over 47,000 text messages sent by You in the two months leading up to Urtula’s suicide, here were hundreds “where (You) instructed him” to take his own life, as well as “claims that she, his family and the world would be better off without him.”

Nice.

But is it criminal?

There are differences in the two cases, but this is redolent of the 2017 prosecution and conviction Michelle Carter, who was convicted in the Bay State of involuntary manslaughter for urging her 18-year-old boyfriend, Conrad Roy III, to kill himself, which he did. The conviction was upheld by an appeals court this past February, so Carter will apparently serve out her entire 15 month sentence—for the content of her text messages. Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Week: Ann Althouse

“As I’ve said many times on this blog, I think election results deserve respect, Democrats have failed to accept that they lost an election and that those who won deserve their victory, and those who were disappointed should be focusing on winning the next election, not undoing to results of the election they lost. Democrats need to turn back from the precipice. They need to give up the drama and hysteria about Trump and show that they are more stable and responsible than Trump. A “no” vote on the impeachment proceedings will only happen if Democrats — some of them — have the sense to say “no.”

—-Ann Althouse, iconoclastic Wisconsin law professor/social commentator/ blogger, in a post this morning.

[Before I start, let me interject that “I think election results deserve respect” is revolting equivocation, and credible commentators should avoid it. In this nation, in this system, in a democracy, election results deserve respect. ]

As frequent readers hear know, I quote or refer to Althouse more frequently than any other web commentator (George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley is a close second) now that Ken White at Popehat has moved on to greener pastures. Her post today, “What I can’t figure out and what really interests me is why today feels different” explains why, at least to me. In the  matter of Donald Trump’s election and the reaction to it by the  Axis of Unethical Conduct (AUC) that I last discussed here, Althouse almost exactly mirrors my analysis, and reveals that she occupies a similar position for making it. I have one up on Ann, I think, because while I almost voted for Hillary Clinton out of my unshakeable (actually it has been a bit shaken now, if not stirred) contempt for Donald Trump, she actually did despite matching my distrust and dislike of Hillary Clinton. In the post containing today’s Ethics Quote of the Week, she reveals why I was right and she was wrong.

The Democratic Party proved to me in late October of 2016 that it seeks power over all else, and no longer possesses a sufficient commitment to American values, our fundamental principles, or our institutions that can compete with that obsession. This means that not only can the party and its members not be trusted, it means that it is actively corrupting the American public and will continue to do so unless and until something makes it change both its strategic and its ideological course.

That Ann still thinks there is any chance at all of the party doing so now shows that she still can’t bring herself to accept the frightening reality that the AUC is willing to destroy the nation to save it. In that respect, I’m still ahead of her, perhaps because the professor is so emotionally committed to being neutral that she cannot accept that the time for neutrality has past when the responsible choice is unavoidable, or ought to be. Continue reading