Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/29/2020: Dogs, Mike Bloomberg, Joe Biden, D.C., Jimmy Kimmel, Threatening Deplorables And Restricting Rights

Well, dogs are good, anyway…

1. Stop making  dogs defend Mike Bloomberg!…Is there anything too trivial that people won’t use to attack politicians? A CBS News video began circulating online yesterday afternoon showing Michael Bloomberg shaking hands with a man in Burlington, Vermont, then taking his dog’s upper jaw  in his hand and “shaking” the dog’s  snout  He then scratched the dog’s ears. The social media mob called him a dog abuser.

Morons. That’s a move that most dogs enjoy, as well as someone grasping their whole muzzle. It shows Bloomberg is comfortable with and knowledgeable about dogs. I used to do both moves with our 165 pound English Mastiff, and our Jack Russells.

2.  I know this is of interest to almost nobody who isn’t a lawyer, but trust me, it’s a big deal. The District of Columbia has long been the only U.S. jurisdiction that allows law firms to have non-lawyer partners, a structure prevented everywhere else by the general prohibition on lawyers sharing their fees with non-lawyers. When D.C. adopted its revolutionary approach, it assumed that the states would soon follow, with the American Bar Association’s assent. Because that hasn’t happened, a state-licensed lawyer with a D.C. license participating in a legal firm in D.C. could technically be found to  be violating that state’s ethics rules , though the District has negotiated a truce in that potential controversy.

Meanwhile, those special law firms with non-lawyer members are proliferating like legal rabbits. Now  a Jan. 23 press release tells the world that the District of Columbia Bar is taking comments regarding proposed changes to its ethics rules that could allow external ownership of law firms, as well as blended businesses in which lawyers and non-lawyers provide both legal and nonlegal services, like accounting. Or massages–who knows? Right now, law firms by definition can only practice law.

Perhaps even more significantly, California, Utah and Arizona are also studying changes that would relax ethics rules barring non-lawyers from holding a financial interest in law firms. Continue reading

Corrupting History To Get Trump, And Smearing A Profile In Courage To Do It

Senator Edmund G. Ross. Hero? Corrupt hero? Politician?

It all started when a thoroughly Trump-deranged friend of long-standing–a Georgetown professor!–cited with approval on Facebook a critical article at the CNN site condemning the National Archives idiotic altering of an anti-Trump photo. I discussed the issue, and the article, here, #3, noting that Perry exposes himself as an unprofessional hack by using this incident to suggest, without evidence, untold document mischief throughout the  Trump administration. Noting how completely historians have debased their profession by joining the “resistance” and engaging in partisan analysis, I promised to return to Perry’s unethical screed that day. Well, I’m late, but here it is.

Later in his article, Perry wrote,  “Just last week, Vice President Mike Pence authored a mendacious op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, which touted one senator’s vote against the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson as a profile in courage, despite historians’ agreement that the senator was, in fact, likely bribed.”

I know all about Edmund G. Ross, celebrated in JFK’s “Profiles in Courage” as the Radical Republican Senator from Kansas who saved President Andrew Johnson from a political coup attempt very similar to what the Democrats are trying now to do to President Trump. Ross’s vote against impeachment conviction was the margin by which the two-thirds requirement for impeachment failed. Kennedy’s book (which he didn’t write, but that’s another ethics story) designated Ross a hero because he knew his vote would likely end his political career in Kansas, as indeed it did. Where did the alleged historical consensus that Ross was bribed come from?

The answer is nowhere. There is no such “agreement,” because there is no proof, only speculation. However, smearing Ross and denigrating his motives are essential to legitimizing  a 19th Century Republican plot to remove a President who was obnoxious, defiant, and widely regarded as  “unfit” as well as being looked down upon as too humble in his origins to be President. Doing so, you see,  makes the current soft coup appear similarly legitimate. By this new analysis, Ross isn’t a hero but a villain, thus the assault on Pence for citing Ross as a role model  Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/28/2020: Transcripts! Audacious Defense Lawyers! Canadian Defamation! “Bombshells”! [UPDATED]

Good morning…

1. Here’s a typical unbiased New York Times front page headline regarding the impeachment trial (from last week):

“One One Side, Piles of Evidence, On the Other, Heaps of Scorn”

Here’s some more scorn: there is no evidence at all of impeachable offenses on  that pile, and scorn for the President is being treated as evidence.

2. This is astounding. (From johnburger, and thanks) Check out this.

Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Open Forum!” Dating App Thread

Same tradition, different groups…

This Comment of the Day alerted me to a despicable aspect of national polarization being sent into hyper-drive by the web. It concludes, “It’s terrible,” and I agree.

I was just defriended by someone else on Facebook. I know why. I’ve been pointing out  and dissecting the repetitive anti-Trump derangement when it turns up on my  timeline.  As usual, however, whoever this was didn’t have the guts and common courtesy to tell me that he or she was metaphorically slapping me in the face. Others, equally cowardly, just block my posts from their feed, or me from seeing theirs. Such individuals voluntarily create a bubble and actively seek to close off their minds. They should be ashamed of themselves, and when I get the chance, I’ll tell them so.

Here is Jeff Valentine’s Comment of the Day from the weekend’s Open Forum. It depressed me so much that I took this long to read it again. If you want to end up with a nation of armed camps, this is the way to do it.

Jack recently wrote about the tipping point where he may need to vote for Trump based on the Democrat’s various vile decisions.

I read it and wondered aloud, “What the Hell took you so long, Jack.” I was there within a year after the last election.

They really have disgusted me for the last three years.

It gets, actually, significantly worse. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere- my marriage fell apart. I am a full time custodial Dad, so I, out of necessity, use the awful apps for dating- Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, Facebook Match. The number of women (and possibly men too- I don’t play for both teams as they say)- who say things like “Swipe left if you voted for Trump” or “Trumpsters Get Lost” or “Republicans need not apply” would appall you. Continue reading

Six Ethics Lessons As Bill James Falls Into His Own Research Trap

Baseball philosopher, iconoclast and analyst Bill James is one of my heroes for his amazing ability to look past conventional wisdom with an open mind. Beginning as essentially a self-published pamphleteer writing out of his basement, James’ counter-traditional explorations of baseball statistics eventually changed how baseball was watched, assessed, scouted and played, simply on the strength of Bill’s  ideas and his facility in explaining them.

His talents could be used in many other fields–James has recently branched out into examining famous unsolved murders—but it is also true that many of the ideas he has developed in relation to baseball have wider applications. For example, James was the source of the concept of “signature significance,” which is a staple here at Ethics Alarms.

His writing also taught me that bias makes us stupid, and about the insidious power of rationalizations.  Many of James’s observations seemed intrinsically obvious once he made and explained them, and the fact that  baseball executives, writers and players could have been so wrong about their own game for so long seemed incomprehensible. But the reasons were what they always are, in all fields. People are biased toward what they have always believed —confirmation bias–and the “It’s always been this way” variation on the most powerful rationalization of them all, “Everybody does it”  breeds blindness and  intellectual laziness. Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Month: Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch

“The real problem here is the increasingly common practice of trial courts ordering relief that transcends the cases before them. Whether framed as injunctions of ‘nationwide,’ ‘universal,’ or ‘cosmic’ scope, these orders share the same basic flaw—they direct how the defendant must act toward persons who are not parties to the case….

“Equitable remedies, like remedies in general, are meant to redress the injuries sustained by a particular plaintiff in a particular lawsuit. When a district court orders the government not to enforce a rule against the plaintiffs in the case before it, the court redresses the injury that gives rise to its jurisdiction in the first place. But when a court goes further than that, ordering the government to take (or not take) some action with respect to those who are strangers to the suit, it is hard to see how the court could still be acting in the judicial role of resolving cases and controversies. Injunctions like these thus raise serious questions about the scope of courts’ equitable powers under Article III”…

It has become increasingly apparent that this Court must, at some point, confront these important objections to this increasingly widespread practice. As the brief and furious history of the regulation before us illustrates, the routine issuance of universal injunctions is patently unworkable, sowing chaos for litigants, the government, courts, and all those affected by these conflicting decisions…

“If a single successful challenge is enough to stay the challenged rule across the country, the government’s hope of implementing any new policy could face the long odds of a straight sweep, parlaying a 94- to-0 win in the district courts into a 12-to-0 victory in the courts of appeal. A single loss and the policy goes on ice— possibly for good, or just as possibly for some indeterminate period of time until another court jumps in to grant a stay. And all that can repeat, ad infinitum, until either one side gives up or this Court grants certiorari.”

——Justice Neil Gorsuch, concurring in the grant of the stay of a nationwide injunction imposed by a district judge in New York against the implementation  of the Trump administration’s new immigration standards.

The new rules impose additional criteria for determining which potential immigrants  are likely to be dependent on the U.S. government for benefits  and therefore ineligible for green cards and eventual U.S. citizenship. These were proposed in October, 2019, but have been blocked by Democratic judges until today’s decision. Continue reading

Res Ipsa Loquitur: Woke Politics And Counter-Factual Progressive Cant Are Driving People Crazy

Here is another question to Slate’s sex advice column, “How to Do It”:

I’m a cis woman in kind of a classic millennial sex pickle: I’m really repelled by heterosexuality politically and personally, but I’m also really into dick. I’ve been thinking maybe I should look for bi dudes/ bicurious gay dudes, but I am not sure how best to do that. Rich, what would you think of a woman being on Grindr or Scruff? I do want to be respectful of gay men’s spaces and not horn in where I’m not welcome, but I really would love to find a vers guy with queer politics who would be up for casually dating a woman. What do you think? If you were me, where would you look?

—-Radical

My answer? Continue reading

To Paraphrase George M. Cohan: “My Wife Thanks You, My Blog Thanks You, And I Thank You.”

To our surprise and delight, we just had delivered to our door, fresh from Conklyn’s Florists, a beautiful  mixed bouquet in a lovely glass vase. The card attached reads,

“Dear Mrs. Marshall, Get well absolutely as soon as possible.

[Other Bill] and the rest of the Ethics Alarms Commentariat

This was so kind and unexpected. None of my 420 Facebook friends (and relatives!) were so moved (then again, most of them hate me.) My wife was stunned, and is very grateful. (She would have applauded, but she only has one functioning arm.)

She says:  “This is very much appreciated. It cheers me up a little, something Jack has failed at completely. It is also a relief to be able to look at the beautiful flowers instead of my black-and blue face. And the vase is especially welcome, as a one armed flower arranger is like a one -armed paper-hanger, and Jack is no help at all.”

The ethics value here is generosity and kindness.

Thanks, Bill, and thanks everyone.

Ethics Warm-Up On What I Fear Is The Start Of An Unethical Week, 1/27/2020

Just a sinking feeling I have …

…perhaps exacerbated by the fact that I am trying to keep all the plates spinning at home and office despite caring for my temporarily disabled wife and business partner, the urgent need to disassemble the driest Christmas tree in Alexandria (still looks spectacular with the lights on, though!), the sudden breakdown of two crucial appliances, and the fact that I’m incompetent at a lot of the small and crucial tasks that Grace does well.

By the by, the spinning plates act is my favorite metaphor for leadership, management and life…

1. Trump tweets…“Shifty Adam Schiff is a CORRUPT POLITICIAN, and probably a very sick man. He has not paid the price, yet, for what he has done to our Country!” tweeted our Chief Executive yesterday. What grade level does that one rise to? 6th? 7th? Surely reasonable people are inured to these embarrassing (for him, for us) outbursts after all these years and thousands of stupid tweets. And yet here are Schiff and the Democrats, bellowing that Trump “threatened” him. This, from a shameless demagogue who recently yalked about putting Republican Senators’ heads on pikes.

Essentially Trump’s “threat” consists of “he’ll be sorry!” That’s not even a veiled threat. It isn’t actionable, it isn’t clear. It may refer to karma, or a sudden attack of conscience. Stipulated: It’s wrong for a President to express such sentiments. The knee-jerk impulse of the “resistance” to react to everything the President does like it was proof of treason is self-indicting.

2. The alleged hypocrisy of jet-setting climate change activist celebrities is often overplayed by conservatives, but this is ridiculous. Not to be outdone by whatever she is these days semi-royal Megan Markle and her submissive hubby, Prince Charles polished his climate change alarmist  creds by taking three flights on private jets and a helicopter to hang out with Joan of Arc wannabe  Greta Thunberg. Then, after being blessed by the teenaged saint and making  an impassioned speech, the Man Who Has Been Waiting To  Be King  took a fourth private jet from Switzerland to Israel, making his flight total over 16,000 miles in less than two weeks. His carbon footprint for this odyssey was estimates as being more than 18 times that of the average British citizen’s output for a calendar year.

Here’s a helpful chart, courtesy of the Daily Mail:
Continue reading

Jim Lehrer’s 16 Rules Of Journalism. Awww! How Quaint!

I can’t say I watched the MacNeil-Lehrer Report on PBS (and later after Robin MacNeil’s retirement in 1995,  the PBS NewsHour hosted by Jim Lehrer alone ) more than a handful of times in my life. I wish I had. (I should have: when Lehrer moderated Presidential debates, as he did eleven times, there was never any hint of bias or favoritism, unlike virtually every other debate.)   Lehrer died last week at the age of 85, and his 16 Rules of Journalism, which he often condensed to nine, were published in many news sources upon his passing.

I found myself wondering what various editors and young reporters were thinking as they read Lehrer’s tenets of his now-rotting profession’s integrity. Could they possibly think that the rules accurately reflected widely held and embraced standards of reporters today? Did they read the list with confusion, wondering what in the world this old guy was babbling about? Perhaps they regarded Lehrer’s aspirational list as an archaic and amusing reflection of a bygone era, as many regard George Washington’s 110 Rules of Civility, with its exhortations like Rule #9:

“Spit not into the fire, nor stoop low before it; neither put your hands into the flames to warm them, nor set your feet upon the fire, especially if there be meat before it.”

I wonder. I do know that Lehrer took his rules seriously, though sometimes falling short of his own standards. Below is the version of his rules that he explained in a 1997 report by The Aspen Institute. It’s an excellent, excellent list, reflecting an experienced and ethically astute professional’s keen understanding of what his profession is supposed to do for our society, and the best way to do it.

How many of them do you think motivate journalists today? Continue reading