Ethics Warm-Up, 5/13/2020….Oh, So WHAT If It’s Morning Or Not? Who CARES? Who Cares About ANY Of It?

1. I miss Ken. Ken White used to troll people who would ask him to post their sponsored content on Popehat. Now that he’s writing for The Atlantic, which morphed into a “resistance” organ and which I refuse to read on principle unless a particular screed is brought to my attention, I no longer get to chuckle at his nonsense mockery post about ponies and the rest. Now I’m getting this junk too. Faith Cormier writes,

I was visiting your website,, and it had me wondering: do you accept outside submissions? If so, we’d love to create an original piece for you!Because it would include a totally natural reference to one of our clients, we’re prepared to pay you $100 for your time and effort. (Payments made through PayPal.) Shall we send you a draft, Jack? Alternatively, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Yeah, I have a question, Faith. How could you read this blog, with the title “Ethics Alarms,” and make a proposal like that? “Totally natural reference” means a promotion, and that this would be deceptive marketing.  My integrity may have a price some day, but if it does, it will be a hell of a lot higher than a hundred bucks.

2. Ethics movie spoiler.  “Standoff,” is a 2016 film that critics mostly slammed because critics don’t understand ethics movies. A hit man (Lawrence Fishburne) who is chasing a 12-year-old girl who took a photo of him while he was executing people tracks her down to a run-down house where a depressed and alcoholic veteran (Thomas Jane) is living. The veteran, who has some facility with firearms (and who lost his own young son, sending him into his tailspin) decides to protect her, though the hit man demands that he turn her over to be shot. The veteran faces several ethics conflicts after making the altruistic decision to risk his own life to try to save a child who showed up on his doorstep by random chance. The hit man captures a police officer and tortures him to force the girl’s surrender. He then threatens to kill the officer, and does, as the veteran rejects the proffered exchange. Finally, the hit man captures the veteran’s ex-wife, and says he will kill her if he doesn’t get the little girl. (“How do I know I can trust you?” the vteran asks as they are negotiating. “You can’t!” the hit man replies.)

Now that’s an ethics conflict!

I won’t tell you how, but the little girl, the veteran and his ex-wife somehow survive this situation. As the hit man lies  wounded and helpless , the little girl, who has control of a loaded gun, points it at his head and pulls the trigger. Nothing happens. The hit man smiles, and points his gun at her. Then he smiles and drops it. “What do you think I am, a monster?” he says.

All through the film, Fishburn’s character kept emphasizing that this was just business for him. He was being paid to carry out a contract, and leave no loose ends. The little girl could identify him, so she had to die; it was bad luck, but as a professional, he had no choice.  At the end, however, there was no professional reason to shoot the girl. He had already lost. Killing her would have been personal, monstrous. His own professional code required that he let her live.

That’s integrity.

3. More Michael Flynn developments: A federal judge yesterday wouldn’t immediately acquiesce to the Justice Department’s request to drop all charges against Michael Flynn because of prosecutorial misconduct, and said he he would accept filings from independent groups and legal experts who want to weigh in on the matter. That could mean a hearing—good. The whole matter needs to be transparent, so if charges are dropped and sanctions against officials follow, mainstream media and Democratic conspiracy theories about how it is all just a Trump cover-up won’t have any traction.

4. This is embarrassing. The Times editors  signaled their alliance with the apologists for what sure looks like unethical prosecution methods used against Mike Flynn by issuing an editorial headlined, “Don’t Forget, He Pleaded Guilty. Twice.” Newspapers are supposed to make its readers better informed, not more ignorant. Do the editors not think anyone watched “Law and Order”? Pleading guilty is not evidence of guilt. It’s a tactical decision whether a defendant is in fact guilty or not. Indeed, the Flynn saga reads like a “Law and Order” plot, as Assistant D.A. Jack McCoy often used threats against relatives as bargaining chips to force guilty pleas. Another Trump figure, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to a non-crime in order to get a more favorable deal.

5.  Thought experiment…If, in the run-up to World War II, hearings were held in which scientists and doctors asserted that their models predicted the deaths of millions if the United States went to war, and that most of those lives could be saved if the U.S. made various concessions to achieve peace, would those opinions—you know, science, health—have been regarded as carrying more weight than military experts, economists and political scientists?


36 thoughts on “Ethics Warm-Up, 5/13/2020….Oh, So WHAT If It’s Morning Or Not? Who CARES? Who Cares About ANY Of It?

  1. His own professional code required that he let her live.

    That’s integrity.

    That’s my favorite kind of villain. Now I have to watch this movie.

  2. On 3,

    I’m seeing a lot of chatter from Progressive Twitter about how this is a blow-out for Trump, because it might mean bad things for Flynn. I think that’s desperate hope-wishing, because I personally would love to get the applicable parties up on a stand being cross examined, in fact, I think the exercise would be cathartic.

    • While I am a lawyer, I am not a criminal lawyer so I don’t know if asking for amicus briefs is common practice in federal court. It sure seems odd, though. Criminal defense groups would (we would hope) support dismissal of the claims because of FBI/DOJ’s grave miscarriage of justice; prosecutors would oppose dismissal because, by ruling in favor of dismissal of the charges, the trial court would be ruling that DOJ did, in fact, rip up Flynn’s Constitutional rights, which could have broader implications for DOJ (Manafort? That guy with the big glasses whose name escapes me?)


  3. 4. When the government’s primary tool after its Justice Department set you up to charge you is its endlessly deep pockets versus the citizen and his relatives who have decidedly finite resources, this should be a very large red flag about the government. Truth be damned, you pled guilty twice to avoid (unjust) complete financial and personal destruction of your family. Fight the government and they’ll make sure you pay all the more. After all the objective independent media has made clear to everyone how guilty you are.

    Gee, I wonder why a substantial segment of our population is a little more than sensitive these days.

    This is what happens when you don’t put the legal screws to people like Lois Lerner when you had the chance to chase it up the chain of command.

  4. The Michael Flynn case reminds me a bit of the movie In the Name of the Father. It’s about the Guilford Four and how their conviction was overturned. Towards the beginning of the film, the police held Conlan for a week, constantly trying to get him to confess to a bombing he didn’t commit. They eventually get him to sign the confession by threatening his family. Did Flynn not confess until after the prosecutors threatened to go after his son? Would that not make Flynn’s guilty plea invalid?

  5. Possibly a bit off-topic, but probably the funniest video I’ve seen in quite awhile. Simply brilliant.
    “What It’s Like to Believe Everything the Media Tells You”

  6. #3: “That could mean a hearing—good.”
    I hope that;’s the reason, and not the judge just fishing for an excuse to not drop the case. It looks like he did, at least temporarily, deny a request from former Watergate prosecutors to file amicus briefs, but that may indicate nothing. It’s troubling that he’s a Clinton appointee who quoted Amy Berman Jackson in his decision.

      • Actually, he was appointed to various benches by Reagan, Bush the Elder, and to the District Court in DC by Clinton. He has an interesting resume. He also dismissed one of Rahm’s prosecutions for prosecutorial misconduct.


      • Yeah, so was Anthony Kennedy.

        Even the best can’t see into the future, or get it right 100% of the time.

        And in his current position, he was appointed by Bill Clinton.

    • That’s all the better, then! When the truth comes out in further proceedings that Obama lurched toward the nuclear football trained to obliterate the red portions of America and that Trump himself wrested it from his bronze clutches and passed to Flynn who disarmed it, and the judge declares Flynn to be a war criminal, producing a firearm from his robes and executing him on live television, we’ll all really, truly, finally be sure what’s going on. The orange one can then declare himself emperor and begin executing our enemies with impunity, then we’ll be free of the devil we know and left only with the devil we don’t!

      But, man, that devil we know is just about literally the worst thing possible. Who wouldn’t take those odds? It’s always the next emperor you have to worry about…

      • I think you are going to see mostly leftist opinions admitted, and very few, if any, in defense of Flynn. We’ll see, but if that’s what happens, you heard it here first.

        The Left universally thinks Flynn is guilty, and the materiality element of lying to the FBI/Congress/whatever is relevant only to fellow Leftists. A perfect example is John Brennan.

  7. Re: No. 2: The Ethical Assassin.

    I haven’t seen the Lawrence Fishburn movie but the synopsis reminds me of “Léon: The Professional” in that the hired gun has a rule: No women, no children.

    “The Professional” is an action-packed movie about a mercenary running around whacking people for a price. It stars Gary Oldman in one of his more insane roles, that of a drug-addicted and thoroughly unhinged, sadistic and corrupt DEA agent. Oldman’s penchant for brutality is fascinating.

    There is a very creepy under current, though. Léon, the ethical hitman, teaches Mathilda (played by Natalie Portman) the ins and outs of contract killing. He teaches her about guns, cleaning and firing them, picking the right place and time to whack one’s target, and how to care for a potted plant. There is little examination of whether a complete stranger in this 12 year old girl’s life (whose family was murdered by Oldman and his band of fellow corruptees) should be taking her as his “student”. Also, there is a strange suggestion of Mathilda’s infatuation with an adult male.


  8. I tried to look up Faith Cormier to see what sort of products or services she markets, but didn’t find her. (The only Faith Cormier that I found in my quick search works for a group of translators.) It’s a shame, since I had hoped to mock her “natural” references to her clients.

    Faith Cormier, if you are reading this, and aren’t trying to market translation services, you need to raise your internet profile.

  9. 3.
    Judge Sullivan chastised Flynn saying he committed treason during a hearing.

    He asked another federal judge to file an amicus brief arguing against the decision to drop the case.

    Emitt Sullivan is singlehandedly making me distrust the judiciary.


    Judge Sullivan has appointed a retired judge, John Gleeson, to act as amicus curiae presenting arguments against the government’s motion. That seems reasonable. The pro-Trump blogosphere is making much of the fact Gleeson isn’t unbiased, because he has already published an editorial denouncing the motion, but it seems to me that makes him a perfectly appropriate choice, since his job will be to oppose the motion.

    What does disturb me about Sullivan’s motion is that he tells Gleeson to “address whether the Court should issue an Order to Show Cause why Mr. Flynn should not be held in criminal contempt for perjury.” The perjury in question would be his plea allocution, where he testified falsely that he was guilty of the crimes of which he was falsely accused. The fact that Judge Sullivan is even asking for arguments about this issue — “If the government frames you for a crime and blackmails you into pleading guilty, and you finally prove that they did so, should you go to jail anyway?” — gives me a sick feeling that he is determined to get Flynn, regardless of the facts. He’s already made statements in open court that make it clear that he decided long ago that Flynn in a bad guy.

    • Here’s a twitter thread by Jonathan Turley that I think is excellent on the subject:

  11. My integrity may have a price some day, but if it does, it will be a hell of a lot higher than a hundred bucks.

    $100, half the knishes* I’ve currently got in the oven and uh *checks pockets* 3 George V farthings** and 1 Edward VII farthing.

    *Had to undo the autocorrect
    **Had to undo the autocorrect twice

    • “My integrity may have a price some day, but if it does, it will be a hell of a lot higher than a hundred bucks.”

      I know mine is worth rather more than £3,000,000. Oddly enough the firm that offered me that ended up taking over the firm I was working for at the time anyway.

      Add another six zeroes on the end, and I can’t conceive of that amount, so it doesn’t tempt me.

      I don’t think money is the right currency. My son’s life, perhaps? The life of a stranger? I don’t honestly know, and it disturbs me thinking of it.

  12. 2) I don’t believe any “code of ethics” or “professional code” attached to an already unethical “profession” matter one iota in determining whether or not they have engaged in ethical conduct afterwards.

    • It’s like the guy you discussed isn’t a hero because he decided not to commit a crime. No, the hitman isn’t being an ethical professional for deciding not to kill the little girl. All he’s decided to do is sort of stop being unethical for a brief moment amidst a sea of consequences caused by his already unethical “profession”.

      • Yeah, but a code of ethics for an inherently *dishonest* profession doesn’t mean following the code shows integrity, when following the code already shows a complete lack of integrity.

        If he shot the girl….what do you expect…he’s a hitman. He’s showing “integrity”.

        If he doesn’t shoot the girl…because of an extremely elaborate analysis of events…he’s a hitman. He’s showing “integrity”.

        • Nononono. Integrity means holding to pre-established values and principles regardless of pressures and biases. He did that. Simply because someone’s context is unethical it doesn’t mean that ethical conduct within that context is necessarily unethical. Shooting the girl would not have been professional, because 1) she wasn’t on the contract and 2) since he was dying and her only harm would be exposing him, and thus his employer, there was no point in shooting her. That would have been unprofessional.

          In True Grit, someone mentions that Lucky Ned Pepper might have killed someone. Rooster says, “No, Ned wouldn’t do that. He had no reason to kill him. If he had a reason, he’d kill him.” Same thing.

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