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, ethicsalarms.com, 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.
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?