Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/1/2019: “30 Days Hath September” Appreciation Edition

Welcome October!

 I knew the date without having to check..for once.

Time to express my gratitude to the anonymous composer of the days of the month mnemonic, which I still literally have to sing in my head several times a year.

The earliest English version of the  verse has been traced to approximately 1425. It seems that the initial rhyme began with “Thirty days hath November,” not September, but by the time the little verse was first published in English, in  1562, September had taken over the top spot, and there it has remained. Wikipedia’s entry notes that “it is probably the only sixteenth-century poem most ordinary citizens know by heart.”

1. But by all means, it’s irresponsible to have Rudy Giuliani as a guest on a news program…CNN’s fake media ethics watchdog thought it was appropriate to have Robert De Niro as a guest on his CNN show over the weekend. Why is an uneducated, loud mouth, vulgar actor an appropriate guest? It is because he is guaranteed to delight the Trump Deranged with sophisticated commentary like he treated America with when he appeared at the 2018 Tony Awards, shouting, “I’m just going to say one thing. Fuck Trump! It’s no longer ‘Down with Trump.’ It’s ‘fuck Trump!’”

De Niro never graduated from high school, and has fewer credentials to expound on public policy matters than the average American you could identify by throwing a rock into a crowd blindfolded,. He has repeatedly shattered basic standards of public decorum by going into angry, vulgar, non-substantive rants against the President when invited to stand behind a podium or in front of a microphone. So, naturally, he was a perfect guest for Stelter’s show, and, also naturally, he said, in the course of opining that the President and his supporters were “gangsters” and “crazy” and that “This guy should not be president, period, ““F​uck ‘em. Fuck ‘em!”

A voice from off-set could be heard yelling “Woahhhh!”After all, who could have possibly predicted that the actor would behave on CNN when discussing the President exactly as he has been behaving for years? “This is cable, so it’s not an FCC violation, but it still is a Sunday morning,”  Stelter commented, weasel-like as usual.

Yes, it’s Sunday morning, and you invited a guest who habitually shouts versions of “Fuck Trump!’ in public places while being televised, because you know your audience wants to hear someone say “Fuck Trump.” Continue reading

Australia Goes Right Past Nanny State To Dog-Walker State

The new Australia law’s sponsors…

And all you thought they would do to stomp on individual rights  was to take away everyone’s guns! No, that was signature significance, you see. A state that decides that it, and not its citizens, should decide how they get to protect themselves is not going to stop with that. As Clarence Darrow said in the Scopes Trial, “Fanatacism is ever busy and needs feeding.  Always it is feeding and gloating for more.”

Down Under they just passed something called the the Animal Welfare Legislation Amendment Bill. Among its provisions is one that holds that dog owners can face heavy  fines if they keep their dog confined for 24 hours. Unless they then allow the dog to  “move freely” for the next two hours or face prosecution. That’s just a sample, however: the Australian Capital Territory’s new law says…

A person in charge of an animal commits an offence if the person fails to give the animal —

  • (a) appropriate food; or
  • appropriate water;
  • appropriate treatment for illness, disease or injury; or
  • appropriate shelter or accommodation; or
  • a clean and hygienic living environment; or
  • appropriate grooming and maintenance; or
  • appropriate exercise; or
  • appropriate opportunities to display behaviour that is normal for  the animal; or
  • care that is appropriate for the animal’s well-being.

No vagueness there! Maximum penalties include heavy fines , imprisonment for up to a year, or both. The territory is the first jurisdiction in Australia to recognize animal sentience, which apparently means the legislators let dogs write the legislation. Not smart dogs, either. Basset Hounds maybe. Irish setters.

Here are the particulars on dog-walking: Continue reading

Horse Racing Ethics: Justify Was A Fake Triple Crown Winner. Now What?

The term “horse racing ethics” is justly regarded as an oxymoron, and the stunning scandal revealed yesterday shows why.

The U.S. Thoroughbred Racing Triple Crown is one of the most prestigious achievements in all of sports. The three races that make up the Triple Crown, all competed in by three-year-old horses, are the Kentucky Derby, run over the 1 1⁄4-mile dirt track at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky; the Preakness Stakes, run over the 1 3⁄16-mile (1.9 km) dirt track at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland; and
the Belmont Stakes, run over the 1 1⁄2-mile (2.4 km) dirt track (the longest in U.S. thoroughbred racing) at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York.

The first Triple Crown winner was Sir Barton in 1919, and there have been only twelve since, among them the most fabled names in the sport: War Admiral, Count Fleet, Whirlaway, Secretariat, Affirmed. Winning the Triple Crown is a bonanza for the sport as well as the owner of the victorious horse, which will eventually demand huge stud fees. After Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978, no horse achieved that pinnacle for 37 years. Then, finally, American Pharaoh  broke the drought in 2015. A filly out of that Triple Crown winner recently sold for a record $8.2 million. The Triple Crown is a big deal; in thoroughbred racing, there is no bigger deal.

The thoroughbred racing world only had to wait three years for another super-champion this time: Justify won the Triple Crown in 2018. Now we know, however,  that the horse was an illicit competitor, and should have been disqualified. This is approximately the horse racing equivalent of  gamblers rigging baseball’s World Series in 1919, a scandal that almost destroyed the sport.

This week we learned, courtesy of a New York Times investigation, that  Justify had tested positive for the banned drug scopolamine after winning the Santa Anita Derby on April 7, 2018. That win qualified the horse to run in the Kentucky Derby, one month later, in which he would be a likely favorite to win. Behind closed doors, the California Horse Racing Board first stalled on acting, then decided to dismiss the case after the colt went on to win the Triple Crown. Continue reading

No, Your Dog’s Not A Racist

Since the culture is being bombarded with propaganda and indoctrination holding that racism—defined as broadly and inclusively (inclusive racism..HEY! I just made up an oxymoron!) as the totalitarian thought police choose in order to intimidate you—is the single most important malady in existence, and must be rooted out in all its forms, a newspaper editor didn’t laugh himself sick when an op-ed writer offered this insanity, opining not only that dogs could be racists, but that owners have a moral duty—moral duty, mind you—to break them of their racists ways. The author, Ryan Poe, begins,

Dogs are racists. OK, not all dogs. But some of them have been conditioned, usually through either a bad experience or lack of experience, to discriminate based on skin color. It’s horrible but true: man’s best friend isn’t always a best friend to all men. The good news is that your KKK-9 doesn’t have to stay racist: Bad conditioning can (and should be) reversed.

Let’s stop right there. Dogs don’t know what race is, so claiming that dogs can be racist is ridiculous on its face. They do not hold one race inferior to others. They do not hold racial stereotypes or assume negative character traits based on race. Racism is human behavior, not canine. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/24/2019: More Wild Animal Ethics, And Wild Al Franken Follies

Good Morning!

That’s called “morning rush hour” in Yellowstone…

1. Child services, please! Recalling the scofflaw fool who was kicked in the cajones by a wild horse he was supposed to avoid touching, we have this story in the Washington Post, about a bunch of tourists who defied Yellowstone National Park rules until this happened…

Wow! That’s the gold medal in the Bison Olympics “Little Girl Toss” for sure. She was treated and released, but her parents should be prosecuted. In the category of Rationalization #22, “There are worse things,” here’s a comment on the Post story, flagged by Ann Althouse:

I grew up about an hour outside of Yellowstone and have spent many happy years in the park. I now live on the east coast, but try to go back every few years. Every single time I’m in the park, I see people doing the stupidest, most dangerous things. The last time, I was leaving the Old Faithful Inn after supper and noticed a small herd of bison hanging around. (A very common sight) Not being a complete idiot, I decided to take a different path back to our campground, a path and would not take me near the bison. Then I noticed a man with his small child heading toward the herd. I stopped him and warned that he might want to stay away, particularly with his child. He told me to f-off and kept walking. I watched as he got very close to the first bison and then saw him pick up his child and start to try to put the kid on the back of the bison. A bunch of other people started shouting and I ran for a ranger. Thankfully, the ranger managed to stop the idiot before tragedy. Unusual? Not really!

2.  Can #MeToo survive progressive hypocrisy? Personally, I hope so. Sexual harassment is a massive problem; I keep telling my legal ethics audienbces that the legal profession’s Harvey Weinstein will be exposed any time now, and probably will lead to many Harveys-at-Law. However, the more the movement is weaponized for political expediency, the less credibility it has. Continue reading

Oh! THAT’S Why You’re Not Supposed To Touch The Horses!

The incident above is what George Will likes to call “condign justice.”

Signs all over Assateague Island in Maryland tell tourists not to touch the wild horses that are the island’s most famous feature.  They reputedly came from a Spanish galleon that sank close to shore centuries ago. Naturally, some scofflaw jerks who specialize in ruining public parks, beaches and recreation area for everyone else by presuming that rules do not apply to them persist in aggravating the beasts.

This one was spectacularly and appropriately rewarded. Even if this guy’s injuries had been less amusing and more serious, he deserves no sympathy at all.

Extra points to the horse for picking someone who has no business wearing a speedo.

__________________________

Pointer: Res Ipsa Loquitur

Animal Treatment Ethics, Stowaway Raccoon Division: Should A Lawyer Face Professional Sanctions For This?

Controversial Cruelty to Animals Day at Ethics Alarms continues (I don’t plan these things) with this legal ethics story out of Florida. The video above is at the center of it.

Florida disciplinary authorities have opened an investigation into the professional fitness of a lawyer who forced a stowaway  racoon off of his boat a long way from shore,  and thought it was all amusing enough to post a video of the incident on Facebook. The bar’s assumption is that the animal drowned.  The lawyer is now subject to prosecution for a violation of Florida’s wildlife laws.

In Florida, as in every other U.S. jurisdiction, one of the kinds of unethical conduct that can result in bar discipline is committing “a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects,”  as stated by  Rule 8.4 (b) of the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct . Should the nautical lawyer’s conduct  qualify?

You may recall a far more egregious case of animal cruelty by a lawyer discussed here, where I questioned if a psychopath lawyer’s fatal attack on his girlfriend’s dog Snoopy really tells us anything about his trustworthiness as a lawyer. I wrote then,

Emotionally, I have no problem with seeing an animal abuser kicked out of my profession, but I don’t understand what values are being applied. Is it the commission of a crime? Most lawyer crimes don’t result in disbarment, if they don’t involve lying, cheating or stealing. …There is no basis on which to conclude that [Snoppy’s killer]  isn’t competent, zealous and trustworthy—just keep him away from pets.

Now, you may well ask, “Isn’t this at least “moral turpitude?” That’s the character flaw that will keep applicants for bar membership from getting a license due to character deficiency. There are two points related to that. First, moral turpitude might keep you out of the law at the outset, but it is not one of the official no-nos that will get you kicked out of it one you are a practicing lawyer.  The legal  definition of moral turpitude is an act or behavior that gravely violates the sentiment or accepted standard of the community. Brutalizing an animal would certainly qualify. The ABA, however, greatly narrowed the definition as it was applicable to legal discipline:

The 1983 Model Code (periodically amended by the ABA House of Delegates over the last 32 years) rejected the prohibition against “illegal conduct involving moral turpitude.” The ABA’s reason, which it included in a Comment to its Rule 8.4, was quite simple: “Moral turpitude,” the ABA advised, is a “concept can be construed to include offenses concerning some matters of personal morality, such as adultery and comparable offenses, that have no specific connection to fitness for the practice of law. Although a lawyer is personally answerable to the entire criminal law, a lawyer should be professionally answerable only for offenses that indicate lack of those characteristics relevant to law practice.” The American Law Institute’s Restatement of the Law Governing Lawyers § 5 (Third) (ALI 2000), agreed. It also concluded that “moral turpitude” is vague and may lead to discriminatory or otherwise inappropriate applications.”

This looks like an Ick Factor case to me. The abuse of poor Snoopy is so viscerally repulsive that the bar and the courts can’t keep their ethical priorities in order. It is also, as particularly ugly discipline cases often are, a matter of public relations and self-preservation for the legal profession. The bar association knows that not banning a lawyer like Pastor—one hopes there aren’t many–signals to the public that the bar welcomes brilliant advocates who may be monsters in their spare time. That is a dark and dangerous road the profession would rather avoid.

The lawyer in the Florida video also has some defenses the poodle-stomper did not.  Raccoons are wild animals, and cute as the are, they also bite. I wouldn’t want to be trapped on a boat in middle of the ocean with one, though I wouldn’t throw the critter overboard either, unless it was me or him. (My father had a home movie of me jumping out of a canoe and swimming to a lake’s shore when I saw a large spider in the vessel. Of course, I was only 15. All right, I was 26….) The raccoon may have also been a better swimmer than everyone assumes: unlike in the case of poor Snoopy, the lawyer wasn’t trying to kill the animal, just get it off the boat.

I do not, however, second the opinion of Law professor Dane Ciolino, writing on his Louisiana Legal Ethics blog, who says in discussing the case, “A Maryland lawyer was suspended for microwaving a cat. But a racoon? I think not.”

Wait—is the professor really saying that microwaving a live raccoon would not justify bar sanctions, but a cooking a cat does? That’s animal bigotry, but it is consistent with what I detected in the Snoopy case. If that lawyer had stomped to death a raccoon that wandered into the apartment, I doubt that he would have been disciplined.

Yet animal cruelty is animal cruelty. If gratuitously killing a dog or a cat shows that a lawyer is unfit to practice, so does unnecessarily killing a raccoon.


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