Post Road Trip Ethics De-Brief, 11/20/2019, AND Morning Warm-Up, 11/21/2019

Bvuh.

Thinking is a chore right now, never mind typing.

We returned from a triumphant two-Darrow ethics program New Jersey tour, highlighted by the intense Darrow oratory performed by actor/legal instructor Paul Morella. This does a cynical ethics CLE presenter’s heart good: finding myself short of time, I asked the assembled NJ Bar members to vote on whether Paul should omit Darrow’s famous Leopold and Loeb closing argument, or Darrow’s own desperate plea for an acquittal when he faced a jury considering his own guilt of jury tampering in the 1911 MacNamara case. The group almost unanimously voted that we complete both closings, with my ethics commentary as well, bringing the program to an end almost a half hour later than scheduled. Nobody left, and believe me, in most CLE seminars, the lawyers seldom stay one second longer than they have to.

Brought a tear to my eye…

No rest in sight, though: tomorrow, I take an early flight to team up with rock guitar whiz and singer Mike Messer in Las Vegas for Ethics Rock Extreme. And I’m punchy now...

1. Well, maybe the NFL is learning…News item: The Miami Dolphins released already suspended running back Mark Walton on Tuesday, hours after he was arrested on charges of punching his pregnant girlfriend multiple times in the head. Walton had been serving a four-game suspension because of  three arrests before the season started. He was sentenced in August to six months’ probation after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor weapons charge.

Now let’s see if the Patriots sign him…

2. Just a quick impeachment hearings note: It is astounding to me that witnesses are being called by the Democrats to testify regarding their opinions on a President’s phone call to a foreign leader. Big black headlines shout that witnesses called a phone call “inappropriate.” Who cares? The President has the authority to decide what is “appropriate,” and there are no impeachment articles in the Constitution designating “acting inappropriately” according to someone else’s opinion as a “high crime and misdemeanor.”  Leaders become leaders because they do thinks that others think are “inappropriate.”

Don’t get get me  started on presidential actions through the centuries that experts, government veterans and other critics at the time thought were “inappropriate,” or worse.

I started compiling a list of what I would consider genuinely impeachable actions by past Presidents The list makes the current impeachment push look even more contrived than it already is.

3. I see that the group that surreptitiously filmed Planned Parenthood staff discussing abortions was hit with over 2 million dollars in damages. Good. Continue reading

The Last Of The Nazi War Criminals

Coincidentally, just as I am completing watching the Netflix documentary “The Devil Next Door,”  another former Nazi prison guard has begun trial on charges that he was an accessory to 5,230 murders at a German concentration camp in Poland during World War II.  “The Devil Next Door” engrossingly tells the strange story of a Ukrainian immigrant named John Demjanjuk who appeared to be a model U.S. citizen, respected neighbor and beloved husband and father in Cleveland before the U.S. decided he was really a former Nazi camp guard nicknamed “Ivan the Terrible” for his sadism and brutality at the Treblinka Nazi death camp in Poland. Demjanjuk was stripped of his U.S. citizenship and tried in Israel from 1986 to 1988 for crimes against humanity. A three judge panel convicted Demjanjuk and sentenced him to hang after a dramatic (and troubling) trial, but the former Ford auto-worker died while his  appeal was pending. Under the doctrine of abatement ab initio, he is still presumed innocent.

As I have written here before, I have many ethical problems with the concept of war crime trials, but “Ivan the Terrible” certainly tests them. Whether or not Demjanjuk  was Ivan, the Treblinka gas chamber operator was a monster even by SS standards, torturing the camp’s Jewish victims before their extermination. In the United States, I cannot imagine that that Demjanjuk would have been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt: the evidence was compromised, the eye-witnesses often contradicted themselves and appeared confused (“Some were liars, some were senile, and some were liars and senile” is how Demjanjuk’s Israeli lawyer puts it on camera). The most damaging testimony against Demjanjuk was his own, and in the U.S. he never would have been allowed to testify.

Was he “Ivan”? All one can say is “probably.” The case was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt, not even close to it.

At the time, it was widely believed that Demjanjuk’s would be the last Nazi war crimes trial, but now  Bruno Dey, 93,  a prison guard  in the Stutthof camp near what’s now Gdansk, Poland, is being tried in Hamburg, Germany. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Excursion, 11/17/2019: This Crazy, Unpredictable, Untrustworthy World

Greetings!

1.  So we can’t trust Intel, either. Good to know. Last May, Intel released a patch for a group of security vulnerabilities researchers had found in the company’s computer processors.  Intel implied that all the problems were solved. The official public message from Intel was “everything is fixed,” said Cristiano Giuffrida, a professor of computer science at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and one of the researchers who first reported the vulnerabilities. “And we knew that was not accurate.”

Indeed, the software patch meant to fix the processor problem addressed only some of the issues the researchers had identified.  A second patch, publicly disclosed by the company last week, finally fixed all of the vulnerabilities Intel had said were fixed in May…six months after the company said that all was well.

2. So they finally bullied the NFL into re-considering Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick, the mediocre NFL quarterback whose political grandstanding before games made him an albatross for the league and any team foolish enough to employ him, has had woke “fans,” who couldn’t care less about football but who loved his race-bating and police-bashing protests, claiming that he was “blackballed” from pro football for exercising his right of free speech.

This was never true—let a grocery store clerk try that argument when he’s fired for making political demonstrations during store hours—but never mind: Kaepernick was styled as a martyr anyway.  Why the NFL capitulated to bogus complaints and gave the player a showcase for NFL scouts, I cannot fathom. He’s 36, hasn’t played for three years, and wasn’t that good in 2016. If no team signs him, the NFL will be told again that it is racist and oppressive. If a team does sign him, the message will be that enough agitation can force an organization to elevate politics above its legitimate priorities.

3. This is why our politician aren’t civil, collaborative, respectful and ethical: the public doesn’t want them to be.  Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Minority Leader,praised Representative Peter King, the long time Long Island Republican House member who announced his retirement this week, by tweeting  warm words on Twitter.  “I will miss him in Congress & value his friendship,” the effusive message concluded.

For this once-standard professional reaction to a fellow Congress member’s retirement, Schumer was roundly attacked by Democrats and progressives on social media. To his credit, despite more than 10,000 mostly negative replies and even calls for his resignation, Schumer neither apologized for his tribute to a colleague nor took down the tweet. Continue reading

Ethics Catch-Up 11/14/2009: Better Late Than Never

Good morning!

Good Afternoon!

Good Night!

I started this post at about 10 am, and again, and again, and each time another post topic intervened, pushing the daily Warm-Up from the beginning of the day to the end of it…

1. Yet another shield becomes a sword…Add caller ID to the list of useful developments ruined by unscrupulous technology. I was recently tricked by what my phone said was a call by the Social Security Administration, and it included a phone number that I had recently received a legitimate call from, via an agent. This call was a scam. Investigating, I found that there are inexpensive apps available at the Android and Apple app stores with no limitations on who can purchase them that have few if any legal of legitimate purpose. SpoofCard, TraceBust, Fake Call Plus and more  allow a caller to enter any ID they choose, and any number. They also offer menus of background sounds, various voice pitches and other features to facilitate fraud.

When ethics fail, the law must step in, and these apps should be illegal.

2. Mona Lisa Ethics. “Leonardo’s painting is a security hazard, an educational obstacle and not even a satisfying bucket-list item. It’s time the Louvre moved it out of the way” shouted a New York Times sub-headline.” It’s hard to argue with the article’s conclusion….or its author’s contempt.  Here’s a photo of the typical crowd in the Louvre’s room where the Va Vinci painting is exhibited:

The Times observes…

Content in the 20th century to be merely famous, she has become, in this age of mass tourism and digital narcissism, a black hole of anti-art who has turned the museum inside out…Relocated to the Richelieu painting wing, the Mona Lisa reduced the museum’s Flemish collection into wallpaper for a cattle pen, where guards shooed along irritated, sweaty selfie-snappers who’d endured a half-hour line. The overcrowding was so bad, the museum had to shut its doors on several days. “The Louvre is suffocating,” said a statement from the union of the museum’s security staff, who went on strike…[The author] went up with the crowds recently. Things were no better. Now, you must line up in a hideous, T.S.A.-style snake of retractable barriers that ends about 12 feet from the Leonardo — which, for a painting that’s just two and a half feet tall, is too far for looking… visitors…could hardly see the thing, and we were shunted off in less than a minute. …Pathetic new signs [read]: “The Mona Lisa is surrounded by other masterpieces — take a look around the room.”

Morons. These are the fruits of celebrity culture and the spread of the sick addiction to self-celebration. Taking selfies of an art masterpiece only has the objective of proving an idiot was there, for other idiots who are impressed. Meanwhile, those who might really appreciate the painting are  prevented from doing so. Continue reading

There Were Many Good And Ethical Reasons To Fire Don Cherry

Canadian hockey commentator controversies are not usually news stories in the U.S.–thank God—but yesterday was an exception. Broadcaster (and former NHL `player and coach—I remember him from his days coaching the Boston Bruins) Don Cherry, 85, who has the fame and following that few U.S. sportscasters ever attain (Howard Cosell, perhaps? Curt Gowdy? Vin Scully, maybe?) talked himself out of a job by using his “Coach’s Corner” segment on the “Hockey Night In Canada” TV broadcast to criticize Canadian who didn’t wear poppy pins to commemorate  the nation’s Remembrance Day, the counterpart to Memorial Day in the states. Veterans groups sell the pins, which signify recognition of the sacrifice of soldiers who died  in service of the nation.

In typical rambling fashion, Cheery had said,

“I live in Mississauga [Ontario]. Very few people wear the poppy. Downtown Toronto, forget it. Nobody wears the poppy. … Now you go to the small cities. You people … that come here, whatever it is — you love our way of life. You love our milk and honey. At least you can pay a couple bucks for a poppy or something like that. These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada. These guys paid the biggest price for that.”

The presumed translation of the brief rant was that  Cherry was criticizing immigrants (“You people”…”who come here”) for being unpatriotic and too cheap to buy a pin as a gesture of thanks and respect to fallen soldiers. Social media and most of the Canadian sportswriting community immediately condemned the remarks, and called for Cherry’s dismissal. Continue reading

Veteran’s Day Ethics Warm-Up, 11/11/19: Wishing My Dad Hadn’t Died Before He Figured Out How To Comment On Ethics Alarms…[CORRECTED]

Pop Quiz:

How many military veterans are currently running for President in 2020?

Answer: Two…Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

[Correction notice: I forgot about Pete in the first version of the post. Thanks to Jutgory for the catch, and thanks to Mayor Buttigieg for his service.]

1.  Here’s that “violating democratic norms” Big Lie again. This one was flagged by Ann Althouse (Thanks, Ann!)

U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman,  an appointee of President Bill Clinton,  said in a speech at  the annual Thomas A. Flannery Lecture in Washington, D.C. last week, “We are in unchartered territory. We are witnessing a chief executive who criticizes virtually every judicial decision that doesn’t go his way and denigrates judges who rule against him, sometimes in very personal terms. He seems to view the courts and the justice system as obstacles to be attacked and undermined, not as a coequal branch to be respected even when he disagrees with its decisions.'”

Althouse comments,

How do you get to be a federal judge and think the expression is “unchartered territory”? That’s a written speech too (presumably). Did he visualize some entity that issues charters authorizing people to speak about the courts in a particular way? You don’t need a license to speak in the United States, and to require one would, ironically, violate our norms. The expression is “uncharted territory,” which would simply mean that Trump is venturing into a new area of speech that we haven’t previously explored and therefore have not mapped…Now, I agree with the idea that Trump’s speech about law is unconventional, but what determines that he has violated all recognized democratic norms? It’s often said that the judiciary is the least democratic part of the government, that it’s countermajoritarian. So what are the norms of democracy that say a President should not criticize the courts?! You might just as well call this purported norm a norm of anti-democracy.

Anyway… the weasel word is “recognized.” It takes all the oomph out of “all.” Trump’s speech about judges violates “all recognized democratic norms.” Who are the recognizers? The judges? Judges certainly have a role talking about democratic norms, which are often part of the determination of the scope of the judicial role: Judges refrain from doing what is left to the processes of democracy. But part of democracy is speech about government — which includes the judges — and that speech is not limited to flattering and deferring to them. It does not violate the norms of democracy to criticize and attack judges.

Bingo. And it is because of judges whot say these sorts of things that the President is not unreasonable to accuse the judiciary of  bias. Ann chose not to mention that this was also a “norm” breached by Barack Obama, more than once, but I will, the point not being “everybody does it,” but that to this judge and others, what Obama did was apparently only objectionable when Trump did it too—a common theme in the anti-Trump propaganda of the last three years. Continue reading

A Veteran’s Day Revelation: How Did I Not Know This About D-Day? [UPDATED]

After all these many years of reading about and watching movies and TV shows about D-Day, June 6, 1945,  I discovered how the US Navy saved the invasion and maybe the world only yesterday, thanks to stumbling upon a 2009 documentary on the Smithsonian channel.

If you recall the way the story is told in “The Longest Day” and other accounts, US troops were pinned down by horrific fire from the German defenses on Omaha beach until Gen. Norman Cota (Robert Mitchum in the movie) rallied them to move forward, and by persistence his infantry troops ultimately broke through. Yet it was US destroyers off shore that turned the tide of the battle at Omaha, an element that isn’t shown in “The Longest Day” at all.

Though it was not part of the plan, the captains of the Navy destroyers decided to come in to within 800 yards of the beach and use their big guns at (for them) point blank range to pound the German artillery, machine gun nests and sharpshooters. The barrage essentially wiped them out, allowing Cota’s troops to get up and over without being slaughtered. I’ve never seen that explained or depicted in any film, and according to the Smthsonian’s video, apparently was part of the story that had been inexplicably neglected. No monument to the US Navy commemorating its contributions on 6/6/44 was erected at Normandy until 2009.

Here’s the relevant part of account from the  Naval History website on “Operation Neptune,” the Navy counterpart to Operation Overlord: Continue reading