Category Archives: Around the World

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/24/2018: ‘Can’t We All Get Along? Nah…’ Edition

Good morning!

1. What? Negotiation competence? Boy, we haven’t seen THAT for a while. President Trump just pulled out of the scheduled summit with North Korea, a public lesson in Negotiation 101. If only Barack Obama had taken the Art of the Deal seminar before capitulating to Cuba and Iran. the letter the current elected President just sent to North Korea could not be more obvious in its devices, but I guarantee you that my negotiations professor at law school, Dean Adrian Fisher, one of the negotiators of the SALT treaty, would have approved. Here’s the letter, released this morning.

This is another ethics test, by the way. Take note of who criticizes the President for this, for they  will be revealing themselves as either reflex-Trrump haters or the kind of people used car dealers love to see walking in the door.

2. “A Nation of Assholes” update. It is now beyond dispute that the concept was right but that I badly misjudged the population that I thought would be primarily affected. My theory in the 2015 essay was that that having an ethics-challenged boor like Donald Trump as President would degrade the ethical standards of the public through the “rotting fish head” process: people follow the leader. Well, that has happened too, but the worst asshole transformation has beset progressives and “the resistance.,” as their behavior gets worse by the hour. Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/16/ 2018: The Fake Moussaka Edition”

I fear that a theme on Ethics Alarms over the next few days is going to be the awful conduct and deteriorating ethical standards of the Trump-hating left. This situation is not really debatable, and flagging it from an ethical perspective should not be regarded as a partisan or an ideological act. It is, though: I have the emails, comments and Facebook insults to prove it. Why aren’t progressives and Democrats properly outraged? Why don’t they find this conduct by their apparently unhinged compatriots as repulsive as I find it—as repulsive as it is? I don’t understand it. When they are confronted, and I have confronted many, they have no answer, no reason. Just rationalizations, or more often, just emotional outbursts. Today a Facebook friend, and a real friend too, an actor and, I am pretty sure, a Communist, wrote in Facebook that he would rather have Harry and Megan running the country, because republican democracy wasn’t working out so well. He wasn’t kidding, either, and nobody in the progressive Facebook echo chamber challenged him. People are going insane, and they are rotting from the inside out.

Steve-O-wrote this in response to Item #1 in the 5/16 Warm-up. That section was about all the Democrats and pundits actively cheering for the North Korea talks to collapse, because they are so filled with hate that they want Trump to fail even when his successes would be good for the country and the world. That is, in a word, diseased. And that is what the “resistance” has devolved into in less than two years. I could not be more disappointed in my fellow citizens. I thought they were better–fairer, smarter, more patriotic, with a firmer hold on the values they claimed to possess—than this.

They’re not.

Here is Steve-O-in-NJ’s Comment of the Day on the post,Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/16/ 2018: The Fake Moussaka Edition:

David Gergen once said that those who dislike and criticize this nation, particularly blacks who don’t celebrate July 4 because they are still bitter about their history aren’t unpatriotic, they just practice “a different form of patriotism.” He also said that Jeremiah Wright might well love this country more than conventional patriots, but just believe we have fallen short of our ideals. The concept of “matriotism,” a sort of pacifistic yin to patriotism’s yang, was floated for a while, but never really caught on.

The fact of the matter is that a lot of us on the right loathed Obama and loathed his policies, but we never let that turn into us hating our own country, and we never stood against our own servicemen, even when Clinton wasted our efforts in the Balkans and Obama led from behind to topple Gadaffi…without a clue of what to do afterwards. We (except a few crackpots) also never talked of taking up arms against our own elected officials, nor rioting. Guess who put mobs in the street before the War on Terror and rioted the day Trump was sworn in, the duly elected president? Hint: it wasn’t the right.

The fact of the matter is that the left is a strange mix of the ultra-violent (the Black Panthers, antifa) and the ultra-disloyal (the National Lawyers’ Guild, the Peace and Freedom Party) held together by a few charismatic folks who want ultimate power and don’t give a damn how they get it. The only problem is that the right is in the way, and after Vietnam the right has pretty much a lock on the flag and conventional patriotism, which the average Joe still reveres. Like it or not, Donald Trump has become identified with the flag, strong law enforcement, a strong military, and other conventional symbols of pride in this nation. That’s still pretty powerful. Worse still, under Trump the economy is doing better, people have more money in their paychecks, and overall things seem to be looking back up after years of looking down. Continue reading

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Rare Species, Previously Believed Extinct, Sighted: A Balanced Analysis Of The Iran Nuclear Deal

On a matter of as much significance and complexity as the Iran nuclear deal, it is depressing to see that almost all commentary in the news media begins with a partisan bias, a “team” mentality, and the typical talking-point orientation that makes genuine public understanding unattainable today. People choose the position that already aligns with their friends and their loyalties, and adopt it uncritically. As a result, public discourse is useless.

This is no way to run a democracy.

Elliot Cohen is a prominent Never-Trump neo-con and foreign policy scholar, writing in the Atlantic, a generally “resistance”-favorable progressive publication. His analysis of the current contretemps involving the Iran deal is the closest I have seen yet to a fair and balanced one. That doesn’t mean I think he is right on all counts, especially ethically. The second half of this statement, for example is as  troubling as the first half is refreshing:

“The Iran deal was, in truth, a very bad one. It did nothing to inhibit Iranian behavior in the broader Middle East, did nothing to stop its ballistic programs, and opened the path for a resumption of the nuclear-weapons program in a decade or so. Some of us said so at the time. Walking away from it, however, will make matters worse not only because success is unlikely, but because this shredding of an earlier presidential agreement further undermines the qualities that those who look to American leadership have come to value—predictability, steadiness, and continuity. Even when American allies have doubted the superpower’s wisdom, they usually felt they could count on its constancy.”

They also have to be able to count on its competence, courage, and ability to change course when a current course is disastrous. It is unethical to make policies that are careless, expedient and dangerous in a setting where there is no recourse once the course is set.  Leaders have to undo mistakes and take new directions even when it means future distrust and present anger.  The previous President took unseemly joy in declaring previous Presidential policies wrong-headed, and reversing them forthwith. True: this is a bad habit, and all leaders should respect previous decisions and commitments by their predecessors, except in extraordinary circumstances. The standard should be similar to the Supreme Court’s rule of stare decisus, which means that previous SCOTUS rulings have the presumption of permanence, unless they are sufficiently bad for law and the nation. I am satisfied to move the Iran debate from the Obama-Kerry mythology to “it’s a bad deal.” The question is then whether it is sufficiently bad to justify a variance from the general rule that Presidents ought to leave agreements made before their election stand if at all possible.

To his credit, Cohen displays almost equal contempt for the Obama administration and President Trump. Some notable excerpts: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/16/ 2018: The Fake Moussaka Edition

Gooood morning Pyongyang!

…and everyone else too, of course.

1. ” Winning.” How many in “the resistance” and the news media are rooting, secretly or openly, for the North Korean talks to fail? Based on the tone of some premature gloating on social media and news reports after North Korea threatened to pull out of talks, I think “many” is the fair answer. Other recent headlines and news stories also point in this direction, like “Improving Economy A Problem For Democrats.” (No, an improving economy is not a problem for any Americans, unless they care about their own power more than their country.)

This is especially revolting ( and hypocritical) from the same people who 1)  falsely attributed Rush Limbaugh’s indefensible statement in 2008 that he wanted Obama to fail to the entire Republican Party (I condemned Limbaugh’s statement at the time) and 2) used it to feed the narrative that conservatives who opposed that Presidents left-ward policies were doing so out of personal and racial antipathy.

A President’s success–as in “being proved correct” or “getting lucky,” it doesn’t matter which— makes it more likely that policies you don’t like will be continued? Suck it up and cheer like the good citizen you are. His accomplishments make it less likely that your favorite politician will get elected? Cry me a river: your duty is to care about your nation and fellow citizens first. That you are on record that—okay, still think that—this Presdent has crap for brains and you wouldn’t shake his hand without gloves makes you look less wise and prescient than you would have if he fell flat on his face? Cue the world’s smallest violin, have some integrity, and grow the hell up.

2. Ken Burns ethics, and FDR. In this post earlier this year, I scored documentary whiz Ken Burns for the hagiography of Franklin Roosevelt that marred his otherwise superb “The Roosevelts.”  “The smoking gun for me,” I wrote, “is that despite ten and half hours, Burns somehow never found time to highlight FDR’s internment of American citizens solely because they were of Japanese ancestry. The civil rights outrage is only alluded to in passing, as part of a list from a biographer preceding the nostrum, ‘All great leaders make mistakes.’” That critique stands, but it is slightly unfair, I subsequently discovered. Burns covered the internment of Japanese Americans extensively in an earlier, also excellent, PBS series, 2007′ s “The War.”  Even that section, however, avoided laying proper accountability for the debacle at President Roosevelt’s feet.  I watched the documentary over the past two days, and the deceit is really extraordinary.  The narration keeps referring to Executive Order 9066, without specifically saying whose order it was, like the thing appeared on its own. Here, Ken, let me fix this for you:

President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the imprisonment of tens of thousands of American citizens of Japanese ancestry and resident aliens from Japan in concentration camps (“internment” is a euphemism and a cover word, like “pro-choice”) with towers and guards with loaded rifles. Though some German-Americans and Italian-Americans were imprisoned as well, far fewer were taken. The risk they posed was not considered as great, because they were white.’

Executive Order 9066 wasn’t rescinded, incredibly, until February 19, 1976, by President Ford. The Supreme Court decision upholding the order, Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214 (1944),has never been overturned. In that case’s 6–3 decision approving the abrogation of American citizen rights with fear as the justification, six of FDR’s eight appointees—you know, the liberals—  sided with Roosevelt, and against the Bill of Rights. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/15/2018: Alito Gets One Right, Ellison Deceived, And An Ancient, Unethical Tactic Works Once Again…

To a glorious morning, Ethics-Lovers!

1. Bad Alito, Good Alito.  As I briefly noted yesterday (and hopefully will do in detail today), Justice Alito authored an unethical and embarrassing dissent defending a lawyer who deliberately betrayed his client by telling the jury that he had killed someone his client denied killing. Bad Alito. However, the arch-conservative jurist also authored the majority opinion in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, in which the SCOTUS majority struck down a virtuous but unconstitutional law, and did so clearly and well.

These are, I think, my favorite Supreme Court opinions, where the Court ignores the motives and objectives of a law and simply rules whether the legislature is allowed to behave like that. I don’t know, but I would guess that most of the majority feel the way I do about organized sports gambling: nothing good can come of it, and a lot of harm is inevitable. One they get the green light, I’m sure that as many states will take over sports gambling for its easy revenue as now prey on its poor, desperate and stupid with their state lottery scams. Everyone involved–sports, fans, athletes, states, the public’s ethical compass—is going to be corrupted by letting the sports betting genie out of its bottle: just watch.

Nevertheless, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a 1992  law known as PASPA, should have been struck down decades ago; I’d love to know why it took so long. No, it did NOT ban sports betting, though this is what far too many news reports tell you. Congress can ban sports betting directly if it chooses to, as it is interstate commerce. This isn’t in dispute. What it did in 1992, however, was to order states not to pass laws states have a constitutional right to pass. The distinction matters. From SCOTUS Blog, which is usually the best source for analysis of these things:

The 10th Amendment provides that, if the Constitution does not either give a power to the federal government or take that power away from the states, that power is reserved for the states or the people themselves. The Supreme Court has long interpreted this provision to bar the federal government from “commandeering” the states to enforce federal laws or policies. [The] justices ruled that a federal law that bars states from legalizing sports betting violates the anti-commandeering doctrine…

…In a decision by Justice Samuel Alito, the court began by explaining that the “anticommandeering doctrine may sound arcane, but it is simply the expression of a fundamental structural decision incorporated into the Constitution” – “the decision to withhold from Congress the power to issue orders directly to the States.” And that, the majority continued, is exactly the problem with the provision of PASPA that the state challenged, which bars states from authorizing sports gambling: It “unequivocally dictates what a state legislature may and may not do.” “It is as if,” the majority suggested, “federal officers were installed in state legislative chambers and were armed with the authority to stop legislators from voting on any offending proposals. A more direct affront to state sovereignty,” Alito concluded, “is not easy to imagine.”

…The court also rejected the argument, made by the leagues and the federal government, that the PASPA provision barring states from authorizing sports betting does not “commandeer” the states, but instead merely supersedes any state laws that conflict with the provision – a legal doctrine known as pre-emption. Pre-emption, the majority explained, “is based on a federal law that regulates the conduct of private actors,” but here “there is simply no way to understand the provision prohibiting state authorization as anything other than a direct command to the States,” which “is exactly what the anticommandeering rule does not allow.”

Got it.

Good decision. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/14/2018: Another Rushing Around In A Hotel Room Getting Ready For A Seminar Edition…

Good morning from Boston...

…where I always feel at home! I’m here for the morning, talking to young, newly minted Massachusetts lawyers about ethics.

1. This is a big deal, though only lawyers will care. Finally, California has ditched its confusing, multi-source (some ethics rules were laws, some were regulations), antiquated legal ethics rules, and became the last of the jurisdictions, including D.C., to adopt the American Bar Association’s template for legal ethics guidance. Yes, in one area, if not the most important ones, California is moving closer to the rest of the country! There is hope!

2. Ally’s lament. Ally Sheedy, whom you might recall from “War Games” and “The Breakfast Club,” is one of Hollywood’s more articulate and thoughtful performers. She recently penned a post condemning Hollywood sexism, and its effect on her career. Essentially the essay amounts to a complaint that Hollywood is obsessed with appearances and, with women, sex appeal.

I like Sheedy, and I was pre-inclined to respect her observations (which are certainly accurate), but I have to admit that unsympathetic blogger Amy Alkon has a point. She writes,

“..professional actress Ally Sheedy takes it upon herself to lament the looks-driven reality of Hollywood — which is kind of like lamenting how in professional baseball, somebody’s always throwing a ball your way. …This is the movies, dear, not the genetics lab. Her entire essay is an example of intrasexual competition — criticizing and trying to change the standards of female competition by one who falls a bit short of them.Because so many people are so ignorant of our evolved psychology and in denial of biological sex differences (and the psychological sex differences that come out of them), they don’t get that there is pressure on men, too, to meet women’s differing mating priorities.As for those differing priorities, well…you don’t see men writing essays about how rotten it is that you can’t get a hot girlfriend (or probably any girlfriend) while unemployed and sleeping on a couch in your grandma’s basement.”

Yikes. And they say I’m tough… Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Dunces: Jeremy Lam And The Cultural Appropriation Police”

Huh! I didn’t know this was traditional Chinese business attire! Imagine: This is what Marco Polo must have seen!

The most amusing reaction to the apotheosis of progressive silliness that was the attacks on Utah high-schooler Keziah Daum for wearing a Chinese-style prom dress came from China, where the South China Post’ s Alex Lo, who authored a column titled, “Go ahead, appropriate my culture.” He wrote in part,

If anyone thinks social media is harmless, this incident should prove otherwise. A person called Jeremy Lam apparently first tweeted about her transgression, which is now being called “cultural appropriation”. “My culture is NOT your goddamn prom dress,” he posted…I apologise in advance for contributing to the silliness, but just needed to get it off my chest.  A publication as esteemed as The Independent of London ran a column supportive of the criticism.“The debate her prom pictures have prompted is justified,” the columnist wrote. “Cultural appropriation is about power, and to many she is the embodiment of a system that empowers white people to take whatever they want, go wherever they want and be able to fall back on: ‘Well, I didn’t mean any harm’.”

I would argue those who scream loudest about cultural appropriation are themselves after power…Why does Jeremy Lam think Chinese is his culture? Is his the same as mine? Is it some kind of property like an inheritance? If so, where is the will, written in our DNA, perhaps? And is it taxable or payable, and by whom? Why did Lam write in English? Isn’t he inappropriately appropriating English-speaking culture? …SJWs turn culture into some kind of finite asset, a zero-sum rather than a growing-sum game. They are oblivious or ignorant of how human cultures actually work: culture is cultural appropriation.

The topic sparked many excellent comments here, including this Comment of the Day by Alexander Cheezem…on the post, Ethics Dunces: Jeremy Lam And The Cultural Appropriation Police:

It’s worth noting the issue of what I can only call — with much irony — aggregation bias here. There _has_ to be a term for it that doesn’t rely on punning off a statistical concept, though…”

In reflection, I suppose that what’s going on is technically a variant of the ecological fallacy — but it’s manifesting as a form of bias (in the non-statistical sense) based on the aggregation of behavior… so the term isn’t quite right, leading me right back to punning off of the statistical concept. I can’t explain the issue without a massive amount of technical language (e.g. “the emergent nature of many features of a complex system”).

And that is a huge problem with modern liberalism. Continue reading

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