Morning Ethics Warm-Up. 11/27/18: Unethical Perry Mason, Icky Science, Race Card-Playing Democrats, Intrusive Bosses And Slanted History

Good morning…

1. They are showing “Perry Mason” reruns again on cable TV. That was the show that made my generation want to be lawyers, under the delusion that a defense attorney could regularly prove a criminal defendant innocent. (Pssst! They are almost all guilty.) The show holds up, but boy, Perry was sleazy. In an episode I watched while I was sick, he had his investigator tell the hapless prosecutor, Hamilton Burger (Ham Burger to his friends) that he had found an incriminating piece of evidence that proved someone other than Perry’s client had committed murder. Ham relied on the information and got the killer to confess once he was faced with the production of the “smoking gun.” But Perry’s investigator hadn’t really found anything.

Having one’s agent lie to the state prosecutor is a serious ethics breach. Perry also caused the DA to tell a falsehood to get the confession, though Burger wasn’t lying, since he believed Perry’s contrivance. Prosecutors are no more allowed to lie than other lawyers, but when they do lie “in the public interest,” they seldom get more than a slap on the wrist from courts and bar ethics committees, if that. Burger didn’t seem very upset that Perry conned him, because the real killer was caught. The ends justifies the means, or did in “Perry Mason.”

2. Ick or ethics? A Chinese scientist claims that he had successfully employed embryonic gene editing to help protect twin baby girls from infection with HIV. We are told that bioethicists in China and elsewhere are reacting with “horror.” Writes the Times,

“Ever since scientists created the powerful gene editing technique Crispr, they have braced apprehensively for the day when it would be used to create a genetically altered human being. Many nations banned such work, fearing it could be misused to alter everything from eye color to I.Q….If human embryos can be routinely edited, many scientists, ethicists and policymakers fear a slippery slope to a future in which babies are genetically engineered for traits — like athletic or intellectual prowess — that have nothing to do with preventing devastating medical conditions.”

As with cloning, my view on this controversy is that a new technology does not become unethical because of how it might be used. That unethical use will be unethical, and that is what needs to be addressed when and if the problem arises. (Airplanes could be used to drop atom bombs!) The fear of “designer babies” also seems to be an example of “ick”—it’s strange and creepy!—being mistaken for unethical. Making stronger, smarter, more talented and healthier human beings is not in itself unethical, even if it is the stuff of science fiction horror novels and Josef Mengele’s dreams. Continue reading

Satchel Paige Would Approve: From The Ethics Alarms Slippery Slope Files

“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?” said Leroy “Satchel” Paige, the greatest Negro Leagues pitcher of them all, and —who knows?—maybe the  greatest pitcher of all time, in any league. Imagine: Paige wasn’t allowed to play against white players in the Major Leagues until 1948 when he was over 40, and he still was hard to hit. Satch is a great symbol for the ageless and those of us in denial: he pitched in his last Major League game in his 60’s, throwing three scoreless innings against the Boston Red Sox. Paige’s whimsical  idea that age is just a state of mind has now been carried to its illogical conclusion by Dutch citizen Emile Ratelband, a “positivity trainer” who  calls himself a “young god,” and who has asked a local court to legally change his birthday from March 11, 1949 to March 11,1969, the BBC reports.

Heck, why not? If someone with a Y chromosome and all of their original external organs can say they “identify” as a female and use the ladies room, join the Girl Scouts, and have the protection and support of the law and the woke, why not declare age simply a matter of attitude and mind over matter? It’s just the next frontier in the politically correct realm of reality denial, and I would say, and I know Satchel Paige would say, if  how someone feels is sufficient to legitimize that defiance of concrete reality, treating age as similarly flexible is more than reasonable. Just a stroke of a pen by a judge, and poof! You’re as young as you feel. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/30/18: Scary Ethics Stories!

Good Morning!

(And HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my brilliant, talented, always challenging, Trump-hating lawyer little sister, Edith Sophia Marshall!)

1 Quiz results: about 90% of responders found the drag Python sketch about a ladies club re-enactment of Pearl Harbor funny. Whew. As for the one voter who said that it was unfunny because it made light of human tragedy and violence, I’m glad you never attended any of the stage comedies I directed.

2. Ending birthright citizenship for illegal immigrant offspring? President Trump told Axios in an interview that he was preparing to issue an executive order to end birthright citizenship for children of immigrants here illegally. “It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don’t…You can definitely do it with an Act of Congress. But now they’re saying I can do it just with an executive order.”

I have found no authorities who agree with Trump’s lawyers, if indeed they are telling him that. If they are, I don’t blame him for listening to them: if there was ever a President who was legally clueless, it’s this one. Some conservatives are livid about the suggestion (obviously all illegal  immigration-boosting liberals are as well), noting that this proposal is exactly as unconstitutional as Obama’s immigration-related EOs. I tend to agree with them. Ethically, the birthright rule is an incentive to break the law and anachronistic, since it originated when there were no legal restrictions on immigration nor reasons to have any. if the question gets to the Supreme Court, however, it will pose an integrity test for the conservative justices. Their philosophy is that you can’t just re-write or ignore the Constitution when it gets in the way of desirable policy, and this is a perfect example.

It is also very possible—likely?— that the President was using this trial balloon to energize the anti-illegal immigration base as the “caravan” continued its march. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: WeWork

I wonder: how many of the sensitive progressives doubtlessly applauding the fear-monger about President Trump being an “authoritarian” see the obvious hypocrisy on working for a comany like the shared workspace company WeWork, that uses its power of its employees to force them to accept the company’s social values in their personal choices?

On July 13,  WeWork announced that it is banning red meat, pork, or poultry at company events like its “Summer Camp” retreat and internal kiosks, called “Honesty Markets.” (Yecchh. Do you dislike this preening company already like I do?) It also announced that WeWork’s 6,000 global employees won’t be reimbursed if they eat meat at their business meals, except for fish. Eating fish is OK, because…well, just because. The owners didn’t like “Finding Nemo,” or something. You know, fish have mothers too.

The company boasts that these policies  will save 445 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, more than 16 billion gallons of water, and the lives of 15,507,103 animals by 2023. 15,507,103. Wow—those are some precise statistics. Of course, the policy makes no sense. Why are eggs acceptable to WeWork, when egg-raising causes as much theoretical environmental damage as raising chickens to eat? Oddly, WeWork doesn’t impose strict environmental controls on the buildings it uses for offices and work space.

Could it be that this is just blatant, shameless, cynical virtue-signaling? Of course it is. Continue reading

Sunday Evening Ethics Debriefing, 7/22/18: FISA, “Resistance” Jerks, Translator Ethics And More Problems With CVS

Good evening!

1.  Confirmation bias test? The big news today was that the  U.S. Department of Justice and FBI have released the 412 page FISA application used to gain a Title I surveillance warrant against Carter Page in 2016 while he was working as a low-level unpaid adviser for the Trump campaign. The document is heavily redacted in its more than 400 pages. Carter Page himself—he was never charged or interviewed , which seems rather damning in itself–said today,

“‘You talk about misleading the courts, it’s just so misleading… It’s literally a complete joke.'”

The full pdf is available here.

Once again, it is impossible to tell what is going on by following the news media’s reports. It sure seems, however that once you block out the spinning by the mainstream media, this post regarding Devon Nunes’ much attacked memo on the topic was verified.  Still, I have a low rate of patience for these things, and am not the best interpreter of documents like this, so I am only relying on second hand opinions by others who have plowed through the damn thing. I’ll wait to get some reliable readings.

It seems like the critics of the Mueller investigation and the conduct of Justice and the FBI feel confident that the materials show that indeed the warrants were acquired deceptively, meaning illegally, with the unsubstantiated Steele dossier being the crux of the justification for the warrants, also considering the fact that the Clinton campaign was behind the dossier was never revealed to the judges. [Here’s a recent example of the spin being applied to that argument. The judges were told that the dossier was paid for by a person with political motives, and the claim is that this was enough, that they could figure out that it was a tool of the Clinton campaign. I’ve never understood this argument. Why weren’t the judges informed directly, then? ] Ann Althouse commenter named Yancy Ward wrote, Continue reading

From “The Ends Justifies The Means” Files: Senator Feinstein’s Ugly Hybrid, And An Ethics Test For Democrats

The test is simple: how unethical are Democrats willing to be, and how flagrantly, as they desperately try to derail President Trump’s nomination to fill the Supreme Court vacancy, when the right to fill such a vacancy is one of the President’s unquestioned powers, as long as his choice meets basic minimum qualification standards?

Based on the recent tweets from superannuated California Senator Feinstein, fighting for her professional life and apparently pandering to the extreme Left as a result, the answer is “Very unethical, unfortunately.”  The Senator tweeted,

“Two-thirds of Americans don’t want women’s access to reproductive health care restricted. President Trump’s SCOTUS nominee could do just that by overturning Roe v. Wade and setting off at least 20 states’ “trigger laws” restricting abortions.

and…

“Overturning Roe v. Wade would take us back to the days of women being severely injured and dying because they can’t get basic medical care. We’ve come too far to go back to those days.

These are both ugly hybrids designed with malign intent, kind of like the Indoraptor in “Jurassic Park II,” except the components of the vile mutation in this instance aren’t a T-Rex and a Velociraptor, but misrepresentation and fear-mongering.

1. President Trump’s (at this point) un-named nominee can’t “overturn” anything; only the full court can do that. He or see could  ride in the Kentucky Derby, I suppose. Any of Obama’s appointees “could” also “overturn” Roe, if enough Justices went along with them. In a case presenting that possibility. Of which there are none currently before the Court. And which may not get before the Court.

Ethics offense: Deliberately making the public more ignorant. And fear-mongering.

2. Feinstein is falsely using “reproductive health care” as a substitute for “abortion.” They are not the same thing.  I don’t know what polling results the Senator is referring to, but if it involved “reproductive health care,” it wasn’t about abortion specifically. Pew, which is the closest thing we have to a fair and non-partisan survey organization, found only 25% of the public wants abortion to be legal in all cases, which is what no restrictions on access to abortion means, assuming Feinstein’s ” “reproductive health care” is the deceptive code it appears to be. (If she really means “reproductive health care,” she’s nuts. Who has ever stated an opposition to “women’s access to reproductive health care”?)

Ethics offense: Dishonesty. Deceit. Obfuscation. Misuse of statistics to confuse rather than clarify.

And fear-mongering.

3. The second tweet is irresponsible and flat-out false. Overturning Roe-–in that yet to be identified future case that has gone through the lower courts and poses the issue in a way that a majority of the Court deems appropriate for review, with the result accomplished by the presumed vote of the unidentified Justice who, like the rest of the yet to be assembled Court majority, will determine the case without regard for the facts or established law, stare decisus or the outcome of oral arguments—would not do anything but return the determinations of policies regarding what restrictions, if any, will be placed on abortion to the states, and to the voters in those states, with the results very much in doubt.

Ethics offense: Deliberately making the public more ignorant. Dishonesty. Deceit. Obfuscation.

And fear-mongering.

No elected official who deliberately engages in dishonest tactics like this can or should be trusted by the public with power or influence. We should all keep close watch on how much lower abortion advocates are willing to go. For the ends do not justify the means, and politicians, parties, and party leaders who signal otherwise are a menace to democracy, no matter what the issue may be.

 

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/8/18: Idiots, Bigots, Liars and Freakouts

Good Morning!

My favorite hymn, naturally: the first selection at my father’s 2010 funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, the stirring finale of “Mrs. Miniver,” and it was composed by none other than Sir Arthur Sullivan.

1. What’s the ethical response to these kinds of stories? I’m pretty sure I don’t have it, whatever it is. From today’s New York Times: “This year, a tourist in India was mauled to death when he tried to take a selfie with a wounded bear.” Last week, an Australian tourist was nearly killed when a shark that she was hand feeding dragged her into crocodile-infested waters. How should we feel about such people? “Serves the morons right” isn’t an ethical response, but that kind of clueless idiocy gets people killed all over the world, every day. Laughter is tempting, but seems cruel. I can’t apply the Golden Rule, because there is no way I can imagine myself behaving quite that stupidly. Is “I’m genuinely sorry that you’re an idiot” mockery, or compassion?

2. What’s going on here? I sure can’t figure it out. The quickest way for you to get up to speed is to click on the link and read the twitter feed backwards. Here’s a summary: two police officers claimed that they were harassed at a Raleigh, N.C. barbecue restaurant, with staff calling out “Fuck the police!” The police association wrote about the alleged incident on Facebook, the restaurant denied the account, and an investigation indicated that the complaints were exaggerated at most, and perhaps fabricated completely.  Then the association posted this:

Huh? The issue is NOT resolved until we learn what, if anything the officers were reacting to, why they made a false claim, and what kind of discipline they face, if any. Meanwhile, the story was reported on social media by a criminal defense attorney (all criminal defense attorneys hate and distrust cops, and vice-versa) whose characterization of the episode is that the police “terrorized a local business.” Terrorized? (Pointer: valkgrrl)

3. As the self-segregation of America continues...Outspoken conservative Hollywood actor James Woods was dropped by his agent, Ken Kaplan, who wrote, “It’s the 4th of July and I’m feeling patriotic. I don’t want to represent you anymore. I mean I can go on a rant but you know what I’d say.” Woods replied,

 “Dear Ken, I don’t actually. I was thinking if you’re feeling patriotic, you would appreciate free speech and one’s right to think as an individual. Be that as it may, I want to thank you for all your hard work and devotion on my behalf. Be well.”

Commenting on this, Constitutional Law expert Jonathan Turley opined, Continue reading