Morning Ethics Warm-Up, June 5, 2019: Ethics Corrupters In The House, The Senate, The White House, The Times….

The next morning was going to be a crucial one, but not exactly “good”…

Good Morning!

1. How to expose a demagogue. Senator Elizabeth Warren is near the bottom of my ethics rankings of the various Democratic Presidential candidates, and not just because of the way she handled her crisis of color. She’s a pure demagogue, and a particularly dangerous one, as she is a stirring speaker and apparently shameless.

It takes clarity of thought and rhetoric to expose demagogues, especially Warren’s breed, which carry the trappings of authority—after all, she’s a Harvard professor, so she must be smart (or so those who did not attend Harvard seem to think.) The President’s favored tactic of name-calling is of limited value for this purpose, but Rep. Dan Crenshaw, the veteran mocked by Saturday Night Live because of his war wounds,  is providing an ongoing seminar on how to expose Warren’s dishonesty.

When Warren tweeted this high-sounding sentiment…

…Rep. Crenshaw  zeroed in on its deception.

Note also the gently mocking imitation of Warren’s flip use of “thing,” so much more rhetorically effective than calling her “Pocahontas.”

Here is how Crenshaw eviscerated another typical bit  of Warren pandering…

Then there was this expert take-down….when Warren grandstanded with this…

Crenshaw pointed out exactly what was wrong with it…

Why, yes, that’s exactly what it is.

2. Censorship and keeping the truth from the public is not ethical, nor is it a legitimate way to address problems in a democracy. Continue reading

Political Fundraising Frauds And Scams, PART II: The Conservatives

(Except nobody was alerted…)

An intrinsic problem with members of a party that extols Capitalism is that so many  have a fondness for making money that often overwhelms their ethics alarms, assuming they have any….and many don’t.

In a brave and responsible article posted to day, National Review writer Jim Geraghty , lays out a devastating indictment. He writes in part,

“Why is the conservative movement not as effective as its supporters want it to be? Because day after day, year after year, little old ladies get called on the phone or emailed or receive letters in the mail telling them that the future of the country is at stake and that if they don’t make a donation to groups that might as well be named Make Telemarketers Wealthy Again right now, the country will go to hell in a handbasket. Those little old ladies get out their checkbooks and give what they can spare, convinced that they’re making a difference and helping make the world a better place. What they’re doing is ensuring that the guys running these PACs can enjoy a more luxurious lifestyle. Meanwhile, conservative candidates lose, kicking the dirt after primary day or the general election, convinced that if they had just had another $100,000 for get-out-the-vote operations, they might have come out on top.”

Continue reading

Political Fundraising Frauds And Scams, PART I: The Democrats

There’s nothing much  lower and making your iconic ,84 year old, women’s rights advocate on the Supreme Court look like she’s breached multiple judicial ethics rules, but the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) is up to the challenge, A current DSCC fundraising letter, forwarded to me by a friend, does this AND lies to its supporters in the interest of separating them from their money.

  • No, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg” does not “have a powerful message” about this topic. She made that statement more than 20 years ago, before she was “Justice Ginsberg,” when she told Senators that.

I assume that Justice Ginsberg neither gave her permission to be misrepresented  in this fraudulent manner, nor knew the DSCC was planning on making her a party to a scam. She’s old, but she’s not THAT old. Continue reading

Lunchtime Ethics Appetizer, 6/3/2019: Self-Censorship, Trump’s Ridiculous Jumbo, Turley On Mueller, And A College Ranking Scandal [Updated]

Bon Appettit!

1. To self-censor or not to self-censor. Right after expressing here my dilemma about whether to risk political and partisan backlash by raising current, important and legitimate legal ethics issues from the Mueller investigation, there were a flurry of articles and podcasts about the dangers of self-censorship in a climate where Americans are being systematically intimidated from opposing the Woke Collective. This is a classic ethical dilemma, with ethical considerations like integrity, duty, citizenship, honesty and responsibility, are opposed by non-ethical considerations, like keeping one’s job, paying the bills, and not being cast as a pariah in one’s profession.

I was also reminded of my problem by Instapundit referencing today an old  Washington Post article about Mao’s mass murders. My company lost a lucrative sexual harassment training deal after two Chinese nationals (that I did npt know were in the audience) too offense at a tangential comment about Mao’s exterminations dwarfing those of Hitler and Stalin  (but not Darth Vader). Both contacted me and demanded apologies, claiming that it was Western propaganda and that the Great Leader had “only” executed millions out of necessity. I refused (I know I have mentioned this before here) and said I was sincerely sorry they had been subjected to cultural influences that had warped their ethics, and that if I had been aware that this was a sensitve topic to anyone in the audience, I would have omitted the reference. Having spoken the truth, however, I was not going to deny or apologize for it.

“Why didn’t you just apologize?” my client asked. And I was reminded of the moment in “1776” when a royalist in the Continental Congress asks Jefferson why he called King George “a tyrant” in the Declaration. “Because he is a tyrant,” Jefferson answers.

I’m an ethicist, I said. I’m not going to whitewash the massacre of 45-60 million people because someone is offended by the truth.

That was the end of that contract…

2. The President issues a Jumbo. Why does he do things like this? I have no idea. It si the political equivalent of pushing a pie into his own face. In an interview with the British tabloid, The Sun tabloid, Trump responded to a query about his reaction to  Megan Markle’s statement  that he is a “misogynist” and her suggestion that “she’d move to Canada if you got elected; turned out she moved here.” He said, “Well, a lot of people are moving here, so what can I say. No, I didn’t know that she was nasty.”

Of course Trump was attacked for saying that to a British newspaper—it was racist, it was an insult, the usual. Of course the President shouldn’t stoop to personal swipes at anyone; on the other hand, that’s what he does when he is attacked himself.  “Tit for Tat” and “doing unto others as they did to you” are part of Trump’s “ethics.” Can’t we stipulate this by now? Can’t TRUMP stipulate it at this point?

Then he tweeted, “I never called Meghan Markle ‘nasty.’ Made up by the Fake News Media, and they got caught cold! Will @CNN, @nytimes and others apologize? Doubt it!” He did this knowing that the Sun had his statement recorded, and sure enough, the paper  released the audiotape.

See, the idea behind Jimmy Durante saying “Elephant? What elephant?” when caught stealing the biggest pachyderm in the world in a musical comedy is that it’s obviously desperate and ridiculous, and intended to be funny.

This is just self-destructive, disturbing, and really, really stupid.

3. Jonathan Turley on Mueller. The George Washington Law prof has consistently been a voice of reason and objectivity reagarding the Mueller investigation. He has recently written two excellent columns on Mueller’s public statement, here, and here.

Greg should send them to his ex-friend.

4. Why is this more damaging to a school than, say, falsely instructing students about justice, the right to representation, and due process?

From TaxProf Blog: “University Of Oklahoma Inflated Its Alumni Giving Data For 20 Years, U.S. News Strips Its #127 Ranking”

The University of Oklahoma admitted to  U.S. News that it had inflated its alumni giving data since 1999, which affects its placement in the National Universities, Best Value Schools, Top Public Schools, Best Colleges for Veterans and A-Plus Schools for B Students rankings and lists. For the 2019 Best Colleges rankings, the University of Oklahoma originally reported its two-year alumni giving rate at 14 percent. The school informed U.S. News the correct value is 9.7 percent. The average alumni giving rate has a weight of 5 percent in the Best Colleges ranking methodology.

And now,

A former OU student has filed a class action lawsuit against the University of Oklahoma as a result of the university being stripped of its U.S. News & World Report ranking. [Gretzer v. Oklahoma, No. 19-490 (W.D. OK May 28, 2019]

The lawsuit, which was filed May 28 on behalf of former OU student Elani Gretzer and all OU undergraduate students since 1999, alleges the university broke contract by providing false alumni giving data to U.S. News & World Report, inflating its ranking in U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Colleges” ranking as a result.

The lawsuit alleges the U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of the Price College of Business was a “material factor” in Gretzer’s decision to enroll at OU. … The suit is also filed on behalf of an estimated minimum of 350,000 people — all OU students who have enrolled since 1999, the year in which OU has admitted it began providing false information to U.S. News & World Report.

Morgan Cloud (Emory) & George Shepherd (Emory), Law Deans In Jail, 77 Mo. L. Rev. 931 (2012):

A most unlikely collection of suspects — law schools, their deans, U.S. News & World Report and its employees — may have committed felonies by publishing false information as part of U.S. News’ ranking of law schools. The possible federal felonies include mail and wire fraud, conspiracy, racketeering, and making false statements. Employees of law schools and U.S. News who committed these crimes can be punished as individuals, and under federal law the schools and U.S. News would likely be criminally liable for their agents’ crimes.

Some law schools and their deans submitted false information about the schools’ expenditures and their students’ undergraduate grades and LSAT scores. Others submitted information that may have been literally true but was misleading. Examples include misleading statistics about recent graduates’ employment rates and students’ undergraduate grades and LSAT scores.

U.S. News itself may have committed mail and wire fraud. It has republished, and sold for profit, data submitted by law schools without verifying the data’s accuracy, despite being aware that at least some schools were submitting false and misleading data. U.S. News refused to correct incorrect data and rankings errors and continued to sell that information even after individual schools confessed that they had submitted false information. In addition, U.S. News marketed its surveys and rankings as valid although they were riddled with fundamental methodological errors.

One question: why isn’t Harvard’s ranking being lowered? I suspect that it’s because maleducating students and systematically undermining American values and civil rights isn’t included in the criteria.

It should be.

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/2/2019: Dark Thoughts And Good Reasons For Them

Looking forward to the ethical week ahead, certain that I’ll be disappointed, and bitterly, based on last week…

<Sigh>

1. The Ethicist’s Dilemma. I’m preparing for a couple of legal ethics CLE seminars for government lawyers, and raised  an ethical dilemma facing me to my sister. The last time I included government lawyer ethics issues related to the multiple controversies in the Mueller investigation, the FISA process, and the Michael Cohen clown act, I received several critical evaluations that were entirely partisan and political. And, in the session itself, there were a couple of participants obviously set at “hair-trigger” to register accusations and objections that any criticism–based on pure legal ethics analysis on my part—that found fault with the lawyers involved revealed me as a dreaded “Trump supporter.” I asked my sister, who is a retired government lawyer with extensive Justice Department experience, if I should nonetheless cover such issues as Robert Mueller flagrantly violating Rule 3.8 of the D.C, Rules with his public statement last week,  or what a White House Counsel’s ethical obligations are regarding communications from the President (since the “who is the client?” complexities of that role continue to confound legal ethics experts, my position is that the WHC has an ethical obligation to make it crystal clear to any President when he is covered by attorney-client privilege and when he is not, to cite one example.)

Her depressing advice: Don’t touch any of it. People, even lawyers, are not capable of keeping their emotions and political passions under control these days, she said. No matter how accurate and fair your analysis is, she emphasized, you risk allowing these hot-button issues to derail the seminar and even harm your professional reputation.

Yet I believe that I have an obligation to cover these issues. I also have a lifetime bias for doing what people tell me will be disastrous when I am convinced that it is the right thing to do. Then my father’s voice comes out of the mists of time, reciting his favorite fake obituary, a ditty about sailing:

This is a story of John O’Day
Who died maintaining his right of way
He was right, dead right, as he sailed along
But he’s just as dead as if he were wrong.
I’m thinking.

Continue reading

What A Fine, Fine Role Model This High School Principal Is…If The Idea Is To Graduate Short-Cut And Rationalization Addicted Students Who Try To Tap-Dance Their Way Out Of Trouble!

 

Abby Smith, a graduating student at Parkersburg High School in West Virginia, noticed something vaguely familiar about  the speech given by the school’s principal, Ken DeMoss, at her graduation last week. Later, she went home and looked for a video of a speech actor Ashton  Kutcher (formerly the goof on “The 70s Show,” the goof who succeeded Charlie Sheen on “Two and a Half Men,” and the guy who took over froim Bruce Willis when Demi Moore decided she wanted a husband with hair) gave at the 2013 Kid’s Choice Awards. Then she edited DeMoss’s speech and Kutcher’s together, and posted them on YouTube.

There’s no doubt about it, as you can see above. The principal ripped off the speech.

Some might say that what Smith did was mean and unnecessary. No, it was responsible, essential, and gutsy. Students are taught in school, or are supposed to be,  to do their own work, a lesson especially hard to convey when the internet makes plagiarism  easy to do and hard to detect. The distinction between being inspired by another person’s creative output, using it as a foundation for an original work, borrowing phrases and ideas (with attribution), and, in contrast, stealing intellectual property and presenting it as your own, is a crucial one for students to understand. When a role model, a school administer, flagrantly does what the school must teach students not to do, and worse, does this  in front of students, and even worse than that, does it in the course of a speech about the virtues of hard work, such cynicism, laziness, and cheating must not be allowed to pass unnoticed, and I hope, unpunished.

After he was caught, “Kenny” issued this epicly horrible statement, incorporating rationalizations, unethical apologies, multiple logical fallacies, a Jumbo and, of course, lies: Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 6/1/2019: Ethics Is Busting Out All Over! Mostly BAD Ethics…

Happy June!

1. Boycott/extortion update! Let’s see if Georgia has as much guts and principle as Alabama, and tells Disney to go fly a kite.

Hugh Culverhouse, Jr., the University of Alabama’s largest donor,  called for a boycott of Alabama , both the University and the state , because of Alabama’s defiant, anti-Roe  abortion ban, recently signed into law. The university’s law school was renamed Hugh F. Culverhouse Jr. School of Law last September 2018 after the Florida businessman pledged  $26.5 million to the university. In response to Culverhouse’s boycott call, University of Alabama System Chancellor Finis St. John recommended to the Board of Trustees that it return the $21.5 million  the law school it has actually received from Culverhouse, and restore the name to “The University of Alabama School of Law.”

Good. That’s exactly how states should respond to attempted extortion by individuals and corporations to control their lawmaking and bend the state to their wills rather than the decisions of voters. The whole story is at TaxProf Blog.

2. Nah! A reverend like, say, Martin Luther King would never engage in the kinds of sordid acts his biographer claims! They are men of God!

Bobby J. Blackburn, the pastor of Elevate Church in Prestonsburg, Kentucky,  was arrested this week and  charged with the prohibited use of an electronic communication system to procure a minor to commit a sex act. Blackburn is also the owner of Giovanni’s, a pizza restaurant in Prestonsburg. A girl who worked there showed a police sergeant images of an iMessage conversation she had with Blackburn in which he asked the minor to engage in a “threesome” with him and another girl, also a minor. He also made other sexually explicit requests.

Rev. Bobby tried to weasel out of his mess by bringing a third young woman to the police station and having her claim that she sent the incriminating messages from his phone. It didn’t work: under questioning, she admitted that she was lying and that Blackburn ordered  her to make the false claim under threat of losing her job.

I hear he’s one heck of a pastor, though! Continue reading