Category Archives: Environment

Mid-Day Ethics Refreshment, 6/12/2018: “Ethics Isn’t A Horse Race, It’s A Marathon” Edition

Good afternoon…

1. Culture rot symptoms. Once upon a time it would have been unthinkable and shameful for the owner of a losing horse in a Triple Crown race to claim that dirty tactics have affected the outcome. That, however, was before the loser of the 2016 Presidential election did the equivalent sour grapes act, loudly and continuously. This is how important cultural ethics norms fall off in chunks.

Justify becoming the only undefeated Triple Crown champion after Seattle Slew as he won the Belmont Stakes was immediately smeared  by Mike Repole, co-owner of fourth-place Vino Rosso and last-place Noble Indy. He didn’t claim Russian collusion, just equine collusion.

“Justify is a super horse. He is a Triple Crown winner and he’s undefeated,” said Repole “But I can see the stewards looking into this over the next couple of days. I probably expect them to look into reckless riding by Florent and bring him in to question him about what he was thinking and what his tactics were.”  He accused jockey Florent Geroux of riding Restoring Hope, Justify’s stablemate, to clear the way for Justify to win the race.

“It definitely seemed to me [Restoring Hope] was more of an offensive lineman than a racehorse trying to win the Belmont,” Repole told reporters, “and Justify was a running back trying to run for a touchdown.” Nice. the complaint instantly became the main story of the race, before Justify’s jockey and owners were able to bask in the rare accomplishment for a day or two. Ironically, Repole’s own Vino Rosso was assisted by similar “lineman” tactics by another horse, Noble Indy, like Vino Rosso trained by Todd Pletcher. Concludes racing expert Pat Forde,  “It’s almost certainly why Noble Indy was entered. Basically, Pletcher’s two-horse racing tactic simply ran up against a better two-horse racing tactic.”

And the tactic is legal. Never mind. Graceful losing is on the way out, thanks to our politicians.

2. He gets it, and he doesn’t even read Ethics Alarms! The Ethiopian cabbie who drove me home from the morning mandatory legal ethics seminar that I teach every month for newly-minted D.C. lawyers spent that first half of the trip complaining about President Trump. Then he said, “Now, I didn’t vote for him, but I respect him. I respect him because he is the President of my country, and my fellow citizens elected him. I can complain about him to you, because you are an American too. If a foreigner gets in my cab, however, and starts insulting the President, I pull over and order him out.” Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, April 9, 2018: Experiment Results, Flowering Trees From Hell, And Ominous Signs From The Left..

Good morning…

…Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are…

1. Apologies for a lost Sunday. I was never able to get back to my computer yesterday. The combination of my responsibilities to the Georgetown Gilbert & Sullivan Society as it celebrated its 46th year of operation against daunting odds, some pressing client matters and important family matters just overwhelmed my schedule, plus I was wiped out by the early evening. Of course, based on the blog’s traffic this month and the continuing ethics rot, I console my self in the message of the most famous song from “Ruddigore,” GG&SS’s student production for the anniversary…especially the final line…

“This particularly rapid unintelligible patter isn’t generally heard, and if it is, it doesn’t matter.”

Ethics commentary in a nutshell.

2. However: The regulars came through in a pinch. The free swim produced at least four  Comment of the Day quality posts, including a history of the Gettysburg address. Thanks everybody. The experiment was a ringing success, and I will have more open forums in the future.

3.  This kind of thing is why I have a hard time taking environmentalist doom-saying seriously. We planted Bradford Pear trees, which are now blooming beautifully as is their wont, in front of our house almost 20 years ago. They have their downsides, to be sure, and you have to trim them back or they are likely to split or fall over. However, here is an environmentalist claiming that they are trees from hell, and who writes in part: Continue reading

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Ethics Self-Warm-Up, 4/8/2018: An Ethics Alarms Experiment

My gallant crew, Good Morning!

The combination of the 45th Anniversary of the Gilbert & Sullivan performing organization I founded as 1L student at Georgetown and some unusually complex ethics problems tosses to me by some law firm clients have conspired to put me out of action until this afternoon.

I’m opening this post up to commentary on any ethics issue you please. Stay on topic, please, and be civil.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/23/18: The All-Disposable Edition…Legal Ethics, Budgets, And Grocery Bags

Good Morning…

1. More Professionals Behaving Badly: The news media has widely reported that Ted Olson of the law firm Gibson Dunn refused Donald Trump’s request for his legal services. Olson, who is best know for arguing  the Bush side of Bush v. Gore that ended the 2000 Florida recount,  had declined to comment on this to the media but a partner in the firm Gibson Dunn’s “global co-chair” issued a tweet that Olson was not going to be representing the President. This is a straight-up violation of an attorney’s ethical duty  of confidentiality to a prospective client.

In other Trump lawyer news, the media is also widely reporting that John Dowd resigned from the President’s legal team over the President’s refusal to accept Dowd’s advice that he not agree to give testimony to the Special Prosecutor. Telling the news media that—telling anyone that—would also be a breach of confidentiality on Dowd’s part.

2. Per se legislative incompetence. Once again the Senate and the House passed a huge bill with massive implications and consequences without reading it. The legislation funds the federal government for the remainder of the 2018 budget year, through Sept. 30, directing $700 billion toward the military and $591 billion to domestic agencies. The military spending is a $66 billion increase over the 2017 level, and the non-defense spending is $52 billion more than last year. It also further explodes the deficit and the debt that bring the United States one step closer to a ruinous financial reckoning. The Democrats have been happily on this path for the entire 8 years of the Obama administration, but the Republicans rode to power in part because the public recognizes how insane this is. The GOP couldn’t even muster a cut in the arts spending that it has been promising since the Reagan administration, or to finally cut ties with public television, though Big Bird fled the nest years ago. Continue reading

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Once Again, This Is Why Climate Change Scolds And Activists Have Neither Credibility Nor Integrity

Blogger Ann Althouse received a trenchant comment on her post chiding New York Times columnist Nick Kristof for flying to Easter Island so he could deliver a metaphorical warning about climate change. Noting that Kristof could have leaned all he needed to learn about Easter Island’s well-documented environmental catastrophe without flying halfway around the world by jet, she wrote,

“How on earth….did Nicholas Kristof think he could get away with that sanctimony?! DO NOT LECTURE US! Let your example come first, and then you can talk. You flew to Easter Island — you led a tour, enticing others to fly to Easter Island — so obviously, you think nothing of your carbon footprint or the carbon footprint of all those other people who jetted out there with you. When your actions are so radically different from your words, I don’t believe your words. The depredations of global warming may be coming, but I don’t believe that you believe it.”

Bingo. But Althouse commenter JPS really nails it, writing [remember, AGW is Anthropogenic Global Warming), Continue reading

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Addendum: The “Ableist” Accusation And The Insidious Spread Of Rationalization #64

I had not intended to post further on the Gal Gadot controversy, mentioned as item #5 in today’s Ethics Warm-Up, where she is being slammed as “ableist” for suggesting that Stephen Hawking might be relieved to shed the crippling limitations of his near lifetime battle with Lou Gehrig’s Disease. (Knowing Hawking’s famed sense of humor, I assume he appreciated the best gag ever executed on  “Friends,” when idiot Joey asked what Yankee first baseman Lou Gehrig died of. “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” he was told. “Wow,” said Joey. “What are the odds of that!“) However, I realized that the argument against Gadot was yet another example of the increasing popularity of one of the most destructive and insidious of the rationalizations on the list, #64, Yoo’s Rationalization or “It isn’t what it is”:

Named after John Yoo, the Bush Justice Department lawyer who wrote the infamous memo declaring waterboarding an “enhanced interrogation technique,” and not technically torture,  #64 is one of the most effective self-deceptions there is, a handy-dandy way to avoid logic, conscience, accountability and reality.

Examples of this are everywhere. Paul Krugman, the progressive economist and Times columnist, began a column like this:

“Remember all the news reports suggesting, without evidence, that the Clinton Foundation’s fund-raising created conflicts of interest?”

The Clinton Foundation’s fundraising created a conflict of interest, by definition. For a non-profit organization, with family connections to either a current Secretary of State or a Presidential candidate, to accept money from any country, company or individual who has or might have interests that the Secretary or potential President can advance is a conflict. It’s indisputable. No further ‘evidence” is needed.”

How does Krugman deal with this problem? Simple: he convinces himself that screaming conflicts aren’t what they are without “evidence,” by which he means “proof of a quid pro quo.” But a quid pro quo is bribery, not a conflict of interest. A conflict of interest might lead to bribery, but a conflict is created as soon as there is a tangible reason for an official’s loyalties to be divided.

Yoo’s Rationalization or “It isn’t what it is” turns up everywhere, and has since time began. A mother swears that her serial killer son “is a good boy,” so she doesn’t have to face that fact that he’s not. It is denial, it is lying, but it is lying to convince oneself, because the truth is unbearable, or inconvenient.  It is asserting that the obvious is the opposite of what it is, hoping that enough people will be deluded, confused or corrupted to follow a fraudulent argument while convincing yourself as well. The Rationalization includes euphemisms, lawyerisms, and the logic of the con artist. Illegal immigration is just immigration. Oral sex isn’t sex, and so it’s not adultery, either. I didn’t steal the money from the treasury! I was just borrowing it!

And waterboarding isn’t torture.

#64  also could be named after Orwell’s “1984,” and called “Big Brother’s Rationalization” in homage to “War is Peace,” etc. But John Yoo deserves it.

Rationalization #64 is also closely related to the Jumbo.

The Republican denial that torture was torture remains the worst example of “It isn’t what it is”, but the list is getting longer and becoming more of a burden to public discourse and problem-solving every day. In the case of advocates for the disabled, the rationalization actually holds that a physical handicap isn’t a disability at all, and one without certain abilities we would naturally regard as normal are just “differently abled.” No, that individual is disabled. The fact that Stephen Hawking, with an IQ estimated at 280, had a compensating superpower that allowed him to achieve amazing things does not make his disability imaginary. Maybe he would have liked to play softball. Maybe he would have liked to tap dance. Maybe he would have liked to hold his grandchildren. Denying his disability accomplishes nothing but distorting reality and making it less vivid and clear. Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “The Desperate ‘Gunsplaining’ Dodge”

“Saying you need to understand gun terminology to have opinions on gun policy is the equivalent of saying you need to understand the biology of a heroin overdose to have an opinion on the drug war.”

Thus went the jaw-on-the-floor stupid tweet of Zack Beauchamp, a senior report at Vox. I had written a post about the ridiculous “gunsplaining” article in the Washington Post, and foolishly assumed that even anti-gun fanatics would be embarrassed to endorse the view expressed there that those arguing for material changes in public policy should be required to understand the object of that policy. Then came Zack’s tweet.

Admittedly, and to be fair, Twitter makes people stupid. We have documented the sad Twitter-feuled decline of Harvard Law School icon Larry Tribe, and new victims of Twitter brain-suck suface every day.  Bill Kristol once had a rather impressive brain, for example; look what he tweeted last week:

Wow. What a terrible, and ahistorical, analogy.  The Texans at the Alamo were fighting in a war to secede from Mexico. Santa Anna was an authoritarian all right, but to Texans he was being authoritarian in the same way Lincoln was when he used forcet to keep the South from leaving. Mexico was hardly “nativist”: it invited Americans to settle the territory, and their arrival was completely legal. Indeed, Texas is a great example of what can happen when a country doesn’t control immigration at all.  Twitter makes you stupid, and bias makes you even more stupid. Add anti-Trump bias to Twitter and you get Bill Kristol sounding like Maxine Waters.

Zach liked Kristol’s bad analogy too!

The fact that Vox employs a senior reporter whose critical thinking skills are so poor and whose judgment is so wretched that he happily displays them on social media is instructive regarding the influence new media commentators like Vox wield. Thus I was grateful for this Comment of the Day, by Michael West, on the post, The Desperate “Gunsplaining” Dodge’: Continue reading

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