Delayed Morning Warm-Up, 2/26/21: The Good, The Bad, And The Deranged…

Sorry-For-The-Delay

I just completed my ethics legal seminar, and wow, Trump Derangement runs deep. I kept getting these off topic questions about whether Trump’s lawyer in the impeachment trial was sanctionable for “lying.” Lawyers know better than that: unless you present false evidence (like, just as a wild example, claiming the rioters “killed’ and officer when they did not), advocacy for a client is immune from prosecution, liability or professional discipline. Finally an attendee messaged the group to say, “Can we please stop wasting everyone’s time with these Trump Derangement political questions?”

1. Good! As discussed here, country music superstar Morgan Wallen was suspended indefinitely by his record label and removed from hundreds of radio stations across the country after he used a “racial slur” that no news reporting organization would tell us what it was. OK, I did and will: he was captured on camera saying “nigger” in banter with his friends outside his home, and a malicious neighbor posted the video to social media. Now, I am happy to report, the efforts to “cancel” the singer appear to have largely flopped. The Times reports,

[H]is breakthrough release, “Dangerous: The Double Album” to No. 1 once again. It has held the top spot on Billboard’s album chart for six weeks in a row now, the longest run in the peak position since Taylor Swift’s “Folklore” last summer, and the only country album to spend its first six weeks at No. 1 since Garth Brooks’s “The Chase” in 1992. In its sixth week out, “Dangerous” had the equivalent of 93,000 sales in the United States, including 112 million streams and 10,000 copies sold as a full album, according to the tracking service MRC Data, which is owned by Billboard’s parent company. So far, “Dangerous,” which has 33 tracks in its “bonus” version, has logged just short of one billion streams in the United States.

Meanwhile, a country music station in Knoxville reversed its ban on Wallen’s records after polling listeners, who voted more than 9-1 to have them played again. Other stations are sure to follow, and not because the audience is full of racists who like to use that mysterious word, whatever it is, that the New York Times won’t specify, but because art is distinct from artists, and it is ignorant and foolish to confuse them. Art enriches our lives, and the more of it the better. Unfortunately, there is no correlation between virtue and talent.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/24/2021: The Sarcasm Edition

First appearance in 2021 of my favorite Ethics Warm-Up intro. Maybe that’s why 2021 ethics has gotten off to such a rotten start…

In addition to its significance in the siege of the Alamo, yesterday’s date of February 24 has other important ethics markers, perhaps some more important than Travis’s iconic letter. Perhaps the most impact on U.S. history was this date in 1803, when Chief Justice John Marshall (no relation that has been shown to my satisfaction) handed down the landmark decision in William Marbury v. James Madison, Secretary of State of the United States, establishing the legal principle of judicial revie. That’s what gives the Supreme Court the authority to limit Congressional power by declaring legislation unconstitutional. I doubt very much that the United States would still exist as a free republic had not that case been decided as it was, yet the result was probably dictated more by partisan politics than philosophy.

Marshall, in his majority opinion, declared that acts of Congress in conflict with the Constitution are not valid law and therefore are non-binding on the courts, and that the judiciary’s first responsibility is always to uphold the Constitution. And if two laws conflict, Marshall wrote, SCOTUS has the responsibility of deciding which law applies in any given case. Periodically members of Congress, pundits and even academics have criticized the decision, but there can be little doubt that had Marshall not led the Court to make this stand, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights would have been quickly shredded.

This is particularly relevant now, when the Democrats in Congress have signaled that they want government authorities to decree what is factual and what is “disinformation,” while they also seek to weaken Second Amendment rights. Incidentally, there is a prominent statue of Marshall at the Supreme Court, and a recast in John Marshall Park, near Judiciary Square, also in D.C. Another recast is in Philadelphia. Marshall owned hundreds of slaves, which is entirely irrelevant to his essential influence on our government and values. Clearly, many, perhaps most, of the college students in the U.S. would prefer that a non-slave owner had headed the Court, even if it resulted in a nation that slipped into allowing the virtual slavery of all citizens to a national government that “knew what was best.”

1. Oh, sure. Why not? We all know that committees are so effective at leadership. A letter signed by three dozen House Democrats urge Joe Biden to relinquish full control over the country’s nuclear weapons in favor of a committee of legislators. “…Vesting one person with this authority entails real risks,” states the letter, inspired by Rep. Jimmy Panetta of California. “Past presidents have threatened to attack other countries with nuclear weapons or exhibited behavior that caused other officials to express concern about the president’s judgment.While any president would presumably consult with advisors before ordering a nuclear attack, there is no requirement to do so,” the letter adds. “The military is obligated to carry out the order if they assess it is legal under the laws of war. Under the current posture of U.S. nuclear forces, that attack would happen in minutes.”

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Creeping Totalitarianism Alert! As Expected, The Democratic Party Moves To Censor Speech And Suppress Dissent

Committee anouncement

“In their zeal for control over online speech, House Democrats are getting closer and closer to the constitutional line, if they have not already crossed it,” writes Glenn Greenwald at substack. But the point is, they want to cross it, and have been signalling that they want to cross it for a long time. This is not a conspiracy theory. This is real.

On March 25, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will interrogate Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, Facebooks’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Sundar Pichai at a hearing which the Committee announced will focus “on misinformation and disinformation plaguing online platforms.” “Misinformation and disinformation” is defined by Democrats as any opinions, theories or analysis that they find inconvenient. Such statements as “President Trump colluded with the Russians,” “President Trump incited a deadly insurrection” or “Hunter Biden has done nothing wrong” are not “misinformation and disinformation.” Clear?

Writes Greenwald,

“House Democrats have made no secret of their ultimate goal with this hearing: to exert control over the content on these online platforms. “Industry self-regulation has failed,” they said, and therefore “we must begin the work of changing incentives driving social media companies to allow and even promote misinformation and disinformation.” In other words, they intend to use state power to influence and coerce these companies to change which content they do and do not allow to be published.”

This is a direct attack on democracy, and the certainly that the Democratic Party was poised to use this strategy once they were in power was the reason, as I stated in November, that I concluded that the only responsible choice was to vote to re-elect Donald Trump, who is as attractive to an ethicist as head cheese is to a vegan. Those who allowed emotion, bias and propaganda to convince them otherwise were irresponsible and incompetent, and have enabled an existential crisis.

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Law And Ethics Notes

ethics and law

I’m desperately trying to meet a course materials deadline so my brain is stuck on law right now. Here are are few items of general interest:

1. As expected, the Supreme Court passed on the various cases involving the election, ruling them moot, which indeed they are. Thomas and Alito dissented, with Gorsuch joining with Alito, on the grounds that it would be prudent to take up the issues involved in those cases now, to avoid a repeat in the next election.

Justice Thomas wrote:

“The Constitution gives to each state legislature authority to determine the ‘Manner’ of federal elections,” Yet both before and after the 2020 election, nonlegislative officials in various States took it upon themselves to set the rules instead. As a result, we received an unusually high number of petitions and emergency applications contesting those changes.”

Thomas argued that the cases Republican Party of Pennsylvania v. Veronica DeGraffenreid (2021) and Jake Corman v. Pennsylvania Democratic Party (2021) presented “a clear example” of election law issues that the Supreme Court should settle, writing

“The Pennsylvania Legislature established an unambiguous deadline for receiving mail-in ballots: 8 p.m. on election day. Dissatisfied, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court extended that deadline by three days. That decision to rewrite the rules seems to have affected too few ballots to change the outcome of any federal election. But that may not be the case in the future. These cases provide us with an ideal opportunity to address just what authority nonlegislative officials have to set election rules, and to do so well before the next election cycle. The refusal to do so is inexplicable.”

Oh, I can explain it. The Court doesn’t want to inject a destabilizing element into what is already dangerously widespread suspicion about the election. An opinion that said, in essence, “This was illegal, and some illicit votes were allowed to count that shouldn’t, probably not enough to change the results, but at this point, who knows?” would not be helpful or wise.

2. If you think a lawyer looking like a cat at a hearing is bad, or appearing before a judge on Zoom in pajamas, or a professor being on mute for two hours while lecturing remotely, consider this: Peruvian defense lawyer Héctor Cipriano Paredes Robles was taking part in a virtual hearing when his video feed began to show him stripping naked, and engaging in enthusiastic sex with a naked woman.The judge, John Chahua Torres, tried to alert Robles that the hearing participants could see him and his partner’s multiple positions on the live feed, but the lawyer was, uh, busy.

“We are witnessing obscene acts which represent a violation of public decency and are aggravated by the fact they are being recorded nationally!” Judge Torres said.

Good point.

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George Washington’s Birthday Ethics Warm-Up, 2/22/21: Happy Birthday, George! We’re Sorry Your Country Has Become Populated With So Many Ignorant, Ungrateful Fools…

portrait_of_george_washington

If there is any American whose birthday should be a national holiday, it is George Washington, born this day in 1732 in Westmoreland County, Virginia, the first of six children of Augustine and Mary Ball Washington. If I have to tell you the reasons he was “the essential man” in American history, well, I guess you’re the product of our current public school system, a recent college graduate, a Democrat, a Black Lives Matter enthusiast, or something. There is no rational excuse for every American, yes, even African-Americans, to not be grateful for this day. Martin Luther King is now the only individual to have a national holiday dedicated to his honor, while Washington’s memory was dumped into a hodge-podge of lesser figures including Franklin Pierce, William Henry Harrison and now, Donald Trump. King is worthy of his day, but to honor King over Washington is as good an example of “putting the cart before the horse” as one could find. Shame on us. True, George is not lacking honors, with the capital city named for him, a towering monument, cities and towns in many states, Mt. Rushmore, and his image on both the most-used bill and coin. Nonetheless he earned all of it, and this date should be a holiday.

On The Ethics Alarms home page, you will see to your right a link to the list of ethical habits some historians believe made Washington the remarkably trustworthy and ethical man he was, ultimately leading his fellow Founders to choose him, and not one the many more brilliant, learned and accomplished among them, to take on the crucial challenge of creating the American Presidency. Directed to do so by his father, young Washington copied out by hand and committed to memory a list called “110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.”  It was  based on a document compiled by French Jesuits in 1595; neither the authors nor the English translator and adapter are known today. The elder Washington was following the teachings of Aristotle—another Dead White Man whom most Americans alive today couldn’t tell you Jack S-word about— who held that principles and values began as being externally imposed by authority (morals) and eventually became internalized as character. As I wrote when I first posted them here,

The theory certainly worked with George Washington. Those ethics alarms installed by his father stayed in working order throughout his life. It was said that Washington was known to quote the rules when appropriate, and never forgot them. They did not teach him to be a gifted leader he became, but they helped to make him a trustworthy one.

Would that readers would access that list more often. And politicians. And lawyers. And educators…

1. How ignorant and ungrateful? THIS ignorant and ungrateful

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“Denial”: An Ethics Movie (Part 1)

“Denial,” a 2016 British film that I missed (along with most moviegoers in the U.S.), tells, reasonably accurately, the story of a 1996 libel suit brought by David Irving, an anti-Semite, Holocaust-denying British historian, against Deborah E. Lipstadt, author of the 1993 book “Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory.” After the suit, her account of the ordeal, “History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier,” formed the source of the screenplay.

Irving brought a lawsuit in Britain against Lipstadt (played by Rachel Weisz), and her publisher, Penguin Books, for calling him a Holocaust denier, a liar, and an anti-Jewish bigot. Irving is a long-time Hitler defender, and claimed there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz. British libel laws, unlike those in the United States, place the burden of proof on the defendant to prove that what was written was justified. Thus Lipstadt’s legal team must focus on proving Irving’s evidence is false, and that he knows it is false. The stakes were suddenly high, for if a court ruled that Irving’s theories had legitimacy, the results would have been catastrophic. For this reason, at least according to the film, a group of Jewish leaders urged Lipstadt to settle the suit before trial.

The movie is now on Amazon Prime. It is not a flamboyant legal drama but an intelligent and clear one (I would love to put it on stage). It also raises important ethics and legal issues, among them:

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Midnight Ethics Terrors, 2/17/21: Trump Attacks! Fake Law! Fake News! Fake Science!

nightterrors-orig-crop

Okay, I started this at midnight, then got the night terrors, and waited until (almost) daylight to finish…

1. Who didn’t see this coming? Yesterday, Donald Trump unloaded with both metaphorical barrels on Mich McConnell as no President, former or otherwise, has ever attacked his party’s Senate leader before. McConnell asked for it, got it, and deserved it. His post impeachment trial acquittal was a foolish attempt to turn the President’s vindication into a defeat, and a pretty transparent example of the “now that the guy who was never one of us is out of power, we can strike at him with impunity” syndrome. Is McConnell really that deluded and incompetent? He must be. He apparently doesn’t understand the cognitive dissonance scale. Amazing. See, Mitch, nobody really likes you. You have the charisma of a scrub brush. As controversial as Trump is, he’s so much higher than you on the scale…

Cognitive Dissonance

… that attacking him just drags you lower still. Don’t you get that? Now Trump has double the effect. Some prime excerpts:

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Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quote Of The Month (Yes, It’s More Impeachment Analysis, And I’m Sick Of It Too, But This Is Important): Professor Jonathan Turley”

Sentence first

Here is Aaron Paschall’s Comment of the Day (he gets extra credit for the “Alice in Wonderland” quote) on the post, “Ethics Quote Of The Month (Yes, It’s More Impeachment Analysis, And I’m Sick Of It Too, But This Is Important): Professor Jonathan Turley”:

“Sentence first, verdict afterward!”

The nitpicking of “’Legally, due process only applies to life, liberty, and property,” she lectured. “A job is none of those.’” honestly terrifies me. This is the consequent of thought processes like the argument against Justice Kavanaugh: “It isn’t a ‘trial,’ it’s a job interview. Due process doesn’t apply outside a court of law.” Or the one which we see now extolled in defense of Facebook/Twitter bans: “Private companies can ban whoever they like – the government isn’t doing a thing. Freedom of speech has no bearing outside of the government.” In attacking Trump and more than Trump, they’ve whittled away virtually all defenses or niceties like fairness, decency, moderation, humility, justice, the benefit of the doubt and a million more. How they can bear to stand on such a barren plain of life and declare it rich and good is beyond me.

In C.S. Lewis’ “The Silver Chair,” Puddleglum the Marshwiggle was a gloomy sort. Near the end of their adventure, he and his comrades found themselves deep underground, with a fire emitting thick, bewildering fumes. The villain of the piece encouraged them to give up, that the surface world they were trying to escape to didn’t even exist – it was a figment of their imaginations. The sun, the sky, the wind – illusions, and one she was trying to save them from expending their lives in fruitless search of. At the last moment, when nearly everyone was convinced, Puddleglum stamps his foot into the center of the fire, putting it out – and filling the room with the scent of burnt Marshwiggle, which was not nearly so nice. And he addressed the witch with what is one of my favorite quotes ever:

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Ethics Quote Of The Month (Yes, It’s More Impeachment Analysis, And I’m Sick Of It Too, But This Is Important): Professor Jonathan Turley

Shredding-the-Constitution

..Even with acquittal all but ensured, there was no room for constitutional niceties like free speech or due process. There was only one issue — the same one that has driven our media and politics for four years: Trump. Through that time, some of us have objected that extreme legal interpretations and biased coverage destroy our legal and journalistic values.

—-George Washington University Law School professor Jonathan Turley, constitutional law expert, on the conduct of the Democrats before and during the just-completed second Trump impeachment trial.

This statement, as well as the rest of his article for The Hill yesterday, was not only astute (though Turley’s observations should have been obvious) but personally welcome, in part because it tracked exactly with what I have been writing here for four years, but  in no small part because I was almost finished with a post making the same points. For Turley to make them is, of course, better, since a lot more people, though not nearly enough, pay attention to what he says. It was especially welcome because not one but two friends (among others) had made fatuous and indefensible assertions about the impeachment in the past two days, inspiring me to start that now redundant post.

My theme was going to be about how their now completely unhinged, Ahab-like mania to destroy the former President had led them to deny the importance of what once were accepted by liberals and conservatives alike—but especially liberals before their rebranding as “progressives”—as crucial, indispensable, core American values relating to personal liberty and government interference with it. The rationalizations employed in this scary process are stunning.

Prime among them as been 2020’s rationalization of the year: “It isn’t what it is,” #64. As I noted in the previous post, a Facebook friend (whom I strongly suspect was one of the self-exiled progressive Ethics Alarms commenters) wrote on the platform to the usual acclaim of  “likes” and “loves” that the 57 Senators who voted for this corrupt impeachment were voting “for democracy.” They were in fact doing the opposite, and in many ways, as Turley’s article explains (though again, it should be obvious.) Then, in a discussion with a more rational friend, another lawyer, about how the House impeachment had deliberately bypassed due process, I was told that there is no right of due process in an impeachment proceeding, nor should the prohibition of ex post facto laws and bills of attainder apply. Here was a lawyer making technical arguments against ethics. “Legally, due process only applies to life, liberty, and property,” she lectured. “A job is none of those.”

I could rebut that, but the point is that both the Declaration and the Constitution mark out basic values of our society, not just laws, but ethical values. “Due process” means fairness, and this lawyer, an alleged progressive, was arguing that the government doesn’t have to be fair while depriving the public of an elected official and that elected official of his job, and that individual of his ability to seek that job or another one. This is what hate and arrogance have done to the Left.

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Journalism Ethics/Legal Ethics/Government Ethics Rot: The Democrats And Journalists Tried To Convict Donald Trump With Fake News

U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian D. Sicknick lies in honor, in Washington

Gee, does this bother anyone out there who hates Donald Trump or who voted for Joe Biden?

If your answer is no, I’m disgusted with you. You’re beyond help, hope, or rehabilitation.

The farce of a Senate trial the nation just endured was predicated on emotion rather than law, logic, fact, language or evidence. Prime among the emotions weaponized was hatred of former President Trump (in the trial: hatred of then-President Trump was all the Democratic House needed for its evidence-free, investigation-free “snap impeachment” (credit: Prof Turley.) At the trial, House managers alluded to Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick being “killed’ in the riot, the intended implication being that President Trump was responsible for his death. Nancy Pelosi made certain that Sicknick’s body lay in the Capitol Rotunda, one of only five civilians so honored. All the better to show the nation that the President had blood on his hands. right, Nancy? The AP wrote on February 2,

Slain U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick lay in honor in the building he died defending, allowing colleagues and the lawmakers he protected to pay their respects and to remember the violent attack on Congress that took his life.

That’s false on its face, but it is the mythology the public and the Senators were fed in the weeks and days following the House impeachment. Here’s CBS: “‘Hero’: Lawmakers honor officer killed in US Capitol riot.”

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