Donald Trump, Abe Lincoln, The Phantom Document Trick, And The Almanac Trial

The most recent example of the news media’s self-destructive obsession with embarrassing and denigrating Donald Trump was the alleged “prop” Mexico deal scandal. this week. Writers from both the New York Times and Washington Post, including Post “Factchecker” Glenn Kessler, stated as fact that the paper the  President had held up as he talked about the border agreement with Mexico and said,

“In here is the agreement. We’re getting along great.Two weeks ago we had nothing,”

…was blank, a prop, just one more example of Trump lying to the American people. Other pundits and bloggers, like progressive Josh Marshall,  joined the mockery.

Then it turned out that some shots of the paper showed that it was a folded over piece with a printed document inside. Of course, that paper could have also been a prop, a recipe for gazpacho or something, but the President’s later remarks suggested that he was enjoying the spectacle (#47, 391 by my count, but I’m sure I missed a few) of the biased and incompetent mainstream news media further undermining the public’s trust in journalism by indulging its hatred for the President.

“I just give you my word, inside here … is the agreement,” he said . “That’s the agreement that everybody says I don’t have.” Finally, someone freeze-framed the video where the inner document could be read. The visible words…

“The Government of Mexico will take all necessary steps under domestic law to bring the agreement into force with a view to ensuring that the agreement will enter into force within 45 days.”

So the paper Trump held up was not a prop, an engine of deception, after all. Or was the President deliberately using the covering paper to beguile the news media into calling him a liar? “You were able to read it through the sunlight,” Mr. Trump told reporters at a press conference. “That was not anticipated.”

And suddenly the voice of Wilfred Brimley (from “Absence of Malice”) intrudes on my consciousness, in an altered version of his famous scene in the film, asking the President, “I could ask you if you set all of this up, but you wouldn’t tell me if you did, would you?”

“Mr. Trump, are you that smart?”

Oh no, of course not! He’s a barely functioning demented moron who should be removed by the  25th Amendment. It’s amazing how he keeps making his smug enemies expose their own hate and ineptitude. Just lucky I guess. Continue reading

D-Day 75th Anniversary Ethics Warm-Up, June 6, 2019: Stumbling As We Try To Keep America Worthy Of Their Sacrifice [UPDATED!]

U.S. WWII veterans from the United States attend a ceremony at Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial situated above Omaha Beach to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day, in Colleville-sur-Mer, France.

I have a special reason for being a devotee of D-Day: I may be here because my father missed it. He was supposed to be in the invasion, but as an observer, not a combatant. Dad never explained how he got that plum assignment, but before he had the honor, an idiot in his company blew part of my father’s foot apart while playing with a hand grenade nearby. (You’ll be happy to hear that said idiot advanced human evolution by blowing himself up in the process.) Thus Jack Sr. was in an army hospital on June 6, and had to wait for the Battle of the Bulge to be part of an iconic W.W. II conflict.

1. Somehow, I don’t think this is the society they thought they were fighting for…

At Rutherford High School in Bay County, Florida, a teacher  wrote “WTF” on a student’s science homework. His mother complained, calling the vulgar acronym “inappropriate.”

Boy, what a prude.

I just saw another of the increasingly common TV ads where evoking a vulgar word is used for humorous value.  One of the cell phone networks includes an exclamation of “Holy shirt!” (Get it? HAR!) when a father’s gray attire suddenly explodes into color as soon as the family upgrades its network.  “What the Shirt” is also a trendy shirt company.

In a culture where casual public vulgarity is treated as normal and even clever, it is no surprise that alleged professionals often have no functioning ethics alarms regarding their language, or any sense of respect, etiquette, gentility or decorum. After all, when a newly elected Congresswoman thinks it’s appropriate to shout “We’re going to impeach the motherfucker!” and suffers no adverse consequences, what do we expect?

2. Somehow, I don’t think this is the society they thought they were fighting for…wait, didn’t I just write that?

Sueretta Emke complained that she was dining with her family at a Golden Corral in Erie, Pennsylvania, when the manager told her that her attire was inappropriate and that some customers had complained. Asked Emke said the manager couldn’t answer when she was asked what was so inappropriate about her outfit. It was a mystery!

For some reason the phrase “res ipsa loquitur” keeps coming to mind.

Call me crazy, but I doubt that if  Ms. Emke’s croptop and Daisy Dukes had fit her more like this…

…anyone would have complained, or even if someone had, that the manager would have ejected her.  She was being fat-shamed. On the other hand, even at a Golden Corral, diners should have enough respect for others to adopt at least minimum standards of appropriate attire. On the OTHER hand—Did you know that Edward Albee wrote a play called “The Man With Three Arms? It was not a success—unless restaurants have stated, publicized and displayed  dress codes, it is unfair to arbitrarily discriminate against the unattractive exhibitionist and slobs while allowing the attractive ones to dine unmolested. Continue reading

From The “Appeal to Authority” Files: Why Should We Care What John Paul Stevens Thinks Now?

Already, the mainstream news media is starting to re-gurgitate retired SCOTUS justice John Paul Stevens’ opinion on gun control, as related once again in his newly published memoir. They seem to think this old news is new ammunition  in its war against gun rights in alliance with the Democratic Party. (Note: ethical journalists are not supposed to be allied with any party. I may not have mentioned this in the last 24 hours.)

Bloviating about Columbia v. Heller, the 2008 decision holding that the Second Amendment created an individual right to bear arms, Stevens calls the ruling “unquestionably the most clearly incorrect decision” rendered while he was on the Court. And this proves—what? Stevens dissented in that case. His view lost. The fact that he dissented was significant when he was on the Court. That as a retired justice a decade later (who is commenting on current Court rulings from the sidelines more openly than any previous justice, a breach of professionalism and ethics) he really, really thinks he was right though a majority of his colleagues on the Court did not, should be at most a footnote somewhere on the ABA Journal’s gossip page. Instead, we will see it everywhere as “new evidence” and authority that there really isn’t a right to bear arms.

Was there widespread publicity when retired Justice Byron White wrote that his dissent in Roe v. Wade was right and the decision was wrong? No, for two reasons: White observed the traditional respect for the Court  requiring that ex-Justices not snipe at past decisions after they retire., and nobody in the news media would try to hype a dissent against abortion rights.

This doesn’t even get to the sad reality that Stevens’ arguments regarding gun rights are juvenile and emotional, essentially belonging to the popular “Do something!” ilk. Continue reading

Mid-Day Moldy Ethics Snack, 5/8/2019: Bad Charge, Bad School, Bad Father

Yechhh!

1. Do something, blame someone…In Plano, Texas, police have charged Lindsey Glass with violating a law making it a misdemeanor to negligently sell alcohol to a “habitual drunkard or an intoxicated or insane person,.” It seems she served Spencer Hight two gins, two beers and a shot of alcohol during two visits to the bar where she was working in September 2017, before Hight killed Meredith Hight and seven other people. After  police officers shot and killed him, an autopsy found that Hight’s blood alcohol level was about four times the legal limit. The  arrest affidavit said surveillance video shows  that Hight was unsteady, spun a “big knife on the bar,” and could be seen “pulling out a gun” from his waistband.

It’s a terrible charge, and an unethical prosecution.  Glass  texted a co-worker, another bartender, saying that Hight had been spinning the knife and told her had had to go “do some dirty work.” A report by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission said  that the other bartender had called an owner of the bar, who instructed that  police should not be called. Glass was so concerned that followed Hight to his ex-wife’s home and then called 911, according to local station  Fox 4.

A lawyer for Glass emphasized  that his client had called 911 and said she had been commended by police. “It is shameful of the Plano Police Department to go after the person who was vital in trying to stop the horrific events of that evening,” he told Fox 4 and NBC in a statement. Exactly right. Police, spurred by public anger and frustration, want to find someone to blame. The fact that the drunk  went off and killed eight people is pure moral luck. It seems that the bartender went above and beyond her civic duty, at some personal risk, to follow Hight. She was originally commended by police for her actions. [Pointer: ABA Journal]
Continue reading

The ABA Shuts Down Comments On The Articles In The ABA Journal

Now that’s ironic. Like so many other publications and websites that prefer one-way communications of ideas, the official publication of the American Bar Association has announced that it will no longer allow readers to comment on its content. Yes, a profession that is all about rights and advocacy finds advocacy in response to legal opinion and analysis too inconvenient to deal with, and its readers free expression of ideas too burdensome to countenance.

The ABA Journal’s announcement was filled with disingenuous statements and half truths as bullet-pointed reasons for the move:

  • The tone of the comments has become rancorous and uncivil, with substantive commentary being drowned out by partisanship and namecalling that violate the ABA Code of Conduct.”

Wait: how does “partisanship and namecalling” in the comment section of a website “violate the ABA Code of Conduct?”

What an embarrassing claim: the ABA doesn’t understand its own Model Rules! The word “partisanship” doesn’t appear anywhere in the rules, and the argument is hilarious anyway, since the ABA itself, an allegedly non-partisan non-profit, is extremely partisan, as a brief perusal of the various public positions it has taken on matters that really should be none of their business would make obvious. (Guess which party! Come on, guess!) Extreme namecalling under certain  circumstances during the practice of law may occasionally involve a sanctionable ethics breach for lawyers, but not for non-lawyers, retired lawyers and many other readers. The larger problem is this: the ABA Rules are just guidelines. They don’t officially apply to anybody, not even to ABA members. You can’t literally “violate” them, like they are rules or laws.

  • “Our existing commenting system is vulnerable to trolls.”

Then fix your system, but only after defining “trolls.” It is often a lawyer’s job to make trouble, stir the pot, and create productive friction.

  • “Moderating the comments has become an unsustainable burden on our staff.”

I guess the ABA Journal is incapable of running a website, then. Moderating comments, which as far as I can determine involves fewer comments per article than the typical Ethics Alarms post, cannot possibly be that difficult or time-consuming. It’s a staff-member, and not a highly paid one. This sounds like cover for a financial decision.

  • “We have fielded a number of complaints from members about individual comments and the tone of the comments as a whole.””

Oh! Complaints! Well, we all know how much lawyers hate complaints! (Who wrote this?)

  • “With our large social media presence, there are a number of platforms for readers to engage with and discuss our journalism.”

“Now, you  folks can’t eat here, but there are some real nice places down the road a piece…”

I would write a searing comment about this, but the ABA Journal won’t allow it…

Morning Ethics Drill, 5/7/19: Unethical Headlines, A Missing Coffee Cup, And A Comment Of The Day

A morning that begins with a trip to the dentist and a referral to an oral surgeon can’t be good. Sorry.

And now I see that without warning or explanation, WordPress has removed its spellcheck feature. I’m sure those of you who are sick of my typos will appreciate THAT…

1. Stop making me defend Anderson Cooper, sort of! Here’s a cheap shot Fox News headline:

Anderson Cooper denies he’s ‘on the left,’ then rips Trump for tweeting about Kentucky Derby

Well, I’m also not on “the left” (Cooper is, of course), and I’m going to rip the President for tweeting his opinion on the Kentucky Derby, without even getting into the fact that his opinion was ill-informed and stupid.

As I wrote more than once during the Obama administration, the President is not the national arbiter of everything, and should keep his opinion to himself unless it directly and clearly involves the national interest. President Obama had a proclivity for injecting himself into controversies large and small, from the Trayvon Martin shooting to picking brackets for the NCAA college basketball tournament.  I wrote in this post,

This can no longer be called a rookie mistake, like the Prof. Gates arrest affair. President Obama has now had plenty of time to absorb the fact that the President does not have a blank check to insert himself into every local controversy and use his office to sway public opinion and the conduct of others regarding matters outside his responsibilities. Still, he continues to do it. It may seem trivial at first: the President gave an interview on TNT in which he pointedly suggested that NBA superstar LeBron James consider the Chicago Bulls as he faces free agency.  After weighing in on the most important things for James to seek from his current team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, if he was going to stay there, the President said, “You know, like I said, I don’t want to meddle. I will say this: (Derrick) Rose, Joakim Noah it’s a pretty good core. You know, you could see LeBron fitting in pretty well there.”

Now, I don’t care what Cooper thinks of Trump’s meddling in matters that don’t concern him if the CNN anchor didn’t have the integrity to knock Obama for doing the same thing, and repeatedly. Still, Anderson was on the right track—finally—to say, as he did,

“The president of the United States seems to have a lot of time on his hands And he can’t even stand some horses getting uninterrupted airtime. He’s got to be a part of every frickin news cycle. He can’t help himself!”

(I guess “frickin” is now considered professional lexicon at CNN. Stay classy, Anderson!)

Less defensible was this comment: Continue reading

Funny! But Inexcusably Incompetent : “Game Of Thrones” Ethics

Yes, somebody left a Starbucks cup on the set of last night’s much ballyhooed “Game of Thrones” episode on HBO.

It would be a good exercise to list all the rationalizations one could access to try to minimize such a massive botch, and avoid the likely consequences of making it. Without breaking an ethics sweat, I came up with…

  • 6. The Biblical Rationalizations, “Judge not, lest ye not be judged,” and “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”
  • 8. The Trivial Trap (“No harm no foul!”)
  • 19. The Perfection Diversion: “Nobody’s Perfect!” or “Everybody makes mistakes!”
  • 20. The “Just one mistake!” Fantasy
  • 22. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.”
  • 38. The Miscreant’s Mulligan or “Give him/her/them/me a break!”
  • 50. The Apathy Defense, or “Nobody Cares.”
  • 64A. Bluto’s Mistake or “I said I was sorry!”

As silly as that “one mistake” seems, a head, or many heads, should roll. This tweet from an annoyed fan nicely sums the situation up: “You’re telling me they had TWO YEARS to put together a decent show and they couldn’t even spot the goddamn Starbucks cup in Winterfell??!” Continue reading