Category Archives: Research and Scholarship

Donald Trump Candidacy Ethics Train Wreck Passenger List Update: Georgetown Law Prof. Paul Butler Scores A Perfect Rationalization #28

We're real sorry about this, but these are not ordinary times...

We’re really sorry about this, but these are not ordinary times…

The human ethics train wreck named Donald Trump is now in the process of exposing how thin the veneer of professionalism is for many alleged intellectuals, scholars and lawyers. On an e-mail list of most of the legal ethicists in the country, one of them posted this in reaction to Justice Ginsberg’s unethical and unjudicial shots at Donald Trump:

“I love RBG way too much to be critical of her in any way . Long may she live!”

This opne expression of willful denial, from not merely a lawyer, but an ethics specialist! It is the epitome of one of my father’s favorite quotes, “My mind’s made up, don’t confuse me with facts.” I responded to the list that it was the most depressing statement I had ever read from any of the list’s participants.

Paul Butler’s op-ed in the New York Times isn’t much better. The Georgetown Law Center professor defended Ginsberg’s indefensible comments by arguing that these times are special, and thus suspend the ethics principles that must govern judges if the judiciary is to engender any respect or trust at all. He writes:

“Normally Supreme Court justices should refrain from commenting on partisan politics. But these are not normal times. The question is whether a Supreme Court justice – in this case, the second woman on the court, a civil rights icon and pioneering feminist — has an obligation to remain silent when the country is at risk of being ruled by a man who has repeatedly demonstrated that he is a sexist and racist demagogue. The answer must be no.”

No, Professor, the answer must be “yes.” Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Research and Scholarship

Update: Unethical Research, Unethical Headline, Unethical Media Report: “Many Parents Will Say Kids Made Them Happier. They’re Probably Lying”

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Yij = β0j + β1jX1ij + β2j Zij + Eij

Reader and commenter Alexander Cheezem issued an energetic objection to my post about another happiness study, which you can read, along with my rebuttal, in the comment threads to the post, here. His main two complaints were that I didn’t read the study itself, and that I unfairly called it  policy advocacy disguised as objective social science research.

I didn’t read the study itself because the only link the Post provided was not accessible without joining a service I didn’t care to join, or take the time trying. Alexander kept referring to a “direct link,” an unfortunate and misleading description of a link that goes to a page with a link to the study that doesn’t respond when you click on it, and are directed to “register.” [ CORRECTION: This is what I thought at the time. It has been pointed out to me that the first time the reporter linked to “research,” it wasn’t the study she was writing about, but another, behind a paywall. The second link on “research” did go to a live link to the actual study. Having been frustrated once, I assumed that the second link would also be to the same  inaccessible link. My error—though I’m furious at the Posts’s incompetence—and I apologize to Alexander.]

Other Bill, who flagged the Washington Post headline and story initially, has provided a free and direct link It is here.

I am relieved to find that reading the entire study revealed nothing that I didn’t discern from what the Post reporter wrote, and checking the accessible links she provided. (Obviously, it would have been preferable to read the whole study initially, and I would have, if a functioning link was provided, as it should have been.). Let me take that back a bit: the study itself was worse than I thought.

Here’s why: Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Family, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship, U.S. Society

Unethical Research, Unethical Headline, Unethical Media Report: “Many Parents Will Say Kids Made Them Happier. They’re Probably Lying”

I think this made me 12% less happy than when I passed the bar exam...

I think this made me 12% less happy than when I passed the bar exam…

[An UPDATE is HERE]

On the Washington Post’s Wonkblog, Ana Swenson breathlessly writes “that research suggests …[p]eople who have kids in the United States and in many countries around the world report being less happy than people who don’t have kids.”

Ah-HA! This must be why DirecTV is certain that promoting a device that it facetiously suggests would make your kid disappear will appeal to its customers!

Except that Swenson’s headline is click-bait, her article is irresponsible and incompetent, and the study is politically motivated junk, as such things usually are.

“Research” doesn’t suggest this politically manufactured finding.  A single dubious study may suggest it to those who already are inclined to be dubious about parenthood, and who could also be persuaded to buy valuable swampland property in Florida. If you aren’t smart enough to bale on both the “study” and Swenson after this statement central to the issue, I have little hope for you:

“On average, an American parent reports being 12 percent unhappier than a non-parent in America – the biggest gap in the 22 countries the researchers looked at, followed distantly by Ireland.”  

What (the hell) does it mean to be “12 per cent unhappier,” or “12 per cent happier”? Happiness is not quantifiable like that, nor can it be measured with that kind of precision, or any kind of precision. Gee, what is the margin of error in that 12 %? Is it 12%, +/- 3%? I’m trying to think of two states of happiness I have experienced in which I could say with any certainty that I was 12% happier/ 47% happier or 71% happier  in one more than the other, and if I can’t determine that, how are a bunch or researches going to do it?

Let’s see—did discovering I had to undergo a circumcision at the age of 30 make me 12% more unhappy than I was when the Red Sox lost Game 6 of the 1986 World Series? Did watching the T-Rex beat the Indominus Rex in the dino-showdown in “Jurassic World” make me 12% happier than when bought our home for a bargain, or 12% less? You know, I really can’t answer that. Both made me happy in different ways. Did my happiness that my dad died the way he wanted, with dignity and in his sleep just short of his 90th birthday, exceed by 12% the happiness I felt when my final performance at my theater company got a deserved standing ovation, though I was also saddened that my dad wasn’t there to see it?

Please, O Wise and Researchers, enlighten me! They can’t. Of course they can’t. Nor can they tell me how to quantify the happiness my son has given his mother and me, even though he has driven and almost certainly will continue to drive us out of our minds with worry and worse on a regular basis, and has cost us a lot of money we will surely miss when we are dreaming about finally seeing Paris. Am I 12 % less happy than I would have been with a son more like I was, a non-rebellious, conventionally obedient, healthy and lucky kid who sailed through school and never got in any serious trouble? No, because then my son wouldn’t be the unique, amazing, gutsy and original individual he is.

Swenson’s report is filled with statements that make it clear that this is politically motivated  entitlement and anti-child propaganda (and thus pro-abortion propaganda). The smoking gun comes early: Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Childhood and children, Daily Life, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Love, Research and Scholarship, U.S. Society

Fourth Of July Ethics: The Signers, Snopes, And Fact-Checking

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I received  this inspiring bit of Americana from an old friend, a Marine and lawyer with a love of history. It’s a screed of unknown origin that has been circulating the internet since the 20th Century. Maybe you’ve seen it too:

The Price They Paid

Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56men who signed the Declaration of Independence?

Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died.

Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned.

Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured.

Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War.

They signed and they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

What kind of men were they?

Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists.

Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners; men of means, well-educated, but they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured.

Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags.

Thomas McKean was so hounded by British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him – poverty was his reward.

Vandals or soldiers looted properties of Ellery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Rutledge, and Middleton.

At Battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson,Jr., noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.

Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife, and she died within a few months.

John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his  gristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished.

So, take a few minutes while enjoying your 4th of July holiday and silently thank these patriots.  It’s not much to ask for the price they paid.

Remember: freedom is never free! We thank these early patriots, as well as those patriots now fighting to KEEP our freedom!

I hope you will show your support by sending this to as many people as you can, please. It’s time we get the word out that patriotism is NOT a sin, and the Fourth of July has more MEANING to it than beer, fireworks, HOT DOGS,  and picnics……

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The purpose and primary message of the post is irrefutably true. Those who signed the Declaration did so at great personal risk and sacrifice. Had the new nation failed in its revolution—and really, it is amazing that it didn’t—all of them would have been hanged as traitors. It was an act of principle and courage, and what happened later is entirely moral luck. The signers would have been no less honorable, remarkable and heroic if every single one of them, by various strokes of good fortune, had become wealthy, powerful, prospered in everything they did and died in advanced years, like Franklin, Adams and Jefferson. Unfortunately, most citizens lack the education, acumen and tools to figure this out, so we get stuff that equates random and uncontrollable misfortune with enhanced virtue. Continue reading

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Filed under Government & Politics, History, Leadership, Research and Scholarship, The Internet, War and the Military

On Climate Change And The First Amendment, Yale’s Law School Dean Gives Us A Reason To Be Very Afraid

I just wrote in a comment thread,

“The one thing that could change my mind to believe that Trump is less dangerous than Clinton is that the trappings of Trump and his followers reek of stupidity, and the trappings of Hillary and her allies are redolent of totalitarianism.”

The effort by Democrats and anti-gun zealots to deliberately breach the Fifth Amendment to allow “pre-crime” anti-gun laws was one example of the Obama/Clinton/Sanders left’s creeping embrace of totalitarian principles.

Here is another.

Over the weekend, Robert Post, the current dean of Yale Law School where both Bill and Hillary learned to be unethical lawyers, authored a shocking 0p-ed for the Washington Post. In it, he attached his influence and credibility to the idea that the government should use the power of prosecution to intimidate opponents of government policy and widely accepted left-wing agenda items. I have never seen such a disgraceful breach of academic prestige. If I were a Yale grad, I would be heavily involved in calling for Post’s resignation.

Post is supporting the attempts by Democratic, climate change policy-supporting attorneys general to target Exxon-Mobil for fraud because the company opposes certain climate change measures. This comes after eco-facists like Robert Kennedy, Jr. and climate change shills like  Bill Nye (The Self-Promoting Not-Really-The-Expert-He- Pretends -To-Be  Science Guy) have suggested that “climate change deniers” should be jailed. That’s not the theory, though. The theory is that Exxon-Mobil has defrauded investors by misleading them about the results of their own research. Thus the company has been hit by demands for documents by the Massachusetts and New York attorneys general to reveal all of that research.

Exxon-Mobil, as well as others, has condemned this effort as an attempt to chill First Amendment debate. Post, who has allied himself with the censors because climate change is “settled science,”  bolsters the political inquisitioners’ deceit. “It may be that after investigation the attorneys general do not find evidence that Exxon-Mobil has committed fraud. I do not prejudge the question. The investigation is now entering its discovery phase, which means it is gathering evidence to determine whether fraud has actually been committed,” the esteemed dean writes.

Cute. Of course, once the precedent had been established that the government can force someone into expensive legal defense for “the fraud” of disagreeing with the pronounced truths of the State, then dissent and political opinion will be repressed, suppressed, and discouraged. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Environment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Research and Scholarship, Rights

How “The Star Syndrome” Corrupts The Workplace And Institutions

bad-apple

A bad apple can indeed spoil the barrel. It happens all the time…especially when the bad apple seems like the shiniest one of all.

In Oakland, the third police chief in less than two weeks has resigned, in all likelihood because, like his predecessors, he was implicated in the department-wide sex and misconduct scandals. Now the city has given up on having its police led by police officers, and the mayor will be in charge, at least for a while. How does a whole police department get that bad? Unethical cultures spread from unethical members of the culture that are not immediately weeded out, or at least shunned.

A recent article in Harvard Business Review explains the process.

“Our recent research identifies a common phenomenon that might help dampen unethical behavior before it even needs reporting: Employees who engage in unethical conduct are more likely to be socially rejected by their peers. By ignoring the unethical employee — leaving the room when they enter, excluding them from conversations — coworkers have the power to signal that someone’s unethical behaviors are not acceptable and should be corrected.

That is, unless the unethical employee in question has the reputation of being a high performer. In spite of the tendency to socially reject those who are unethical, we uncovered a double standard based on a person’s contributions to the bottom line. Specifically, we show that unethical high-performing employees are less likely to be socially rejected by their peers, which implies that unethical behavior can be tolerated. This is not the case for unethical low-performing employees.”

This is the Star Syndrome or The Kings Pass, one of the most insidious of all the rationalizations on the Ethics Alarms Rationalization list: Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Research and Scholarship, U.S. Society

UPDATE: Even More Reasons To Distrust Katie Couric, Which Means More Reasons To Distrust The Journalists Who Want To Excuse Her

film editing

The Washington Post criticized Katie Couric’s role in approving the deceptive “Under the Gun” documentary edit but also noted that it is “one instance of bad judgment in a long career.” This was an instance of the “Just One Mistake” rationalization…

20. The “Just one mistake!” Fantasy

Related to #16 but still distinct is the excuse that a particular unethical act should be ignored, forgiven or excused as an aberration because “it was just one mistake.” This argument intentionally glosses over the fact that one mistake can be so blatantly unethical and harmful that an ethical person literally never does such a thing, and thus the “one mistake” is a reliable indicator that the actor does not deserve to be trusted. Abuse of power is in this category. Defenders of the unethical also often use this excuse dishonestly and deceptively to designate as one mistake an ongoing episode of continuous unethical conduct. For example, Bill Clinton didn’t make “one mistake” regarding Monica Lewinsky, but hundreds of them, involving lies, deceits, cover-ups and betrayals.

The versatile excuse was applied by one member of the liberal-biased school of journalism to another, and says more about the Post writer ( Callum Borchers) than it does about Couric. He was actually right on the money when he wrote, only to say later it was “unfair,” this:

Couric thinks the media needs to be tougher on Trump. The reality is the current level of toughness hasn’t dented his campaign. What’s the next level of toughness? One could conclude, based on the misleading edit in Couric’s gun documentary, that it involves distorting interviews to produce manufactured flubs, in hopes that one of them will accomplish what no organic mistake has done so far.

Why yes, one could not only conclude that, but witness it in the media’s successful efforts to turn a dumb Trump quote about a judge’s reasons to be biased against him in a law suit into an imaginary smoking gun that proves he’s a racist. Journalists have been eager to allow the public to forget about Couric’s endorsement of misleading and dishonest editing techniques in the service of the anti-gun rights agenda, because her methods are their methods. The woman should be fired. Journalists must be regarded like accountants and auditors: one they have shown that they will lie, even once, they are worthless. Is that a fair standard? I believe it is. Why then are journalists eager to have Couric held to a lower standard? Easy: they don’t want to be held to the appropriate ethics standard either.

The apologists for Couric have been especially revealing; once again, any journalist who defends Couric can be safely placed along with her in the UNTRUSTWORTHY File. Here’s Mediaite’s Rachel Stockman embarrassing and indicting herself, for example, saying that people are being mean to Katie for impugning her integrity… Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Research and Scholarship, Rights