Category Archives: Rights

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 11/18/18: “The Show Must Go On” Edition

Here we are.

After a brief recovery Friday the 16th, an early morning seminar for D.C. Bar admittees yesterday crashed me entirely, which is why there were no posts. I almost didn’t make it to the end of the program, which surprised and alarmed me; the last few minutes were excruciating. But I have never cancelled a seminar, and when I do, it will be because my metaphorical chips are about to be cashed. Those who know my theatrical history will recall that I damaged my lungs in college staging and performing a professional dinner theater show six days a week (during final exams)  while I was suffering from a serious bronchitis attack; that I refused to cancel in-door performances of The American Century Theater (RIP) during snow storms, and one out-door performance during an electrical storm. Not being able to do my job and fulfill my responsibilities due to illness or injury absolutely crushes me (like many of my obsessions, this one is partially Dad’s fault: he refused to take sick days), and keeping Ethics Alarms current is the least burdensome of my responsibilities.

Once again, I apologize.

1. More apologies, Arlington High School Dept.: My ill-timed illness is also keeping me away from my 50th high school class reunion. I intended to make it, and wanted to make it: I had a wonderful time in high school, and met many of the best people I have ever known while I was there. Past reunions have been somewhat depressing for me: seeing people I remember vividly as young, vital and full of excitement for the future looking as old as they are and often feeling defeated by life makes me feel old, and the inevitable sad cases who feel he or she has to boast about successes and wonderful kids caused me stress as I barely controlled the urge to tell them off. Nonetheless, I regard attendance at such milestones as an obligation to the past, a demonstration of respect for where we have come from and the people and institutions that got us to where we are. And, of course, the more old friends who attend, the better the experience is for everyone. I wish there was a way to let my classmates know that I still think about them and care about them. This blog isn’t it.

2. Who made bad losers in politics respectable? When public trust in democratic institutions reached some yet-to-be-determined tipping point, a democracy is finished. Once, not too long ago, the tradition in American politics was that the defeated candidate—the office didn’t matter, nor did the margin of victory—conceded the race in a timely fashion, congratulated his or her opponent, and vowed to help and assist the victor as much as possible.  This not only modeled graciousness and good sportsmanship, but also protected the system. Now every election shows this healthy model being further pushed into cultural obscurity, with a new low being established in Georgia last week, when the loser of the governor’s race, Stacey Abrams, blamed her loss on a failure of democracy, refused to officially concede while admitting that she had lost, and announced a lawsuit alleging that Governor-Elect Brian Kemp and Republicans had tampered with the election without offering any proof or evidence. Well, maybe this wasn’t the new low; it would be hard to top Roy Moore.

3. The new Title IX rules. The Education Department finally released new guidance on how  Title IX, the federal statute that forbids sex and gender-based discrimination in public schools and colleges, should be enforced. This was desperately needed after the Obama Administration had muddled and corrupted the process with blatant gender bias and its infamous “Dear Colleague” letter, creating a culture that undermined free expression and due process on college campuses and due process rights for students accused of sexual misconduct. Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Rights

Ethics Observations On The CNN/Acosta/Press Pass Ruling

From the Washington Post this morning:

Judge Timothy J. Kelly granted CNN’s motion for a temporary restraining order that will prevent the administration from keeping Acosta off White House grounds. The White House revoked the reporter’s press pass last week after a heated exchange between him and President Trump and a brief altercation with a press aide at a news conference. Acosta, CNN’s chief White House correspondent, is the first reporter with a so-called hard pass to be banned. CNN sued President Trump and other White House officials on Tuesday over the revocation. Kelly’s ruling was the first legal skirmish in that lawsuit. It has the immediate effect of sending Acosta back to the White House, pending further arguments and a possible trial. The litigation is in its early stages, and a trial could be months in the future.

Observations:

  • The ruling is a surprise. For me, it calls to mind once again my favorite Clarence Darrow quote, that “In order for there to be enough liberty, it is necessary that there be too much.” Apparently the judge, as courts have in other First Amendment cases, decided to leave a wide margin of safety around a constitutional right rather than interpret it narrowly, even reasonably narrowly.

I understand and sympathize with that instinct, and perhaps it is the right one.

  • Judge Kelly’s opinion  insisted that there be some basic procedural protections, requiring the White House to state clearly the grounds for revoking the clearance.  The Court did not find an express  violation of the First Amendment and Acosta might still be barred from the White House following appropriate due process.  Kelly said his ruling was “limited” and  temporary until a more detailed explanation and sufficient notice by the White House was established. (Not surprisingly, the White House viewed a tweet as notice enough.)
  • So a vague, traditional but unstated standard of not acting like an entitled jackass during a press conference and debating the President rather than asking questions while refusing to yield the floor is not, absent written standards and procedures, enough to get an unprofessional jerk like Jim Acosta banned. Got it.  It would be nice if previously acknowledged standards of basic respect for the office and the relative roles of the professionals involved were enough to avoid this kind of controversy, but apparently not.

Reflect on this episode the next time CNN or a pundit fusses about President Trump “defying established norms.” Continue reading

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Sick-Bed Ethics Warm-Up, 11/14/18: Ethics Among the Sneezes [UPDATED]

Good whatever it is….

1. Bottom line” Don’t trust Facebook. From the Times: “Facebook failed to closely monitor device makers after granting them access to the personal data of hundreds of millions of people, according to a previously unreported disclosure to Congress last month.” Surprised? As with Google promising moths ago that it was no longer reading our mail, then admitting months later that it had resumed the practice, the big tech companies have proven repeatedly that that we cannot believe what they say, or their motives, or their pledges of good will and public service. More from the Times story:

Facebook’s loose oversight of the partnerships was detected by the company’s government-approved privacy monitor in 2013. But it was never revealed to Facebook users, most of whom had not explicitly given the company permission to share their information. Details of those oversight practices were revealed in a letter Facebook sent last month to Senator Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat, a privacy advocate and frequent critic of the social media giant.

In the letter, a copy of which Mr. Wyden provided to The New York Times, Facebook wrote that by early 2013 it had entered into data-sharing agreements with seven device makers to provide what it called the “Facebook experience” — custom-built software, typically, that gave those manufacturers’ customers access to Facebook on their phones. Those partnerships, some of which date to at least 2010, fall under a consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission drafted in 2011 and intended to oversee the company’s privacy practices.

Read the whole thing. I just assume that anything I put on Facebook, regardless of the alleged settings,will be sold to or otherwise obtained by potentially malign entities.

2. Just what we need now, a rogue First Lady. First Lady Melania Trump publicly called for the President’s deputy national security adviser, Mira Ricardel, to be fired.  In a word, well, two: Shut up. The felicitous circumstance of marrying someone who is later elected President of the United States confers no expertise or authority. The position of First Lady has no Constitutionally recognized duties, nor does it carry any real power. There is nothing anyone can do to diminish the influence and spouse may have with the President behind closed doors—and that is a problem—but she or the inevitable he must not confuse, confound or otherwise seek to influence affairs of state with public comments and opinions. Why Melania wants Ricardel fired is irrelevant. It’s none of her business.

I just want to point out that I sneezed six times while typing those last four words. Applause, please. Continue reading

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Election Day Ethics Warm-Up, But Mostly What Yesterday’s Warm-Up Would Have Been If My Whole Day Hadn’t Spun Wildly Out Of Control…

Good Morning, Voters!

1. From the “bias makes you stupid” files. Yesterday two smart, once reasonable Massachusetts lawyers of the female persuasion debated me regarding the appropriateness of Dr. Blasey Ford’s late and unsubstantiated hit on Brett Kavanaugh. They were obnoxious about it, too, rolling their eyes and giggling to each other at my position, with one saying that I sounded like her “Southern friends.” I like them both, but a better example of how bias makes you stupid could hardly be devised. Their primary reason why Blasey Ford’s suddenly recalled trauma from the distant past should have been allowed to smear a qualified nominee for the Supreme Court in nationally televised hearings was this: women and girls in those les-enlightened days had good reason not to report rape and sexual assault, as they often were not believed and because a “boys will be boys” attitude prevailed in the culture. Moreover, they said, almost in unison, women still have good reasons not to report sexual assault. “Do you have daughters?” they asked, “gotcha!”-style.

To anyone whose ethics alarms are in good working order and who recognizes the difference between an emotional argument born of gender and partisan alliances and a good one, the rebuttal is obvious and comprises a general ethics principle:

One person’s misfortune, no matter how tragic or unjust, never justifies being unfair or unjust to somebody else.

Accusing anyone of anything three decades after the alleged incident is unfair.

Publicizing an allegation that cannot be verified and for which there is no supporting evidence is unfair.

Using alleged misconduct as a minor to impugn the character  of an adult and a professional with an unblemished record of good conduct is unfair.

Dispensing with a presumption of innocence under any circumstances is unfair.

Dispensing with due process under any circumstances is unfair, because due process is itself fairness. (The two lawyers kept saying that this was not a trail so due process was not involved. The argument is either disingenuous or ignorant. Due process just means procedural fairness, in any context.)

Punishing one individual male for the fact that other males have escaped accountability for sexual misconduct is unfair-–and illogical.

Giving special considerations to one individual female because other females have been unfairly treated regarding their allegations is unfair—and illogical.

The two female lawyers kept saying that my position is a conservative one. It is not. It is not an ideological position in any way, though their position certainly is. May they regain intellectual integrity soon. And I forgive them for being so utterly insulting during our debate.

2. This is essentially a Big Lie argument from Vox: Ezra Klein, Vox creator, tweeted,

I don’t think people are ready for the crisis that will follow if Democrats win the House popular vote but not the majority. After Kavanaugh, Trump, Garland, Citizens United, Bush v. Gore, etc, the party is on the edge of losing faith in the system (and reasonably so).

An esteemed commenter recently accused me of being unfairly dismissive and insulting when a commenter dissents. That’s occasionally true but not generally true, and one circumstance where I may become dismissive and insulting is when a position is indefensible, like this one. It is either dishonest or so obtuse that no one capable of writing it down should be trusted again. Continue reading

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Halloween Ethics Warm-Up, 2018: Problematical Communications Edition

Boo!

1. How can CNN, or anybody, continue to justify employing Don Lemon as a “journalist”?

He defaults to emotion regularly. He is incapable of objectivity. His partisan and ideological bias is palpable. ( He gets drunk on the air every New Years…) And he says idiotic things like this. Good for Scalise, the perfect individual to flag Lemon’s incompetence. His Twitter followers have also noted many other cases of Democrats “killing people.” Or is Lemon and CNN going to stand on the fact that nobody was killed by the Bernie Sanders-supporting sniper who seriously wounded Scalise? I wouldn’t be surprised.

2. Stop making me defend Hillary Clinton! During an interview with Recode executive editor Kara Swisher (full disclosure: I had some unpleasant experiences dealing with Swisher in her Washington Post days, and wouldn’t trust her to walk my dog around the block.)  in New York City over the weekend. Swisher asked Clinton a question regarding a quip that was previously made by Holder, but mistakenly attributed it to Senator Spartacus, Cory Booker. “What do you think of Corey Booker … what do you think about him saying ‘Kick them in the shins,’ essentially?” “Well, that was Eric Holder,” Clinton said. “Yeah, I know they all look alike.” “No, they don’t,” Swisher responded.

Now Clinton is being called “insensitive” by her party’s political correctness posse. It was a joke, and also a rebuke of Swisher. The former was absolutely fine (and funny); the latter was a mean-spirited “gotcha!” suggesting unfairly that Swisher thinks of all blacks as fungible, a bigoted attitude, when she just made a mistake. (I get Cory Booker confused with Kirk Douglas sometimes.) Then Swisher turned the finger-pointing back on Hillary, implying that Clinton meant her remark literally rather than sarcastically. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/30/18: Scary Ethics Stories!

Good Morning!

(And HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my brilliant, talented, always challenging, Trump-hating lawyer little sister, Edith Sophia Marshall!)

1 Quiz results: about 90% of responders found the drag Python sketch about a ladies club re-enactment of Pearl Harbor funny. Whew. As for the one voter who said that it was unfunny because it made light of human tragedy and violence, I’m glad you never attended any of the stage comedies I directed.

2. Ending birthright citizenship for illegal immigrant offspring? President Trump told Axios in an interview that he was preparing to issue an executive order to end birthright citizenship for children of immigrants here illegally. “It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don’t…You can definitely do it with an Act of Congress. But now they’re saying I can do it just with an executive order.”

I have found no authorities who agree with Trump’s lawyers, if indeed they are telling him that. If they are, I don’t blame him for listening to them: if there was ever a President who was legally clueless, it’s this one. Some conservatives are livid about the suggestion (obviously all illegal  immigration-boosting liberals are as well), noting that this proposal is exactly as unconstitutional as Obama’s immigration-related EOs. I tend to agree with them. Ethically, the birthright rule is an incentive to break the law and anachronistic, since it originated when there were no legal restrictions on immigration nor reasons to have any. if the question gets to the Supreme Court, however, it will pose an integrity test for the conservative justices. Their philosophy is that you can’t just re-write or ignore the Constitution when it gets in the way of desirable policy, and this is a perfect example.

It is also very possible—likely?— that the President was using this trial balloon to energize the anti-illegal immigration base as the “caravan” continued its march. Continue reading

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Is There A Rational, Ethical Basis For Giving Illegal Aliens The Right To Vote For Anything?

This isn’t a quiz, because I can’t imagine an answer other than, “Of course not.” And yet…

San Francisco has registered 49 undocumented migrants to vote in school board elections. However, a more pressing controversy may be the amount of money spent on the effort. San Francisco expended $310,000 to register just 49 people in the city. That translates to $6,326 a vote, which is also incomprehensible to me. Why would tax-paying citizens, even those as addled as so many who live in the City by the Bay, tolerate this?

The school board tactic is, of course, an obvious “camel’s nose in the tent” method—also known as the slippery slope— of  gradually getting illegal aliens the right to vote. Women’s suffrage efforts a century ago proceeded the same way, with states allowing women to vote and run as candidates in school board elections. Following the leads of Michigan and Minnesota  in 1885 and New York in 1880, Washington state enacted the School Suffrage Act into law in 1890 allowing women to vote for school boards. But women were citizens, in the nation legally, and these measures were necessary to right a cultural, societal, legal and historical wrong. There is no parallel valid argument that it is wrong to deny non-citizens who entered or stay in this country illegally the same privileges the women’s suffrage movement sought—or if there is, I lack the imagination to conceive of it.

____________________

Pointer: Res Ipsa Loquitur

 

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