Tag Archives: Alabama Senate Race

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/28/2017: Bad Lawyer, Bad Losers, Bad Lottery, Bad Policy

 

GOOD MORNING!

1 Gee, I wonder how this happened? I’m doing a year-end legal ethics seminar for D.C. Bar members this afternoon, and this story showed up in time for me to use. A federal jury has found Evan Greebel, the former lawyer for convicted fraudster Martin “Pharma Bro” Shkreli guilty of helping the fick pharmaceutical executive craft a scam to repay defrauded investors. You remember Shkreli—this guy, who entered the Hall of Infamy for his unapologetic price-gouging of the HIV drug Daraprim after he bought the rights to the drug and  then hiked its price from $13.50 to $750.

Prosecutors  claimed Greebel, Shkreli’s lawyer during  scheme, gave his client detailed advice on how to pay off investors in his  hedge funds, MSMB Capital and MSMB Healthcare, with his company’s  funds, as well as how to circumvent trading restrictions. He was also was accused of participating in fraudulent backdating of documents and helping draft phony settlement and consulting agreements. Greebel’s lawyers countered that Shkreli was an evil manipulator who dragged his own lawyers, unaware, into his crimes. his own lawyers. Greebel, they said, acted in good faith as the outside attorney for Shkreli’s company, and lacked criminal intent.

The news story ends with this:

“Greebel, a partner with Katten Muchin Rosenman, saw his annual salary triple from $355,000 in fiscal year 2013 to $900,000 in 2014, when he was advising Shkreli.”

The moral: Nothing freezes ethics alarms like a lot of money.

2. What do Roy Moore, Al Gore and Hillary Clinton have in common? They are lousy losers. Moore, the horrible GOP candidate for the empty Alabama Senate seat, has filed a lawsuit to try to stop Alabama from certifying Democrat Doug Jones as the winner of the U.S. Senate race. Moore lost by 20,000 votes, but insists that there were irregularities. He wants a fraud investigation and a new election. Once upon a time, even the losers in close elections where some funny things went on conceded gracefully and accepted the results. This was a traditional demonstration of respect for the system and democracy, and girded our elections from cynicism and distrust. Even Samuel J. Tilden, the Democrat who was cheated out of the Presidency despite winning both the popular and the electoral vote, acceded to the back room deal that gave Hayes the victory.

No longer. Al Gore permanently killed that tradition in 2000, and Hillary’s minions set the corpse on fire in 2016. Now losing candidates can be expected to exploit any excuse imaginable to try to reverse election results. This is a dangerous slippery slope the endless Florida recount put us on, and I fear that it will eventually slide into violence. Better that the occasional election be won illicitly than to have every election be a potential court case.

In other news, the determination of a tie-breaker to settle who won a decisive seat in Virginia’s House of Delegates has been delayed after lawyers representing Democratic candidate Shelly Simonds filed a motion asking a trio of circuit court judges to reconsider their decision to allow a controversial ballot to be counted as a vote cast for her Republican opponent.

Of course! Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: ‘“The Popeye,” From The Ethics Alarms Ethics Estoppel Files: I Can Say The Republican Party Is Rotting…”, And My Epiphany About Investigative Reporting

This comment by Humble Talent, one of several COTD entries he has made lately, has to get up today before the ick that was the Alabama Senate Race subsides, and the comment feels moot—though it would not be.

But first, my epiphany about investigative reporting…

Humble’s comment made me realize something that was right in front of my eyes, and has been for a long time, and yet I never before connected the dots. This is especially galling because it involves distrust of the news media, and as you know, I think about this a lot.

What I only now realize, thanks to Humble Talent,  is that investigative reporting is virtually always partisan or agenda-driven one way or the other. It isn’t the highest form of journalism, as we of the post-Watergate era have been taught to believe. It may be the most sinister.

Journalists can’t investigate everything. They have to choose what to investigate, and when, and those choices are inevitably determined by biases and political agendas. If choices are made, and they have to be—what do we investigate, about who? When do we know we have something worth printing? When do we run it? What will happen if we do?—the choices will reflect biases, unless coins are flipped and lots are drawn.

I never thought about whether the timing of the Roy Moore teen dates stories the Post ran were timed to come out when they did. But Humble makes me think: did the Post bother to look for dirt on Jones? I doubt it. I think an editor said, “This guy Moore is horrible. I bet there’s some scandal out there that can take him down, maybe a sex scandal. Let’s dig.” The Post sees that as a public service—Moore is objectively horrible—but the “investigative reporting”  is essentially opposition research to benefit the Democratic candidate. Then the damning results of the investigation were published when they were deemed to be able to cause the most chaos in the campaign.

Why didn’t this occur to me when I was watching “Spotlight”? We see, in that film about the Boston Globe’s investigation into child abuse in the Boston Catholic Diocese, how the story was held up for months as a mater of tactics and politics. The story almost wasn’t run at all. Now, why did I just assume that it was random chance that…

  • The Harvey Weinstein esposé wasn’t released before the 2016 election?
  • Provocative passages in Barack Obama’s books about “considering” homosexuality and eating dog never were investigated or explored by the mainstream news media during the 2008 campaign?
  • The revelations about Hillary Clinton’s illicit private server were published by the Times 18 months before the election, giving her plenty of time to make them harmless?
  • No major news organization sought to do a Watergate-style investigation of the IRS sabotage of conservative group participation in the 2012 Presidential campaign, although the Obama Justice Department investigation was obviously a sham?

I’m an idiot. Was I the only one this gullible? I knew that the press could have ended JFK’s Presidency almost at will, but was intimidated out of doing so and wasn’t that unhappy about it. I knew the press intentionally kept the Clinton rape allegation from the public, for fear it would affect the impeachment outcome. I knew that CBS and Dan Rather’s investigative reporting about President Bush’s National Guard conduct was  devised and timed (and falsified) to give Kerry the election.

Investigative reporting regarding politics is always politically driven. It has to be.

Duh.

I am completely dedicated to the Bill of Rights’ guarantee of a free and unencumbered press. A democracy without a free press is doomed. I am also convinced that a free press that abuses its power and influence is as great a threat to democracy as no free press at all.

Here is Humble Talent’s Comment of the Day on the post, “The Popeye,” From The Ethics Alarms Ethics Estoppel Files: I Can Say The Republican Party Is Rotting, Democrats, But You Can’t: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/13/2017: Roy Moore Lost. Good.

Good Morning, y’all.

1 Stating the obvious that a lot of people won’t have the integrity to admit is obvious. Roy Moore lost to Democrat Doug Jones in the special U.S. Senate election in super-conservative Alabama. This is solely because Moore, as Ethics Alarms discussed back in September, is such a horrible candidate that even Luther Strange, the corrupt Republican  he replaces (appointed to fill Jeff Sessions’ seat) would be a better choice. But literally anyone would. Moore is among the few candidates on earth whom to block from a position of power I would vote for Hillary Clinton, Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi or Donald Trump. We have a game at our house called “What candidate would make you vote for Roy Moore?” So far, he has beaten the shambling zombie of Richard Speck.

And Roy Moore lost by a little more than one percentage point in Alabama.

The news media is already spinning this as significant. Yes, it is significant: it means that about half of Alabama voters (and two-thirds of the whites who voted) are not up to the intellectual challenges of democracy, and the other half are at least able to recognize the unacceptable dangers of putting a cretinous, racist, homophobic theocrat in high elective office. Whoop-de-doo. It is not a “rejection of Steve Bannon.” It is not a “rebuke for Donald Trump,”  either. CNN’s openly anti-Trump hack Jim Accosta on Twitter: “Source close to WH: “It’s devastating for the president… this is an earthquake… Virginia but on steroids… the president has egg on his face” because of Bannon.” Trump opposed Bannon, Coulter, Palin and the other hard right jerks by endorsing Strange. This loss is only “devastating” to Trump in the eyes of those who want everything to be devastating for Trump. Will journalists ever go back to realizing that quoting an anonymous source like that as news is completely unethical and undermines trust in reporters? I know Jim Accosta won’t. It’s also interesting how many news reports used that term “earthquake,” especially since it is usually reserved for shock election landslides and ideological upheaval. What a coincidence!

Where was I? Oh…right…

It does not mean that “Alabama has turned blue.” It means that there are some candidates so incompetent and untrustworthy, and who represent such an insult to voters, that they can’t win no matter who runs against them.

2. Polls? We don’t need no stinking polls! So both the poll that said Moore was way ahead and the one that said Jones was way ahead were wrong. The polls that said it would be close were right. Who needed a poll to tell them that? Fake research.

3. Why didn’t Trump didn’t collude with God to rig the election? Roy Moore refuses to concede, and says that “God is always in control.”

What an embarrassment to people of faith, Alabama, Republicans,  conservatives, judges and homo sapiens he is! Continue reading

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Got It, Nate: Polling Is A Fraud. NOW You Tell Us.

 

Before we find out what happens in Alabama, I want to get this issue out there.

Yesterday I posted on Facebook in part,

“When did the polling profession go to Hell? Today a Fox poll shows Roy Moore 10 pts behind, and a local Alabama poll shows him 9 pts AHEAD. I’ve never seen anything like it. Moore has been edging ahead since last week, and now he’s losing again? Why bother with polling at all, if they can’t do better than this?”

This prompted two friends to send me to 538, the realm of alleged genius stat-head Nate Silver, who was pronounced the guru of election prognostication in 2012, and who became just another false prophet after failing as miserably in 2016 as everybody else. Silver posted an thorough, honest and disturbing explanation for the discrepancy, and one that didn’t include “Fox News is lying.”

It is worth reading; must reading, really. [Here it is.] The tipping point for me was this graph…

…to which Nate responded,

“Although releasing 10 different versions of the same poll may be overkill, it illustrates the extent to which polling can be an assumption-driven exercise…”

CAN be?

What I derive from Silver’s explanation is that polling doesn’t work any more, but the news media, politicians and pollsters want us to think it does.  There is no longer a reliable way to access a fair sampling of subjects, and the biases of pollsters create either unconscious or deliberate distortions in the poll results. This was always true to some extent [ DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN!] but now we are looking at a “science” that is about as reliable and trustworthy as astrology. Continue reading

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My Last Ethics Post About Roy Moore

I hope.

Unless he loses, and then my post, in its entirety, will read, “Good!”

The Republican Party reversed its previously signaled course this week, and appeared to be supporting the Senate candidacy of Roy Moore. This has been greeted by Democrats, the leftward pundits and news media as the equivalent of the GOP endorsing Jeffrey Daumer. “This is the end of the Republican Party!” I have read, in various forms. meanwhile, the predictable feckless Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also reversed himself. Once he said that Moore would not be seated if elected,  said he believes Moore’s accusers and called for the candidate to step aside. Now he’s saying it’s up to Alabama voters to decide. “The people of Alabama are going to decide a week from Tuesday who they want to send to the Senate,” McConnell said on CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday. “It’s really up to them. It’s been a pretty robust campaign with a lot of people weighing in. The president and I, of course, supported somebody different earlier in the process. But in the end, the voters of Alabama will make their choice.”

Observations:

  • The Republican Party had an obligation not to endorse (or run) Moore before a single accusation regarding his fondness for teenage girls surfaced. He was already unfit for office; it wold be unethical to support him if he had the personal life of Pat Boone.

If the party somehow decides that stalking shopping malls for dates and persuading mothers to pimp out 14 year olds was nothing to get upset about in a U.S. Senator, there would still be  the fact that Moore doesn’t believe in the rule of law, the Constitution, Equal Justice or the Bill of Rights, and that he’s an anti-gay bigot. These are more disqualifying than any sexual misconduct he engaged in 40 years ago. After all, I strongly suspect that 20-30, maybe more, U. S. Senators have engaged in past sexual misconduct that would make their continued presence in the Senate unpalatable. I don’t think any of them have acted or considered acting as Moore has, repeatedly violating the hierarchy of authority in the government, and arguing that that God has veto power over the Supreme Court. Mike Huckabee, at his worst, has said similar things, but he’s a talking head now; I can’t envision him actually defying a court order.

  • As I wrote back when the GOP had a chance to refuse to nominate Donald Trump, a political party is charged with maintaining the integrity of the government and our democracy, which means only offering for election candidates for office who are at least minimally qualified and trustworthy. That is a party’s duty: not just to win elections, but to win them with candidates of whom it can be reasonably and objectively said  will serve the nation with honor and competence. That can’t be said of Roy Moore, and it never could.

To a great extent, all the focus on his teen dates obscure the real problem with his candidacy. Since a majority of Alabama Republicans don’t believe Moore’s accusers, this has helped him. Continue reading

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The Three Circles, Prime Directives, And President Trump [With Addendum]

I can’t believe I have never written about this diagram before, but apparently I haven’t. That’s my fault, and a major one.

The diagram, the creation of my friend, attorney John May, shows the inter-relationship of the three ethical systems professionals must employ when they face ethics problems. For although we tend to think about making decisions in one context, there are several, and which sphere—these are circles after all—we choose will often determine what balance of values, principles and outcomes dictates the ultimate course.

Here are what the circles represent:

The Big Circle, in yellow, includes the ethics culture that we all live in. It includes our nation, society, community, family, and friends, and is a messy, inconsistent, multi-faceted, often contradictory melange of traditions, religion, customs, literature, history, heroes, fables, family influences, teachers, peers, laws, and more. This the largest system of all, the sun to the planet-sized influence of the other two systems. within it are not only the often competing ethics theories of Reciprocity, Absolutism, and Utilitarianism, but also all the variations in between and beyond–Ayn Rand, Nietzsche, Marx, and many others. In his invaluable book “The Science of Good and Evil,” Michael Shermer posits that despite all the internal inconsistencies, the Big Circle is remarkably functional, agreeing on what is right and wrong perhaps 97% of the time. The disagreements are in the realm Shermer calls provisional ethics,  akin to what Ethics Alarms is referring to when it cites The Ethics Incompleteness Principle. These are the troublesome problems where the usual principles don’t always work.

 

The Core Circle, in green, represents the values, principles, beliefs and the priority of these for an individual–you. It comprises all of those, plus such core qualities as conscience, self-esteem and courage. It’s location in the Big Circle varies with the individual. A section of it even may protrude outside Big Circle, representing the degree to which a person does not embrace the values of his or her community or culture.

Finally, there is the Compliance Circle, in red. That circle defines the special ethics of a profession, and includes ethics codes, traditions, aspirational values and professional obligations and duties.

Notice that part of the Red Circle is outside the Yellow one. These are the values about which a profession is bound to adhere to at all costs, even though the society at large often and even usually does not have the same ethical priorities. Quoting Star Trek, this is Prime Directive territory. In Gene Roddenberry’s fictional Star Fleet, it was forbidden to use the immense power a starship could muster to interfere with a planet’s inhabitants and their conduct, even to prevent what appeared to be a horrible wrong.  This principle would be repugnant to the the public at large. For example, if a starship had an opportunity to stop a genocidal race from wiping out another race on its planet, the Prime Directive would make it a crime to do so. The Big Circle would certainly view this as monstrous, but the Prime Directive wisely holds that interference must be avoided. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/28/2017: The Worst Defense Of Roy Moore Ever!

Good Morning!

1 The Dumbest Moore Defense Ever Told! Debating with Chris Cuomo on CNN yesterday morning, Breitbart senior editor Joel Pollak made the following argument in defense of  Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore:

“You know, in 1973 Ringo Starr hit number one on the Billboard charts with the song, ‘You’re 16, you’re beautiful, and you’re mine,. He was 30-something at the time singing about a 16-year-old — you want to take away Ringo Starr’s achievement?”

He really did.

2. Sally Yates and James Comey are happy, anyway. Leandra English, the deputy director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, argues that the Dodd-Frank Act makes her the lawful the acting director of the agency in a lawsuit she has filed  against President Trump, who also has the law on his side. He appointed Mick Mulvaney, currently Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget, as acting director to replace Richard Cordray, who appears to have resigned explicitly to foil the President’s ability to appoint his own choice to head the CFBP. Now there is mess triggered by a rare, genuine example of two statutes with authority over the same situation.

The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel issued a legal opinion that says the Dodd-Frank Act does not displace the President’s authority to appoint under the Vacancies Reform Act. Either statute can be invoked. “We cannot view either statute as more mandatory than the other,” the opinion says. “Rather, they should be construed in parallel.”

Of course, employees of the Executive Branch are ethically obligated to defer to the President of the United States, but this President is handicapped by a thick muck of arrogant holdovers from the Obama Administration, who think it is appropriate to sabotage and undermine a leader whom they do not approve of. This is indefensible.

The lack of the basic deference and respect all elected Presidents should be able to depend upon that so many of the previous administration’s personnel have displayed is an indictment of the Democratic Party’s principles, integrity, fairness, patriotism and respect for process. This is how this story should be reported, too, and would be, by a competent and ethical news media. Continue reading

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