Waning Day Ethics, 9/17/2020: An Unscientific Endorsement, A Frivolous Lawsuit, And Misunderstood Bomb-Throwers

1. Scientific American embarrasses itself. …like so, so many others. “Scientific American has never endorsed a presidential candidate in its 175-year history. This year we are compelled to do so. We do not do this lightly,” intone the magazine’s editors. Wrong. They are doing it to grandstand, and you can’t be more unserious than that. There is a reason SA hasn’t done this in 175 years—it’s a dumb thing to do. They don’t have any special expertise or perspective regarding national leadership, and scientific acumen is not a qualification for office. The alleged reason for the magazine’s endorsement of Joe Biden is its claim that the pandemic’s casualties would have been less had the President said and done things differently. This is total supposition, of course. “He was warned many times in January and February about the onrushing disease,” SA says, quoting juvenile anti-Trump source Axios. That’s odd, since those crack scientists in the CDC are on record as downplaying the seriousness of the virus, and even minimizing the need for masks.  More: “These lapses accelerated the spread of disease through the country—particularly in highly vulnerable communities that include people of color, where deaths climbed disproportionately to those in the rest of the population.” These people are scientists? The reasons for higher rates of infection among the poor and minority populations are many, and the interaction among them still undetermined. Lower levels of general health,  increased rates of illnesses like diabetes and conditions like obesity, more  crowded housing, a lack of the ability to stay at home—even a persistent rumor that blacks were immune have played a part, and nobody knows what measured would have changed anything.

“If almost everyone in the U.S. wore masks in public, it could save about 66,000 lives by the beginning of December, according to projections from the University of Washington School of Medicine.” Yeah, scientists have been doing really well with their projections in the pandemic, like the projections that 5% of the population would be infected. Since the research and pronouncements of scientists have been a) inconsistent and b) politicized from the start, it is disgraceful for Scientific American to pretend that any clear signals were being sent, or that there is any reason to believe another “projection, ” except as a useful way to attack the President. There is still  a strong argument that rejecting the scientists in favor of following the advice of economists would have placed the nation in a better situation.

The Scientific American endorsement is an example of the politicization of science, and explains why  scientists cannot be trusted. Continue reading

If I Had Been Able To Swing A Full-Time Impeachment News And Commentary Blog, These Kind Of Things Would Have Been On It…

I. In the House impeachment Report, Chairman Nadler really and truly says this:

“The question is not whether the President’s conduct could have resulted from permissible motives. It is whether the President’s real reasons, the ones in his mind at the time, were legitimate. Where the House discovers persuasive evidence of corrupt wrongdoing, it is entitled to rely upon that evidence to impeach.”

Such an attitude and approach is smoking gun evidence of a rogue process. The President, of course, has not been interviewed, questioned or cross examined. His “real reasons” can only be a matter of speculation, based on the confirmation biases of his prosecutors. In ethics, motives just confuse the issue, because all human actions have complex and interacting motives. In law, malum in re, that is, objectively bad intent, often defines a crime (such as murder), but a legal action does not become illegal because the actor has some wrongful intentions, just as an illegal action doesn’t become legal because the malefactor meant well. For leaders, those who deal in power, distinguishing between rightful and wrongful acts based on motives is particularly difficult, if not impossible.

I suppose Nadler should be praised for candor, but the state of mind of Trump’s inquisitors could not be less trustworthy or more irresponsible. They believe the President to be corrupt, thus they interpret conduct by him which literally any other President could have (and has) engaged in without criticism or condemnation (except on a policy prudence basis) as impeachable. This has been the presumption from the beginning of his Presidency. No leader can function properly in such an environment….which was the idea. Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Day…Or Is It Just Icky?: Alan Dershowitz

“I have had sex with one woman since the day I met Jeffrey Epstein. I challenge David Boies to say under oath that he’s only had sex with one woman … He has an enormous amount of chutzpah to attack me and challenge my perfect, perfect sex life during the relevant period of time.”

—-Alan Dershowitz on Fox News,  attacking super-lawyer David Boies, who is representing Virginia Roberts Giuffre, a woman who claims Dershowitz had sex with her while she was one of Jeffrey Epstein’s sex slaves. 

  • Too much information, Professor.
  • Has Dershowitz never heard of the Streisand Effect? His complaining about the accusation is publicizing it.
  • Decorum? Modesty? Restraint? Dignity? Privacy? Dershowitz is 80: he’s supposed to be in the generation hat still appreciates these things.
  • He had sex with one woman for almost two decades? It was nice of him to give her a break while he chatted with Laura Ingaham…
  • Ick.

Ethics Heroes MSNBC Hosts Ari Melber And Chris Matthews, And The Post I Didn’t Have to Write [UPDATE]

Oh, this feels so good.

Just as I am always pleased when someone like Bill Clinton, a bona fide Ethics Corrupter, can he justifiably honored here for an Ethical Quote, or when a reliable ethics alarms punching bag like HBO’s  Bill Maher earns ethics kudos as he did when the snide HBO host condemned Facebook’s banning of Alex Jones recently, saying, in words that apply with equal force to YouTube’s recent ban on “Triumph of the Will”:

“If you’re a liberal, you’re supposed to be for free speech. That’s free speech for the speech you hate. That’s what free speech means. We’re losing the thread of the concepts that are important to this country. If you care about the real American s*** or you don’t. And if you do, it goes for every side. I don’t like Alex Jones, but Alex Jones gets to speak. Everybody gets to speak.”

It gives me hope; it reinforces the ethics tenet that very few people are 100% wrong, destructive, or irredeemable.  In today’s case, it is especially welcome because it saves me from having to fill out an ethics violation ticket that I was disgusted that I should have to  issue.

I was nauseated—yes, I think that’s the right word; certainly not “surprised”— to learn that Speaker Nancy Pelosi had said of the President, in a conference with her Democratic colleagues, “I don’t want to see him impeached, I want to see him in prison.” This crosses a line that should not be crossed in a democracy, and frankly, I did not relish having to explain what I believe is an example of res ipsa loquitur.

If you don’t comprehend why attempts to criminalize politics strike at the core of American values and the viability of democratic government, then you should go back to school, frankly.  We’re adults here; I have a Stupidity Rule for commenters. Whenever possible I try to avoid posts that explain why something any citizen of reasonable education and intelligence should immediately know is unethical is, in fact, unethical. Such posts are boring, and that’s really not what this blog is for.

Yet in chronicling the horrible carnage of the Post 2016 Election Ethics Train Wreck, I could hardly ignore Pelosi’s new low, any more than I could ignore Rep. Tlaib’s disgusting  “We’re gonna impeach the motherfucker!” boast.

So, just as I sat down at the keyboard, weary and ill at ease, and my fingers wandered idly over the sticky keys, I discovered that two veteran, hate-flinging, Trump-smearing, journalism ethics-defying MSNBC social justice warriors  had explained to their viewers exactly what I was preparing to write.

Whew! Continue reading

Lunchtime Ethics Warm-Up, 5/30/2019: Bye! Go For It! And Who Cares?

A yucky ethics meal.

(Sorry)

1. Why is this worthy of being published? Here’s a long Washington Post writer whine that he ““doesn’t recognize”the U.S. any more, and wants to run off and hide someplace better. Why is this any more useful and enlightening  than the rant of some wacko who has decided that human beings have been replaced by pod people, or that we’re really all lying dormant in a Matrix-like sleep? The article is just free-flowing Left-wing bitching and Trump hate that could have been written by any one of thousands of resistance fanatics in the last three years.

Why should anyone care or be enlightened that Ted Gap, whoever he is, regards the U.S. as a viper pit of  “xenophobia” (aka “enforcing the law and protecting the borders”), “its saber-rattling” (aka “foreign affairs”), “its theocratic leanings” (known as “religion”), “its denial of facts and science” (code for “not being willing to spend trillions and send the standard of  living and the economy backwards based on unconfirmed theories and projections”), “its tribalism” (I suspect Ted means the “tribes” he doesn’t personally favor), and “its petty and boorish president” (so if Ted’s candidate loses an election, it means that it’s not the U.S. any more. Got it. Typical “resistance” member.) Continue reading

Alan Dershowitz’s Mueller Report “Introduction,” And Yes, He’s An Ethics Hero [UPDATED]

For anyone who actually cares about what the Mueller report means, I highly recommend the Alan Dershowitz “Introduction” to the report, which can be purchased for Kindle for about 7 dollars. I purchased it this morning, and just completed reading it. (The report without the intro is on-line, free, all over the place.) Dershowitz voted for Hillary, is a registered Democrat, was marinated in the Leftist hive that 99% of Harvard has become, and is hardly a “Trump supporter,” which is the now reflex “Shut up!” response to any attempt to break through the “resistance” coup mindset that has become a plague on the web and elsewhere. Dershowitz is pleading anyone who will listen that he deserves plaudits rather than condemnation (one twitter follower calls him a “monster”) for trying to be objective and non-partisan, and  I feel his pain, but his protests are unseemly, and undermine the real ethical service he has performed.

The famous Harvard professor states clearly what the news media and Democrats have intentionally tried to obscure: there was no collusion, no crimes related to collusion, and the investigation report says so unequivocally. The report presents “no evidence of any criminal behavior by President Trump or his campaign with regard to Russia,” he writes. Correct. He also remind us, as few media reports have, that this is a one-sided case. There was no cross-examination of witness or challenges to the conclusions of prosecutors, and the document should be read in that light.

As I expected, Dershowitz make an irrefutable argument that the whole process was tainted by conflicts of interest, since Asst. AG Rod Rosenstein, charged with overseeing the investigation,  was both a key witness and a potential defendant.

On the more confusing matter of obstruction, he clarifies that as well, particularly by knocking down the theory that a  President can be found to have committed a crime by doing something he has clear Constitutional power to do. Dershowitz (and others) have been making this point since the hypocritical uproar over the Comey firing, and he has case law (which you can see from the excerpt above) and legal tradition to back it up. The professor cites the ancient legal principle of Nulla poena sine lege ( “no penalty without a law”, which olds that one cannot be punished for acts not prohibited by law. This is codified in modern democratic states as a basic requirement of the rule of law, and has been described as “one of the most widely held value-judgement in the entire history of human thought.”

Yeah, but we want to impeach Trump!

Continue reading

Popehat Nails Dershowitz For Misrepresenting The Law

Ken White of Popehat comes out guns blazing to take celebrity lawyer Alan Dershowitz down for misrepresenting the law in several of his increasingly frequent media appearances. Ken nails his target, too. Even the former prosecutor’s characterization that Dershowitz is lying is not excessive or unfair.

You need to read the whole post, for it is superb, thorough and airtight. Here is a precis, however, in Ken’s words, not mine.

The subject of Professor Dershowitz’s dishonesty — for the purpose of this essay — is General Michael Flynn’s lies to FBI agents and his subsequent guilty plea for lying under 18 U.S.C. section 1001. Professor Dershowitz has asserted, repeatedly, that Flynn did not violate Section 1001 because his lies were not “material” — that is, meaningful. He claims that the lies were not “material” because the FBI knew at the time Flynn was lying, and was not fooled…

Dershowitz has promoted the same point explicitly in writing:

When questioning any suspect, officials should not ask questions whose answers they already know, for the sole purpose of seeing whether the suspect will lie. If they do ask such questions, untruthful answers should not be deemed “material” to the investigation, because the FBI already knew the truth.

This is a perfectly arguable statement of what the law should be. But someone reading Dershowitz’s column could be forgiven for thinking that’s what the law is — or, at least, that the law is unsettled on the point. The essay utterly fails to divulge that every court to consider the argument has rejected it….

I am not aware of any cases construing Section 1001 that go the other way. Nor is there any credible indication that the United States Supreme Court would go the other way and decide that a false statement to the government does not violate Section 1001 if the government already knows that it is false. To the contrary, the Court has signaled that it would reject that argument…

n short, there is no credible argument that Alan Dershowitz’s repeated assertion is a correct statement of the law. It would be malpractice to advise a client that way. It would be deceitful to tell students. And it’s dishonest to tell the nation without telling them that this is your theory of what the law should be, without revealing what the law is. Advocates push the boundaries of the law. They ought to. But honest advocacy doesn’t involve lying about the current state of the law. Indeed, lawyers have an ethical obligation to reveal contrary authority when arguing in court, and judges will burn you down to the ground if you don’t. I would argue that legal experts — who trade on their reputation for knowing what the law is — have a similar ethical obligation to reveal when existing law flatly contradicts what they are arguing.

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/11/2018: Baseball! Football! Idiots!

Good Morning!

1. Important stuff first: All-Star Game ethics. The final slot for the two All-Star teams is being determined today, and everyone should want to remedy the egregious injustice of Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Jesus Aguilar being left off the National League squad so far. You can vote for him here, and as many times as you want: the polling will be closed at 4 pm EST.

Aguilar is the victim of parochial fan voting and the rule that requires at least one player from every one of the 30 teams. Still, his omission would be a travesty.  As of today, he leads the National League in home runs, slugging, and OPS (on-base pct. plus slugging) and is a leading candidate for MVP, especially if the surprising Brewers win the NL Central, where they currently lead with the best record in the league. His 2018 performance so far dwarfs that of, for example, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, voted onto the NL starting line-up by clueless fans.

2. These are your opinion-makers, America! On “The View,” Loudmouth Ignoramus Joy Behar was discussing the Merrick Garland episode with slumming legal expert and Martha’s Vineyard pariah Alan Dershowitz, who will next be appearing on “Family Feud,” I suppose.

“[The Republicans] stole the first member of the Supreme Court,” opined Dershowitz. “Absolute theft. Unconstitutional. I’m a little critical of President Obama, for whom I voted. He should have nominated Merrick Garland and should have sworn him in. The Constitution says advise and consent. It doesn’t say delay and postpone.”

Behar then asked, because she is an idiot, “Well then how come Mitch McConnell is not in jail? That’s what I want to know.”

“You want to put everybody in jail,” Dershowitz responded.

“I want to put him in jail,” Behar said.

Said  Dershowitz, “I’m against putting people in jail unless they’ve actually committed crimes. I know that’s a radical position.”

“The View” is on ABC five days a week, and has been for more than a decade. I wonder how much it has lowered America’s collective civic literacy and IQ? I think I’m afraid of the answer.

3. The NFL Anthem Protest Ethics Train Wreck update. The NFL players union has filed a grievance over the league’s anti-National Anthem protest policy. (Even in the sympathetic news reports,, exactly what is being protested is left vague, as in Politico’s “racial and other injustice in America, particularly police brutality.” In related developments, former NFL cornerback Brandon Browner has been charged with four felonies, including attempted murder, and in a particularly revolting turn of events, former Portland Trail Blazers star Kermit Washington was sentenced this week to six years in federal prison for spending almost a million dollars in charity donations on vacations, shopping sprees and plastic surgery for his girlfriend.

You see, professional athletes are not paragons, especially good citizens, or valid role models, especially NFL and NBA athletes, among whom are too many drug abusers, felons and dead-beat dads to count. They have no good justification to hijack sporting events to be special platforms for their half-baked social policy nostrums, and they should not be indulged. Let them protest the same way other badly-educated, politically naive and biased citizens do: on their own time. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/6/2018: I See Unethical People…

Good morning, everyone!

1. Good, but better if it had happened six months ago. Ethically-challenged EPA chief Scott Pruitt finally “resigned” yesterday.  He was actually fired, and President Trump should have fired him as soon as it became clear that his pal couldn’t break himself of the bad habits he developed as a lawyer and a politician, including taking advantage of his position for personal gain. There were 14 separate investigations of Pruitt’s conduct, and his continued presence with Trump’s leave undermined the President’s pledge to “drain the swamp.” As several wags said with utter accuracy, Pruitt personified the swamp, but Trump does not place ethics or avoiding the appearance of impropriety high on his list of priorities, and never has. Pruitt’s conduct was also as stupid as it was wrong. He was a villain of the environmental Left, and had bullseyes and laser targets metaphorically covering his body. In such a situation, a prudent individual knows that he or she must be otherwise beyond reproach. Not Pruitt!

The National Review neatly summed up his demise:

“EPA administrator Scott Pruitt had enemies who were out to get him because he is a Republican, a conservative, a high-ranking member of the Trump administration, and an environmental deregulator. But it wasn’t liberals, the media, or deep staters who made him get large raises for his top aides, deny that he knew about it, and then admit that he did. It wasn’t they who made him have an aide find him a discount mattress, or run sirens so he could get to a French restaurant on time. The aides who told journalists, or congressional investigators, or both about Pruitt’s misbehavior weren’t all or even mostly liberals or deep staters. Several of them were conservative Trump supporters who were disturbed by Pruitt’s behavior and thought he was serving both the president and taxpayers poorly. Some of them had come with Pruitt from Oklahoma because they believed in him. The more they saw him in action in D.C., the less they did. Today it caught up with him.”

Good riddance.

2. Wait, haven’t we seen this movie before? Many commenters here expressed skepticism at the accusation that GOP Congressman Jim Jordan had turned a blind eye to sexual abuse  of student wrestlers when he was an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State almost 40 years ago. Indeed the timing of the story looked like a political hit job, and it may be one whether the allegations are true or not. But now, as I noted in the first post about the controversy, the issue is Jordan’s denials. They rang false to my trained ear, and now there are four former wrestlers who say Jordan knew a team doctor was abusing the students.

It’s still their word against his, but it doesn’t matter. My position, as in the Harvey Weinstein mess, as in cases where fathers are molesting daughters, and in the Penn State scandal and so, so many others, is that those close to the situation either knew or should have known, and often deliberately avoid “knowing.”  Even if Jordan didn’t know, he should have and could have, and if he immediately accepted responsibility when the issue arose, he might have preserved some level of trustworthiness. He didn’t. They never do.

And we know how this movie ends. Continue reading

End Of May Morning Ethics Warm-Up: The Games People Play

Good Morning!

1. Too soon? On June 6,  “Active Shooter” will be released. The video game allows players to take part in a simulated school shooting scenario, assuming the role of either the shooter, a SWAT team member, or a student trying to survive. the simulation’s developer is Rival Games, and it be sold on the Steam online store. Naturally, the game is being condemned, and there are even calls to ban it.

I see nothing unethical about the game at all. Depending on how well it is constructed, I can even see some benefits of it. A simulation on-line makes more sense that silly active shooter drills in schools, which only increase student anxiety and create the illusion that such an event is more likely than it is.

Promotion for Active Shooter has a disclaimer stating: “Please do not take any of this seriously. This is only meant to be the simulation and nothing else. If you feel like hurting someone or people around you, please seek help from local psychiatrists or dial 911 (or applicable). Thank you.” This is a CYA message, of course. The company is considering removing the option of playing the shooter; I think this would be wise.

Yes, of course the game is offensive and upsetting to many, especially those whose family members and friends were involved in these tragedies. They definitely shouldn’t buy the game. But let’s take a poll:

2. Pantsgate. In what must be the longest running stupid legal ethics story ever, the District of Columbia Board on Professional Responsibility is recommending a 90-day suspension for  former judge Roy Pearson Jr., who sued his dry cleaners for $67 million for allegedly losing his pants in 2005. I wrote about this crazy story on the old Ethics Scoreboard, which is currently off line, but will be back soon, I swear.

Pearson first sought $1,150 as compensation for his lost Hickey-Freeman pants, but when the dry cleaners refused to pay, he escalated his litigation, finally reaching what the board called “the absurd” $67 million  claim. The board, like an earlier hearing committee, found that Pearson  violated ethics rules barring frivolous claims (Rule 3.1) and serious interference with the administration of justice (Rule 8.4). The board disagreed with the hearing committee’s lenient recommendation of a stayed suspension. Continue reading