Veteran’s Day Ethics Warm-Up, 11/11/19: Wishing My Dad Hadn’t Died Before He Figured Out How To Comment On Ethics Alarms…[CORRECTED]

Pop Quiz:

How many military veterans are currently running for President in 2020?

Answer: Two…Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

[Correction notice: I forgot about Pete in the first version of the post. Thanks to Jutgory for the catch, and thanks to Mayor Buttigieg for his service.]

1.  Here’s that “violating democratic norms” Big Lie again. This one was flagged by Ann Althouse (Thanks, Ann!)

U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman,  an appointee of President Bill Clinton,  said in a speech at  the annual Thomas A. Flannery Lecture in Washington, D.C. last week, “We are in unchartered territory. We are witnessing a chief executive who criticizes virtually every judicial decision that doesn’t go his way and denigrates judges who rule against him, sometimes in very personal terms. He seems to view the courts and the justice system as obstacles to be attacked and undermined, not as a coequal branch to be respected even when he disagrees with its decisions.'”

Althouse comments,

How do you get to be a federal judge and think the expression is “unchartered territory”? That’s a written speech too (presumably). Did he visualize some entity that issues charters authorizing people to speak about the courts in a particular way? You don’t need a license to speak in the United States, and to require one would, ironically, violate our norms. The expression is “uncharted territory,” which would simply mean that Trump is venturing into a new area of speech that we haven’t previously explored and therefore have not mapped…Now, I agree with the idea that Trump’s speech about law is unconventional, but what determines that he has violated all recognized democratic norms? It’s often said that the judiciary is the least democratic part of the government, that it’s countermajoritarian. So what are the norms of democracy that say a President should not criticize the courts?! You might just as well call this purported norm a norm of anti-democracy.

Anyway… the weasel word is “recognized.” It takes all the oomph out of “all.” Trump’s speech about judges violates “all recognized democratic norms.” Who are the recognizers? The judges? Judges certainly have a role talking about democratic norms, which are often part of the determination of the scope of the judicial role: Judges refrain from doing what is left to the processes of democracy. But part of democracy is speech about government — which includes the judges — and that speech is not limited to flattering and deferring to them. It does not violate the norms of democracy to criticize and attack judges.

Bingo. And it is because of judges whot say these sorts of things that the President is not unreasonable to accuse the judiciary of  bias. Ann chose not to mention that this was also a “norm” breached by Barack Obama, more than once, but I will, the point not being “everybody does it,” but that to this judge and others, what Obama did was apparently only objectionable when Trump did it too—a common theme in the anti-Trump propaganda of the last three years. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 11/10/2019: Be Warned, I’m In One Of Those “The Morons Are Everywhere, So Why Do I Bother?” Moods…

Hi!

Why is there a picture of a Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich here, you may well ask? It is here because it symbolizes how weird American priorities are. That was last week’s ad. This week, being ignorant of Popeye’s recent promotions, I offered to cheer up my wife, who was not feeling well, by driving up King Street (usually about a 10 minute trip) to the local Popeye’s for some dark meat fried chicken, her favorite.  As soon as I got on King, however, I was in gridlock. It took over a half hour to get to the restaurant, and it’s parking lot was in chaos. It turned out that the whole traffic disaster was being caused by the jam in the Popeyes drive-up line, which spilled into the street. I crawled up past Popeye’s and parked by the 7-11 a block away. Then I walked to Popeye’s—I would be damned if spent all that time in traffic without coming home with my wife’s treat—and the restaurant was packed wall-to wall. I was informed by one customer that the end of the line was out the door. “What’s going on?” I asked. “It’s the chicken sandwich!” he said. “All of this is for a fast-food chicken sandwich?” I asked, incredulous. “Yup!” he said, smiling.

“You’re all idiots,” I said, and left.

More than half of American won;t take the time to vote, or bother to investigate the vital issues and events that are shaping their lives, but they’ll waste hours of their lives to spend $4.50 on a Popeye’s chicken sandwich. Then, presumably, take pictures of it with their smartphones and put them up on Instagram.

1. Dog ownership ethics: Anyone who can’t figure this out on their own shouldn’t have a dog. What a surprise! Researchers have shown that screaming at dogs traumatizes them over the long term, and that love and patience lead to better training results. Science Alert reports that a team biologist Ana Catarina Vieira de Castro of the Universidade do Porto in Portugal tested 42 dogs from dog training schools that used reward-based training, and 50 dogs from aversion training schools. The dogs trained  with shouting and leash-jerking were more stressed, indicated by higher levels of cortisol in their saliva.

“Our results show that companion dogs trained using aversive-based methods experienced poorer welfare as compared to companion dogs trained using reward-based methods, at both the short- and the long-term level,” the researchers write in the paper published by biology news service bioRxiv.

Duh. Routinely shouting at dogs is animal cruelty. Our sensitive English Mastiff Patience would hide under the sink in one of our bathrooms any time anyone in the house raised his or her voice to anyone. If my wife and I argued, we had to coax Patience out by hugging each other as she watched.

2. Is the 2020 election a mass “Bias makes you stupid” experiment? Two  terrible  (and unelectable) potential candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg and even worse, Obama “wingman” Eric Holder, are reportedly exploring joining the still-crowded field. Why? They recognize that none of the current candidates look like they can attract broad-based support from Democrats, much less the rest of the electorate. A short way of describing this phenomenon is to say that if either Bloomberg or Holder are an improvement over the current crop of socialists, totalitarians and septuagenarians vying to run against President Trump, the Democrats are in big trouble.

A week ago, a New Times/Siena poll showed President Trump highly competitive in the six closest states carried by the President in ’16. The New York Times’ Nate Cohn wrote about it, and didn’t sugar coat the message: even with a 24-7 news cycle bashing the President on all fronts, and even with the impeachment push giving Democrats the opportunity to soak the public’s brain with denigrating quotes, President Trump still looks like a formidable opponent.

Well, of course he is, and it should be obvious to all why. Yet Ann Althouse, who flagged the article, posted the two highest  comments to the revelation from Times readers:

This is the most depressing article I’ve read in a while. The idea of a second Trump term is literally terrifying. Who are these people that like him? How can it be? Fox News, owned by a soulless Australian, is destroying this once great country.

Second highest:

I simply cannot fathom this. How is this even possible? Also I live in Michigan and my sense is that Trump is deeply unpopular here. Are these polls using the same techniques that were used to predict a 97% chance of victory for Hillary? Perhaps the polls are wrong? I sincerely hope so because the alternative is unthinkable.

Wow! How cocooned does one have to be in Leftist echo chambers, false narratives, fake news. conventional wisdom, “resistance” talking points and Big Lies to write things like this for public consumption? If reality is that far from permeating the biases of such people—-after three years of a mass effort to effectively disenfranchise citizens who rebelled against the media-progressive bullying of the Obama years and the blatant dishonesty and corruption of the Clinton candidacy—-they must be permanently damaged. Continue reading

Animal Treatment Ethics, Stowaway Raccoon Division: Should A Lawyer Face Professional Sanctions For This?

Controversial Cruelty to Animals Day at Ethics Alarms continues (I don’t plan these things) with this legal ethics story out of Florida. The video above is at the center of it.

Florida disciplinary authorities have opened an investigation into the professional fitness of a lawyer who forced a stowaway  racoon off of his boat a long way from shore,  and thought it was all amusing enough to post a video of the incident on Facebook. The bar’s assumption is that the animal drowned.  The lawyer is now subject to prosecution for a violation of Florida’s wildlife laws.

In Florida, as in every other U.S. jurisdiction, one of the kinds of unethical conduct that can result in bar discipline is committing “a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects,”  as stated by  Rule 8.4 (b) of the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct . Should the nautical lawyer’s conduct  qualify?

You may recall a far more egregious case of animal cruelty by a lawyer discussed here, where I questioned if a psychopath lawyer’s fatal attack on his girlfriend’s dog Snoopy really tells us anything about his trustworthiness as a lawyer. I wrote then,

Emotionally, I have no problem with seeing an animal abuser kicked out of my profession, but I don’t understand what values are being applied. Is it the commission of a crime? Most lawyer crimes don’t result in disbarment, if they don’t involve lying, cheating or stealing. …There is no basis on which to conclude that [Snoppy’s killer]  isn’t competent, zealous and trustworthy—just keep him away from pets.

Now, you may well ask, “Isn’t this at least “moral turpitude?” That’s the character flaw that will keep applicants for bar membership from getting a license due to character deficiency. There are two points related to that. First, moral turpitude might keep you out of the law at the outset, but it is not one of the official no-nos that will get you kicked out of it one you are a practicing lawyer.  The legal  definition of moral turpitude is an act or behavior that gravely violates the sentiment or accepted standard of the community. Brutalizing an animal would certainly qualify. The ABA, however, greatly narrowed the definition as it was applicable to legal discipline:

The 1983 Model Code (periodically amended by the ABA House of Delegates over the last 32 years) rejected the prohibition against “illegal conduct involving moral turpitude.” The ABA’s reason, which it included in a Comment to its Rule 8.4, was quite simple: “Moral turpitude,” the ABA advised, is a “concept can be construed to include offenses concerning some matters of personal morality, such as adultery and comparable offenses, that have no specific connection to fitness for the practice of law. Although a lawyer is personally answerable to the entire criminal law, a lawyer should be professionally answerable only for offenses that indicate lack of those characteristics relevant to law practice.” The American Law Institute’s Restatement of the Law Governing Lawyers § 5 (Third) (ALI 2000), agreed. It also concluded that “moral turpitude” is vague and may lead to discriminatory or otherwise inappropriate applications.”

This looks like an Ick Factor case to me. The abuse of poor Snoopy is so viscerally repulsive that the bar and the courts can’t keep their ethical priorities in order. It is also, as particularly ugly discipline cases often are, a matter of public relations and self-preservation for the legal profession. The bar association knows that not banning a lawyer like Pastor—one hopes there aren’t many–signals to the public that the bar welcomes brilliant advocates who may be monsters in their spare time. That is a dark and dangerous road the profession would rather avoid.

The lawyer in the Florida video also has some defenses the poodle-stomper did not.  Raccoons are wild animals, and cute as the are, they also bite. I wouldn’t want to be trapped on a boat in middle of the ocean with one, though I wouldn’t throw the critter overboard either, unless it was me or him. (My father had a home movie of me jumping out of a canoe and swimming to a lake’s shore when I saw a large spider in the vessel. Of course, I was only 15. All right, I was 26….) The raccoon may have also been a better swimmer than everyone assumes: unlike in the case of poor Snoopy, the lawyer wasn’t trying to kill the animal, just get it off the boat.

I do not, however, second the opinion of Law professor Dane Ciolino, writing on his Louisiana Legal Ethics blog, who says in discussing the case, “A Maryland lawyer was suspended for microwaving a cat. But a racoon? I think not.”

Wait—is the professor really saying that microwaving a live raccoon would not justify bar sanctions, but a cooking a cat does? That’s animal bigotry, but it is consistent with what I detected in the Snoopy case. If that lawyer had stomped to death a raccoon that wandered into the apartment, I doubt that he would have been disciplined.

Yet animal cruelty is animal cruelty. If gratuitously killing a dog or a cat shows that a lawyer is unfit to practice, so does unnecessarily killing a raccoon.


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Afternoon Ethics Respite, 5/22/2019: The Stupid Edition, With A Poll

Good afternoon, Music Lovers!

[Unrelated to the Stupid theme, but of interest: my mostly Democratic audience for today’s sexual harassment training  had no sympathy whatsoever with Joe Biden’s shameless groping, nor with his party’s hypocrisy in supporting him (so far.) Another interesting exchange—I was ready for the question—was when an attendee asked about “the current occupant in the White House” and his sexual harassing ways. “Has he harassed anyone while President?” I asked. She said, “Not that we know of.” Then I put up one of Uncle Joe’s groping photos. “How can a party that nominated someone who openly harasses women on camera challenge same but speculative conduct by the President?” I asked.

It’s also interesting that the un-American and unfair concept of presumed misconduct has so infected progressive thought where Donald Trump is involved. This was the answer I got repeatedly from one of our Self-Exiled Warriors of the Left before his exit: he knew that the President had colluded with the Russians and stolen the election because that’s just the kind of person he is.

What kind of governments oppress, accuse and punish people based on the kind of person they are?]

Stupid #1. In my back yard of  Richmond, Virginia, a woman left instructions in her will that Emma, a healthy Shih Tzu mix, be put down. The Chesterfield County Animal Services , where Emma was residing, appealed to the executor of the dead woman’s estate. “We did suggest they could sign the dog over on numerous occasions — because it’s a dog we could easily find a home for and re-home,” said Carrie Jones, manager of Chesterfield County Animal Services. Nope. Representatives took Emma in custody to be euthanized. The dog’s remains were cremated, and her ashes were placed in an urn to be returned to the “authorized representative of the estate.

There’s no excuse for this screaming example of human arrogance, narcissism, cruelty and idiocy. As a matter of public policy, testamentary wishes involving the killing of anything  should be declared unenforceable by law.

Trust the humans, Emma: they have decided that you’ll be happier dead.

Stupid #2: Boy, I don’t know if Kamala Harris is beatable in the Ethics Alarms contest to be the worst candidate for the Democratic nomination.

To begin the week,, Harris announced  her plan to close “the gender wage gap in the United States,” which is largely a fake talking point the Democrats have been flogging for decades. Her proposal would require that businesses submit  their payroll to the federal government, and if employees in the same position are not paid the same (absent legitimate reasons like seniority or merit, the company would face fines, including a fine of 1% of the company’s profits for every 1% of a “wage gap” that exists.—after expensive appeals, of course. Good plan!!!

But I digress. After Harris’s announcement,the Washington Free Beacon  investigated her own staff’s salaries and found the the median male salary disbursement was $34,999 and the median female salary was $32,999, a 6% gap.

How smart, responsible and competent would a candidate have to be to make certain that her own staff salaries showed nothing that could even be claimed to be a “gender gap”by grandstanding a proposal like hers?

Not very, but apparently Harris can’t even clear that low bar. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/15/2019: Of Ficks, Flicks, Fairness, And. Yes, “Fuck”

 

Suffering from low blog traffic hangover…

I know I complain about traffic here too much, but it’s the only place I where can complain about it. Either because of Trump Derangement, ethics apathy in a Nation of Assholes, my exile from NPR (for telling an undeniable truth that was accused of being a defense of Donald Trump), Facebook’s sabotage, or sunspots, Ethics Alarms readership is down significantly since the high point of 2016. Yesterday, the usually lively day of Tuesday did a credible imitation of Saturday, when tumbleweeds roll through here, and I can’t find any reason why. Kept me up much of the night, so now I’m going to be slow, cynical  and cranky all day….

1. Speaking of a nation of assholes…Stephanie Wilkerson, the certifiably awful human being who kicked Sarah Huckabee Sanders out of the Red Hen restaurant, was given a forum (disgracefully) by the Washington Post to boast about her “resistance.” Of course she frames herself as a victim, then celebrates the fact that she received support from many Americans who are as hateful, bigoted, and un-American as she is. Depressingly, many of my Facebook friends “loved” or “liked” her nauseating column, which is nothing more nor less that a hard tug on the loose threads on the seams that hold our nation together. These phony advocates of “inclusion” actually favor discrimination and prejudice based on political affiliation and personal viewpoints, which is no less unethical and destructive than discriminating based on race, gender or creed.

Stephanie Wilkerson’s Post column marks her a fick, an individual who is unethical and proud of it.

But I would still serve her in my restaurant.

2. Here’s another topic I’m sick of writing about: We TV, that august cultural institution that features the beneath the bottom of the barrel reality show, “Mama June, From “Not” to “Hot.” is the latest product to use the hilariously clever device of implying variations of “fuck” in its marketing, because saying but not quite saying “fuck” is inherently witty and memorable. The word being so used by We is “flicks.” Get it?? Continue reading

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/17/19: March Ethics Madness!

Good morning!

Any week that starts off with John Belushi’s immortal reflections on March just has to be a good week.

1. Connecticut: Judicial ethics and guns. Anti-gun fanatics are cheering this week’s ruling by the Connecticut Supreme Court  reversing  a lower court judge dismissing a lawsuit by the families of victims of the Sandy Hook shooting against Remington Arms Company, allowing the case to proceed. In the 4-3 decision the court  possibly created a path that other mass shooting victims can follow to get around the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, known as PLCAA, which has protected the manufacturers of the AR-15 assault rifle from lawsuits, thus setting the stage for a sensational “Runaway Jury”-type trial. The court’s reasoning is that the Sandy Hook families should have the opportunity to prove that Remington violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA) by marketing what it knew was a weapon designed for military use to civilians. The problem is that the ruling ignores the law, as John Hinderaker explains (but he’s not the only analyst trashing the decision):

“Firearms of all kinds have been ‘designed for military use.’,” he writes. “The 1911, designed by John Browning, was the standard U.S. military pistol for many years and remains one of the most popular pistol designs today. So what? There is no such exception in the Second Amendment…Under the Supremacy Clause, federal law will govern over state law. The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act is intended to avoid precisely the result reached by the Connecticut Supreme Court. The PLCAA puts firearms manufacturers on the same plane with all others. If their products are not defective–if they do not malfunction–they are not liable. If someone stabs a victim to death with a knife, the victim’s heirs can’t sue the knife manufacturer. It is the same with firearms.”

Hinderaker correctly concludes that significance of the ruling is not that it opens a road for the Second Amendment to be constrained, or for ruinous liability to applied to gun-makers, but that it shows how courts will deliberately ignore the law to reach political goals. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/3/19: Morons, And More.

Good morning!

Still working on the appellee brief in my defense against the frivolous law suit by an angry banned Ethics Alarms commenter whose boo-boo I bruised. How do you write a professional, respectful, effective rebuttal of a 70 page brief that is basically nonsense? I know how to argue against a real good faith legal assertion–indeed, my enjoyment of brief-writing nearly got me stuck in the traditional practice of law. But “this is deranged crap that doesn’t constitute a valid appeal and that wastes the time of everyone involved” isn’t a professional response, just a fair one.

1. “You know…morons!” At least two people—I can’t find the link for the second one, but it was a child—were wounded when spent bullets shot into the air by New Year’s Eve celebrants fell back to earth and hit them. This happens every year. Why do people think shooting guns into the sky is safe? In WW II, my father had to promise a court martial for any soldier under his command who shot a weapon into the air.  This is basic Law of Gravity stuff, but it seems to elude an amazing number of gum owners. I’m only aware of one move that ever featured a death from a falling bullet: “The Mexican,” a failed 2001 Brad Pitt-Julia Roberts comedy.

2. “You know…morons!” (cont.) The Netflix horror hit “The Bird Box,” which involves a blindfolded Sandra Bullock leading her similarly burdened children on an odyssey to escape an apocalyptic threat that only strikes when it is seen, has spawned a web challenge in which people are encouraged to try doing everyday tasks wearing blindfolds. This prompted a warning from Netflix:

“Can’t believe I have to say this, but: PLEASE DO NOT HURT YOURSELVES WITH THIS BIRD BOX CHALLENGE. We don’t know how this started, and we appreciate the love, but Boy and Girl have just one wish for 2019 and it is that you not end up in the hospital due to memes.”

Boy and Girl are what Bullock’s character’s children are called, because she is so certain they are doomed that she doesn’t want to name them. I am tempted to say that anyone so stupid as to try this challenge should not be discouraged, because their demise will only benefit the rest of us. But that would be mean.

True, but mean.

3. Follow-Up…The Federalist has more on the unfolding Steele Dossier scandal. I do not see how any result of the Mueller investigation can hold up in court, no matter how much the mainstream news media spins it, with the degree of procedural irregularity and prosecutor misconduct we already know is behind it. Presumably this is why the focus has shifted to the extremely dubious theory that Trump violated election laws by paying off a sex partner, something he would have probably done whether he was running for office or not, and also a transaction that didn’t involve campaign funds. The media keeps reporting the latter as if it is an unquestioned crime (apparently because Michael Cohen was induced to plead guilty to it), but it just isn’t a crime, and I believe in the end that theory will be thrown out of court too. Continue reading