Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/20/18: Life, Death, Fairness, Dissonance And Sanity

1 Let’s see more of such Ethics Heroes, please… In Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania,  John Orsini, has gone to court to stop his ex-wife from allowing their son, 17-year-old Antonio, from playing high school football in his senior year. Antonio has already suffered at least three concussions. Antonio’s mother and John’s ex-wife, Janice, says that her son understands the risks, and that doctors have OK’d his continued play.

But he doesn’t understand the risks—apparently neither do those doctors—and he is considered a minor under the law because teenagers are prone to poor reasoning and impulsive decisions…especially when they have incipient brain damage.

CNN is eager to hear his position on gun control though. But I digress..

Says the CBS news story: “John contends that after these concussions and sub-concussive hits, medical research shows that Antonio would be in grave danger if he continues to play football.” He contends? There is no contention: that is fact.

“I’m trying to save his future. I’m trying to save his life,” he said of his son.

Janice and her attorney issued a statement, saying in part,

“The mother and her 17-year-old son have reasonably relied upon the input and opinions of his treating physicians and medical providers, and have considered the state mandated safety and concussion protocols followed by the school district, in deciding whether it was appropriate for him to continue to participate in football.”

John believes the court will side with him.  “If you have a significant indication that the child is being placed in harm’s way, and it’s brought to court to protect the child, it’s the court obligation to do so,” he says. I wouldn’t be so sure. This is football country, and football fanatics are in denial. They’ll get thousands of children’s brains injured before they are through.

“I’m hopeful that my son will just go on, get a good education and lead a healthy life. That’s all I want,” said John, whose other two sons no longer speak to him over this conflict.

Good luck.

Let’s hope Anthony is given then chance to grow smarter than his mother.

2. Let’s see, which Trump Derangement news media story should I post today? Every day, every single day, I have literally dozens of biased, vicious, stupid, unprofessional and blatantly partisan mainstream media news reports and pundit excesses to flag as unethical. Here, for example, is a New York Times columnists advocating for Rex Tillerson to betray all professional ethics, confidentiality, trust and responsibility by revealing everything he heard or saw as Secretary of State that could undermine Trump’s administration. It’s called, “Burn it down, Rex.”

Let me repeat: for journalists to set out to intentionally poison public opinion against the elected President of the United States by manipulation and hostile reporting is unethical and dangerous. This conduct has been the single largest ethics breach in the culture for more than a year, and one of the worst in U.S. history. In strenuously condemning journalism’s abdication of its duty to support democratic institutions and to remain objective and responsible, I am not defending Donald Trump. I am attempting to defend the Presidency itself.

Today I pick…this: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/19/18: Unethical Wedding Gifts, The Fairness Conundrum, What Really Makes Students Unsafe, And More

Good Morning!

1 A Not Exactly Hypothetical… A family member is getting married, and the social justice warrior spouse has decreed that no gifts should be sent, just contributions in the happy couples’ name to designated charities and causes, all political, partisan, and ideological. Does this obligate guests to give money to causes and organizations they object to or disagree with? One might be tempted to teach a life-lesson in abuse of power, and pointedly give a contribution to, say, The Family Research Counsel, the NRA, or Paul Ryan’s re-election campaign, but that would be wrong. Wouldn’t it?

2. “Progressive fines” poll update. The percentage of readers who regard so-called “progressive fines” as fairer than fining all law violators the same amount regardless of resources is about 6%, in contracts to 40% who think this is less fair. As I suspected, the schism is driven by the long-standing (and resolvable) arguments over what constitutes “fair” government policies, and whether it is the government’s job to try to make life less unfair. Is it “fair” to treat everyone the same, when we know that life doesn’t treat everyone the same? Are those who argue that life’s unfairness should be addressed by individuals, not society, taking that position because they are winners in life’s chaotic lottery? Can society and governments be trusted to address “unfairness” and inequality without being influenced by the conflicts and biases of the human beings making and carrying out laws and policies. I don’t generally care to spend a lot of Ethics Alarms time or space on abstract ethics questions, but some of them can’t be avoided. You can take the poll, if you haven’t already, here.

3. On the topic of fairness, here is a study that will make you bang your head against the wall: Following on the heels of this discouraging study I posted about on March 3 is this report by researchers at Stanford, Harvard and the Census Bureau, as described here by the New York Times. A taste sufficient to ruin your day: Continue reading

“Hello. Yes, Once Again, I Want You To Meet Larry. You Remember That He Was A Respected Harvard Law Professor, But The Scourge Of Anti-Trump Mania Has Left Him Silly And Obsessed. Won’t You Help Sufferers Like Larry With A Generous Donation?”

 

The steady deterioration of former Harvard Law professor Lawrence Tribe is truly a cautionary tale. Bias makes you stupid, but Larry had IQ points to spare, once.  Trump Derangement makes you stupid, and this strain of political hostility is far, far worse than the Clinton, Bush and Obama strains. Once Tribe was infected, his intellect was in peril.

Then he became addicted to Twitter. I tell my legal ethics seminar attendees that Twitter lowers a lawyer’s IQ by anywhere from 40-60 points. Once, Larry could have sustained that and still given me a good game of Scrabble. On top of his ossifying liberal bias and the ravages of Trump Derangement, however, Twitter delivered the coup de gras to his gray matter.

We saw the beginning of this in 2016, when he shattered a basic legal ethics tenet–Larry used to teach this stuff–with a mind-blowing tweet. After Trump’s election, Tribe began making silly claims that the President was impeachable,  and took to Twitter to spread batty “resistance” conspiracy theories, while calling a White House aide  “non human.”

Now it seems beyond dispute, sadly, that Lawrence Tribe is in the end throes of Anti Trump Brain Virus infection. Continue reading

Reminder: Hateful Racist Mass Murderers Have The Same Rights You Do

Dylann Roof, the white supremacist sentenced to death after killing nine black church members as an attempt to start a race war, asked a court to replace his appointed appellate lawyers because they “are my political and biological enemies.” The Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied his request.

Roof’s pro se motion stated that his lawyers, Alexandra Yates and Sapna Mirchandani, “are Jewish and Indian, respectively. It is therefore quite literally impossible that they and I could have the same interests relating to my case.”  Roof had difficulties on the same basis with his court-appointed lawyer, David Bruck, during his trial. The murderer wrote  in his motion that Bruck is Jewish and “his ethnicity was a constant source of conflict even with my constant efforts to look past it.”

I have been shocked at the reaction of the legal profession, the news media and the public to the 4th Circuit’s ruling. It really does appear that all the education in the world, ethics rules, principles and the Constitution will still be steamrolled by hate and emotion, even when crucial, indeed existential values for our society are at stake. My trust and respect for all professions—all of them—have been grievously reduced by their conduct and ethics blindness over that past several months. No wonder the First Amendment is under attack. No wonder our institutions are being weakened to the point of collapse.

The public literally  not understand the principle I am going to explain now. Apparently naively, I thought lawyers, judges and law professors did. In the interest of clarity, I am going to do this in short, straightforward segments.

I. The Court’s ruling is not just wrong, but frighteningly wrong.

Roof, like all citizens accused of a crime, has a right to a competent, zealous legal defense. A  competent, zealous legal defense requires that the defendant be able to participate fully in that defense. If a defendant does not or cannot trust his lawyers, he cannot be assured of a competent, zealous legal defense.

II. A client has to trust his lawyer.

It doesn’t matter why a client doesn’t trust his lawyer, and the lawyer need not agree that the lack of trust is warranted. The question is whether a lawyer who is not trusted by his client can do an adequate job representing him. The answer is no. The Sixth Amendment, which guarantees a fair trial and legal representation in criminal cases, is not there for the lawyers, or courts, or government. It exits to protect the accused—all accused.

In a famous medical ethics case, an elderly Korean man in a hospital wanted his doctors, specialists in his malady, replaced because they were Japanese-Americans, and as a survivor of the horrors Japan inflicted on Korea, he was convinced that they would kill him. The hospital ethics committee held that he was an irrational bigot, and that he either had to accept the qualified physicians despite their race, or get out. The AMA disagreed. It said that the patient’s welfare is paramount in medical ethics, and a patient who does not trust his doctors—the reason doesn’t matter—will have his welfare and health endangered as a result.

The same principle should apply to Roof. A client who does not trust his lawyer will not, for example, be candid with him, or trust him to keep confidences.

Under the circumstances Roof described, the lawyers have an ethical obligation to withdraw. Two rules are involved:

Client-Lawyer Relationship
Rule 1.7 Conflict Of Interest: Current Clients

(a) Except as provided in paragraph (b), a lawyer shall not represent a client if the representation involves a concurrent conflict of interest. A concurrent conflict of interest exists if:

(1) the representation of one client will be directly adverse to another client; or

(2) there is a significant risk that the representation of one or more clients will be materially limited by the lawyer’s responsibilities to another client, a former client or a third person or by a personal interest of the lawyer.

(b) Notwithstanding the existence of a concurrent conflict of interest under paragraph (a), a lawyer may represent a client if:

(1) the lawyer reasonably believes that the lawyer will be able to provide competent and diligent representation to each affected client;

(2) the representation is not prohibited by law;

(3) the representation does not involve the assertion of a claim by one client against another client represented by the lawyer in the same litigation or other proceeding before a tribunal; and

(4) each affected client gives informed consent, confirmed in writing. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Breaking Ethics Thoughts: The White House Bars The NYT And Others From Its Press Briefing”

 

pewdiepie-youtubeThis Comment of the Day by repeat awardee Humble Talent was really yesterday’s Comment of the Day #2, but it seems silly to keep the 2 when it is being posted today. See how hard my job is? I should hire an accounting firm to take care of this stuff and make sure it doesn’t get screwed up.

I was aware of the PewDiePie  (that’s him on the left) flap, but not enough to investigate it (name bias on my part), and am grateful to Humble for highlighting the story, and its significance. The news media bias crisis is not going to end well, especially if they and their beneficiaries on the Left continue to deny it. Eventually, most of the public will wake up. My wife just flipped out when a Facebook friend posted, as part of her ongoing attack on the President, that he was undermining an “independent press.” It has to dawn on these semi-ignorant partisans that independence without standards, integrity, competence, objectivity and honesty…in short, ethics…just means “unaccountable.” And, of course, the current mainstream news media isn’t independent by a long shot.

Other than that, it was a perceptive observation.

Here is Humble Talent’s Comment of the Day on the post, Breaking Ethics Thoughts: The White House Bars The NYT And Others From Its Press Briefing:

I was thinking of previous administrations, and the news while I was growing up…. It seems to me, and this might be my ‘member berries in action, but it seems to me that I remember a time where the news was biased, perhaps, but it was a subtle bias, the kind of bias that you’d only notice if you were of a mind to look.

They’d report the facts you see, ostensibly giving enough rope to their targets to skip or swing, and the bias would be in the form of selection, not solicitation.

What is…. or should be… absolutely indefensible about how the media covers Trump is in the pillars of journalistic ethics.

https://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp

Seek The Truth and Report it, Minimise Harm , Act Independently, Be Accountable and Transparent, and Don’t be an Ass.

Alright, I made that last one up, but I bet you could hardly tell. The problem is that the outlets in question don’t even attempt the fig leaf anymore. And this isn’t just unique to Trump…

Continue reading

The Latest Trump Embarrassment: You See, Donald, Hanlon’s Razor Provides No Protection To Presidential Candidates…

Star of David

Writing about the latest Donald Trump controversy, blogging professor Ann Althouse concluded…

This is either a revolting outrage or shocking incompetence.

Social media critics, Democrats, Jews here and in Israel and journalists who enjoy interpreting every Trump communication in the worst possible light were (and are) foaming with anger and indignation over the above re-tweet by The Donald, whose long-used press nickname is on the way to being officially changed to “The Lunkhead.” In case you are as insensitive and ignorant as he apparently is, that’s six-pointed star in the graphic, superimposed on a background of cash and referencing Hillary’s corruption. The six-pointed star, the Star of David, is associated with the Jewish people, culture and faith. When one links that symbol to money and corruption, you have the classic elements of anti-Jewish hate and bigotry. Here is a sampling of the online commentary on what some pleasantly refer to as Trump’s latest “unforced error”: The Verge, The American Spectator, The Atlantic, Hot Air, RedState, Raw Story, The Times of Israel, Gothamist, CBS New York, Mediaite, Little Green Footballs,  and ThinkProgress. Continue reading

The Astounding Apology of Anti-Semitic Harvard Law Student Husam El-Coolaq

husam_linkedin_photo

At Harvard Law School, an event in the Program on Negotiation, sponsored by the Jewish Law Students Association and Harvard Hillel and titled “The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict & the U.S” consisted of an exchange of ideas between former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and American diplomat Dennis Ross.

Husam El-Qoulaq, a law student in the audience asked this:

My question for Tzipi Livni is, how is it that you are so smelly? It’s regarding your odor — about the odor of Tzipi Livni, very smelly.

How professional, civil, respectful and representative of the image that the nation’s most prestigious law school wishes to present to the world!

Harvard Law’s Jewish community reacted with indignation at this brazen display of anti-Semitism, while Harvard’s Law School Dean Martha Minow issued an official statement that the incident…

“…was offensive and it violated the trust and respect we expect in our community. Many perceive it as anti-Semitic, and no one would see it as appropriate. It was an embarrassment to this institution and an assault upon the values we seek to uphold. The fact that speech is and should be free does not mean that hateful remarks should go unacknowledged or unanswered in a community dedicated to thoughtful discussion of complex issues and questions.”

Husam El-Qoulaq then posted this astounding “apology”: Continue reading

Swastika Ethics: 8 Observations On The George Washington University “Hate Crime”

swastika

I was recently reminded about the origins of the Nazi swastika, ironically enough, during the Cincinnati funeral service of my dear friend, Georgetown classmate,  lawyer and patriot Mitchell Dale, who died last summer. Looking down during a prayer, I was startled to see the Hindu version of the symbol in a mosaic imbedded in the church floor.

Oddly, the pastor and mourners weren’t arrested.

Yet last month, an unnamed Jewish student placed a small, bronze, Indian swastika on the bulletin board of his Jewish fraternity, Zeta Beta Tau, in the university’s International House. The building had recently been the target of an unidentified vandal who drew three swastikas on the walls. After posting the swastika, the student stayed close to the bulletin board, intending to discuss it and the previous vandalism with observers. He briefly stepped away, unfortunately for him, and during that period a member of the student’s fraternity saw the swastika and called GWU’s campus police. They  filed a report and took the swastika as evidence. When the student found out the police had been called, he immediately came forward to authorities and said that he had posted the  image to spark a conversation about the ancient symbol, cultural appropriation, messages, perception…as in what used to be called “education.” He said he did not intend to offend anyone, noting in doing so that this was an Indian swastika, not a Nazi one. He had just returned from studying religion in India, and said he became fascinated by the idea that a symbol that was not one of hate could become so defined by hate.

GWU suspended the student and evicted him from university housing pending the outcome of five disciplinary charges. The university also kicked him off campus, and referred the incident to the District of Columbia police for investigation as a potential “hate crime.” He could face expulsion.

Ethics observations:

1. FIRE, Freedom for Individual Rights in Education, is on the case. Thank you, FIRE. FIRE Program Officer and attorney Ari Cohn wrote,

“GWU may not ignore thousands of years of history and effectively forbid all uses of the swastika because it was used by Nazi Germany. It’s ironic that the charges against the student illustrate the very point he was trying to make in the first place—that context is important and there’s much to be learned about the history of the swastika.”

2. Now the Hindu American Foundation is protesting as well. This is the wonderful aspect of diversity, and a warning to institutions and diversity hounds that diversity must cut in all directions, or is a sham. It is discriminatory for a university to demonize and censor an aspect of a world religion’s symbology and culture. Do you think the administrators at GW sufficiently understood this, or just didn’t care, going with what they perceived as the most powerful interest group?

3. The George Washington fiasco comes in the wake of other  colleges  responding to anti-Semitic swastika vandalism, but that shouldn’t have mattered. Continue reading

Lena Dunham, Double Standards and the Jester’s Privilege

Jewish DogLena Dunham—you know, the celebrity hyper-feminist, sister-molesting, slandering lying creator/writer/actress of HBO’s “Girls”?—-is again at the center of controversy. This is how people like Dunham, who is wan of talent or appeal so she has to manufacture ways to keep herself in the public eye, stretch out their lucky 15 minutes of fame to interminable lengths. They do it by regularly pissing people off, and requiring those who feel they have to defend her because she is on “the team” (Female, feminist, Democrat, “Pro-choice,” pro-gay, pro-gay marriage, progressive) to compromise whatever genuine values they have by insisting that her crummy behavior isn’t crummy after all.

Yes, she is an ethics corrupter.

Dunham’s latest foray into calculated offense is an alleged  humor piece inexplicably published by The New Yorker. Well, let me back that up: if you or I wrote it, publishing it would be inexplicable, because it’s just not very clever or funny. The New Yorker published it because Dunham is link bait.

The article is called Dog or Jewish Boyfriend? A Quiz, and it begins,

“Do the following statements refer to (a) my dog or (b) my Jewish boyfriend?”

It is drawing fire from many sources because it invokes negative Jewish stereotypes for the “following statements” such as these: Continue reading

“The Death of Klinghoffer” : The Metropolitan Opera Flunks Its Ethical Duty

Death of Klinghoffer

New York’s Metropolitan Opera is scheduled to present John Adams’s 1991 opera, “The Death of Klinghoffer” this fall. [Full disclosure: Adams, then an unknown, was one of my professors in college] The opera is a dramatization of the 1985 Achille Lauro hijacking,in which the Palestine Liberation Front murdered the wheelchair-bound Jewish-American businessman Leon Klinghoffer. The opera has always been the target of Jewish and other critics who believe that it is too sympathetic to the Palestinians, and is thus anti–Semitic. Predictably (although for some reason the Met seemed not to be prepared for it) the Anti-Defamation League and conservative pundits are condemning the new production, typified by the reliably simple-minded Michele Bachmann, who denounced the Met for sympathizing with terrorists.

This is, and I state this without moderation or equivocation, is anti-cultural, anti-art, anti-free speech political correctness bullying from the right. This is an opera, and it, like any work of art, stands for itself. Whatever the political message of “The Death of Klinghoffer,” it is secondary to the main purpose of any opera, which is music and entertainment. The Met, as an organization dedicated to music and opera, should not be held to any standard in producing it other than whether it meets the company’s standards of excellence. An arts organization like the Met is apolitical, and should never allow the political or ideological messages of the artists whose work is presented there change its programming in any way. This means telling critics like those of “The Death of Klinghoffer,” be they advocacy organizations, would-be public censors or embarrassments to Congress like Bachmann to go fly a kite when they attempt to dictate what art is or isn’t “appropriate.” Continue reading