Thursday Ethics Thirst-quencher, 8/20/2020: Actually, This Doesn’t Taste So Good….

I filled in a gap in my history knowledge today, one I’m embarrassed to have had for so long. I remember being creeped out the first time I heard John Hinckley crooning the song he dedicated to Jodie Foster on her answering machine at Yale. “Ohhh Jodie! Ohhh Jodie! My love will turn you on!” All these years, I thought Hinckley had composed that song in his sick infatuation. Today, almost 40 years later, I found out that he just ripped off a John Lennon song called “Oh Yoko,” which I heard for the first time on the Beatles Channel on Sirius-XM. Am I the only one who didn’t know that? My ignorance is my fault: I would no more listen to anything extolling Yoko than I would voluntarily groove on “William Shatner’s Greatest Hits.”

And what was it about  Beatles compositions that inspired aspiring killers?

1. Yes, this seems rather irresponsible...Here’s a trailer for an upcoming Netflix series:

Over at The American Conservative, columnist Rod Dreher is disgusted, with good reason. He writes in part,

“Twerking their way to stardom. Eleven years old….These are little girls, and this Netflix show has the acting like strippers as a way of finding their way to liberation. What is wrong with these Netflix people? Do they not have children? Do they think our daughters are only valuable insofar as they can cosplay as sluts who are sexually available to men? ….There is nothing politicians can do about this…I hope sometime this fall a Senate committee calls Netflix CEO Reed Hastings] to Capitol Hill and forces him to talk about how proud he is that he has 11 year olds twerking on his degenerate network.”

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Goya Ethics

(Yes it’s unethical, but that photo just cracks me up.)

The United States Office of Government Ethics, which has the responsibility of “preventing conflicts of interest in the executive branch,” has among its guidelines ,

“Executive branch employees may not use their Government positions to suggest that the agency or any part of the executive branch endorses an organization (including a nonprofit organization), product, service, or person.”

The provision is clear, and I think obviously, necessary. Yet after anti-Trump zealots announced a boycott of Goya, the largest Hispanic-owned company in the U.S., after the company’s CEO Robert Unanue praised President Donald Trump in a Rose Garden event last week, the First Family went to extraordinary—and unethical—lengths to support the “buycott”  that conservative groups launched in response.

First, White House adviser Ivanka Trump posted a photo of herself holding a can of Goya black beans this week, captioning it, “If it’s Goya, it has to be good” along with the  translation, “Si es Goya, tiene que ser bueno.”

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So The Judge’s Wife Is On The Jury…Wait, WHAT?

“Hi hon!”

I haven’t seen this before.

Judge Thomas Ensor of Adams County, Colorado, now retired, sat back and allowed his wife to be empaneled on the jury trying Gary Val Richardson for allegedly firing one or two shots in the direction of police officers during a 2013 standoff.

The judge even thought the situation was funny. He joked during jury selection that lawyers should “be nice to Juror 25. My dinner is on the line.” After the jury was selected and sworn in, Ensor told the lawyers that he had never heard of a sitting judge having a spouse or family member on the jury. “There’s nothing wrong with it,” he said. “I think she’ll be a fine juror. I have not spoken to her about this case.”

One of my rules of thumb for avoiding legal ethics problems in trial is that if you’ve never heard of something being done before, there’s probably a good reason not to be the first to do it. Continue reading

Which Part Of “A Judge Shall Perform Judicial Duties Without Bias” Confuses You, Your Honor?

Here are a few provisions of the Texas Code Of Judicial Conduct:

  • From the Preamble: “Intrinsic to all sections of this Code of Judicial Conduct are the precepts that judges, individually and collectively, must respect and honor the judicial office as a public trust and strive to enhance and maintain confidence in our legal system.”
  • “A judge shall comply with the law and should act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.”
  • “Canon 2: Avoiding Impropriety and the Appearance of Impropriety in All of the Judge’s Activities”
  • “A judge shall not allow any relationship to influence judicial conduct or judgment. A judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others; nor shall a judge convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge.”
  • “A judge shall perform judicial duties without bias or prejudice.”
  • “A judge shall not, in the performance of judicial duties, by words or conduct manifest bias or prejudice, including but not limited to bias or prejudice based upon race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status, and shall not knowingly permit staff, court officials and others subject to the judge’s direction and control to do so.”
  • A judge shall conduct all of the judge’s extra- judicial activities so that they do not cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially as a judge..
  • “A judge may participate in civic and charitable activities that do not reflect adversely upon the judge’s impartiality or interfere with the performance of judicial duties.”

OK, now you’ve read  that, as presumably all Texas judges have. Now, if you were Bexar judge Rosie Speedlin Gonzalez, would your judicial ethics alarms start sounding as you considered displaying a rainbow flag in your courtroom, using a rainbow pen, a rainbow mouse pad and a robe with a rainbow-style strip of Mexican blanket design? Continue reading

Ethics Dunce, But He Doesn’t Care: Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr (R-NC)

I know this is unfair, but in almost every non-posed photo I found of Burr, he looks like he’s hiding something.

The Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Richard Burr,  sold off  between $628,000 and $1.72 million of his stock holdings on February 13 in 33 separate transactions. At the time, Burr had received the government’s most highly classified Wuhan virus briefings. About a week after Burr unloaded stocks that figured to be affected, the stock market began its dive and has lost about 30% of its value since

Today  NPR revealed  a secret recording from February 27 in which the Senator gave a GOP group at an exclusive social club a gloomy preview of the economic impact of the approaching pandemic. According to the NPR report, Burr told attendees of a business executives group luncheon held at the Capitol Hill Club:

“There’s one thing that I can tell you about this: It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history … It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.”

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The Democratic Party Debates And The Appearance Of Impropriety

If the Democrats want their nominating convention to descend into chaos and result in a disastrous split, I’d say they are making all the right decisions. If they want to bring a united and confident organization into the 2020 battle with the GOP and President Trump, however, they are botching things badly.

The ethics issues at play here are fairness and competence.

The Democratic National Committee now says that the next debate,  finally a  head-to-head showdown between socialist Bernie Sanders and whatever-he-is-at-the-moment Joe Biden, will have both candidates seated as they take unplanned <cough!>questions from undecided voters in the audience, unlike the previous debates which had the candidates  challenged by questions from professional journalist moderators while standing behind  podiums for hours.

Brilliant! What could go wrong? Except that some in the Bernie Sanders camp are convinced that the format has been deliberately engineered to minimize the exposure of Joe Biden, who appears to be aging as quickly as  poor Walter Donovan after he chooses the wrong chalice in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 2/22/2020: A Girl Named Nazi, And Other Ethics Puzzles

Good morning!

Believe it or not, that was what kids looked forward to on Saturday mornings.

Amazing.

1. Naming Ethics. I just learned that the U.S. Women’s Chess Champion in 2016 and 2018, is named  Nazi Paikidze.  Apparently in her parents’ native Georgian her euphonious first name means “gentle.”

Oh! Well no problem then!

2. Completely unrelated…no really, completely...In Hobart, Indiana, 23-year-old Kyren Gregory Perry-Jones and 18-year-old Cailyn Marie Smith drove up to two teenage boys who were riding their bikes, and asked if they supported President Donald Trump. The two boys’ bicycles were flying small American flags. After they answered yes, the couple swerved to drive them off the road.  Perry-Jones, according to the boys; account, left his car to rip one of the flags from its bike tossed it on the road, got back into his vehicle and ran over it. He also shouted, “Don’t let me see you downtown.”

The suspects—I wonder who their candidate is? My money’s on Bernie—were apprehended after they posted videos of the incident on Snapchat. One shows Cailyn Marie saying,  “Ya’ll scared, just like your President!…America is not great!” to the teens. I haven’t used tis video in a while, and this seems like a good time..

 

The two have been charged  with felony counts of intimidation and criminal recklessness. Continue reading

For Your Edification: These Members Of The 2019 House Of Representatives Are Facing Ethics Probes

Remember that the House Ethics Committee maintains a very narrow definition of “ethics.” Almost all serious ethics allegations and investigations in Congress involve financial misconduct, employment shenanigans, actual criminal conduct or blatant conflicts of interest.  The prohibition against sexual relations with staff was relatively recently added, and even more recently taken seriously, thanks to the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck. If the House really was concerned with promoting ethics rather than compliance, it would bring more investigations based on #1 in the House Code of Conduct:

1. A Member, Delegate, Resident Commissioner, officer, or employee of the House shall behave at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House.

It is fair to say, I think, that this standard has been openly abandoned by both parties.

Here are the current open investigations:

 Representative Alcee L. Hastings, (D-Florida),

Alcee is my favorite unethical House member, and has been for years.  He was impeached and removed from the federal bench in 1989 after the Senate found him guilty of eight impeachment articles, including one charging that he had conspired to receive a $150,000 bribe. Yes, his constituents have shown themselves unworthy of Democracy. Now he is being accused of  violating House rules by having a personal relationship with a member of his staff, and get this: it is with the lawyer who defended him in his impeachment trial. Hastings, who is 83, admits the relationship with Patricia Williams, whom he has had on his staff for years. They even bought a $700,000 house togethet bought a house near Boynton Beach.  Hastings still owes legal fees to her for the work on his impeachment defense, raising another ethics issue regarding inappropriate gifts or “forbearance.” is seeking the payment of debts.

As we know by now,  Representative Katie Hill of California, a first-term Democrat, had a sexual relationship with a member of her congressional staff and had to resign as a result—well, that and the public release of kinky nude photographs inconsistent with House Code of Conduct #1.

Representative Michael F. Q. San Nicolas (D-Guam) Continue reading

By What Theory Is This Judge Qualified To Stay On The Bench?

How low can judicial standards of ethics go? In the 10th Circuit, apparently, pretty low.

U.S. District Court Judge Carlos Murguia of Kansas City, Kansas, is an appointee of President Bill Clinton. His sister is a judge on the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and was also appointed by Clinton.

According to the Tenth Circuit’s judicial council recent opinion following a judicial conduct investigation, Judge  Murguia gave “preferential treatment and unwanted attention to female employees of the judiciary in the form of sexually suggestive comments, inappropriate text messages, and excessive, non-work-related contact, much of which occurred after work hours and often late at night.” In other words, he is a serial sexual harasser. The harassed employees, the investigation found,  were reluctant to tell Murguia to stop his abuse because of his power as a federal judge.  One victim finally complained.  Murguia continued the harassing conduct anyway. Continue reading

Addendum And Correction To The Complaint Form Revision Discussion [Updated]

In Item #3 of this morning’s Warm-Up, I wrote, “The intelligence community quietly eliminated a requirement that whistleblowers provide direct, first-hand knowledge of alleged wrongdoings that had existed since May, 2018. The revised version of the whistleblower complaint form was not made public until after the transcript of the President’s July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. It had eliminated the first-hand knowledge requirement, allowing government employees to file whistleblower complaints even if they lack direct knowledge of underlying evidence and only “heard about [wrongdoing] from others.”

I now know that this description was misleading and incorrect, because my source had confused a change in the reporting form, which it documented with screen shots, with a change in the whistleblower law, which had remained the same. This was explained in a twitter thread by Julian Sanchez, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and a  technology and privacy expert. I will note that based on the Federalist’s screen shot above, one can understand their confusion.

Twitter is terrible format to make a substantive argument or explain anything, but I guess Sanchez doesn’t have a blog or a Facebook account, or something.  He writes that he contacted the site’s editor Mollie Hemingway and she didn’t correct the post.

[Notice of Correction: I had written here, erroneously, that the Federalist doesn’t allow comments. It does: I missed the tiny link at the bottom of the page. In fact, there are a lot of comments to that post. They are not helpful…]

I considered trying to put the following in coherent chronological order, but I’m just going to post Sanchez’s tweets as they appear on his feed: Continue reading