The Right To Be Unethical: The 10th Circuit Allows “Faithless Electors”

This is professor Larry Lessig. Is it unfair of me to believe that this particular pose is signature significance for a pompous ass? Nobody in the history of photography who wasn’t pompous  posed this way, Lessig has several pictures like this.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Denver ruled 2-1 this week that the Electoral College system established by Article II and the 12th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution allows Presidential electors to vote against the candidate the popular vote in their state commits them to vote for. In 1952, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled  that primary candidates for party electors can be required to pledge to support the party’s candidate, but according to this decision, that pledge is not enforceable.

The 10th Circuit’s decision was a victory for Michael Baca, a Colorado elector who in 2016 cast his vote for John Kasich, then governor of Ohio, even though state law at the time required him to vote for the winner of the state’s popular vote, who was Hillary Clinton. Baca said his intention was to persuade enough members of the electoral college to cast votes for Republicans other than Donald Trump in an effort to deny Trump a victory.

Ooh, good plan! One way to avoid this problem is for states to make sure their electors aren’t arrogant, undemocratic whack-jobs.

The state removed Baca as an elector and canceled his vote, causing two other electors to abandon their plans to vote for Kasich. All three joined the lawsuit against the Colorado secretary of state’s office, but the 10th Circuit found only Baca had standing to sue.

It seems that the decision has strong Constitutional law behind it. Baca v. Colorado Dep’t of State said in part, Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Richard Schwartz, Responsible Citizen, And How His Experience Explains Donald Trump

Want to know why people are mad as hell and aren’t going to take it any more, so they decide to vote for anyone who appears to be outside the elite cabal that pretends to deliver “democracy?” Here’s a striking example.

During a public comment period during a Seattle city council meeting, Richard Schwartz came to the podium to make his case. He was troubled, as he should have been, that most of the council members were not looking at him, or appeared to be listening. Most were looking at their computer screens or smart phones, scrolling and apparently doing other tasks, or looking at porn, for all he knew. So instead of meekly accepting the disrespect and rudeness of his elected municipal representatives, he called them on it.

“It’s real discouraging to come up here and see all the heads down…,” he began, but Councilwoman Debora Juarez, who was presiding,  interrupted , saying “You’re on a two minute timer here, so let’s go.”

Schwartz professed puzzlement at the response, and after standing silently for several seconds, he asked,

“So it was unreasonable for me to ask that people look up and give me their attention?” Juarez answered by telling him that he only had only a minute and 30 seconds left, and lying, saying that he had their attention, when he obviously did not.

Discarding his prepared statement, since it was obvious that the City Council would only observe its obligation to take public comments in form rather than in good faith, Schwartz said that this was why he came to comment: “the state of our democracy.”  He pointed out that when State Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Seattle) spoke in a public comment session the previous week,  she was four or fine minutes and the council was attentive, while everyone else at that session was limited to a single minute.

“It reminded me of George Orwell’s famous line from ‘Animal Farm’ about how all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others,” Schwartz continued. And that’s how I feel like I’m being treated now, just because I was kind of asking for your attention, like I noticed you all were very attentive to Ms. Jaypal last week. And I immediately got a hostile response back from you. I don’t understand that.”

With no response, he asked the council members if they ever responded to constituents.  Juarez told him his time was nearly up, as her colleagues either tended to their phones or looked bored.

“Well, it’s all on tape and I think it’s a pretty sad commentary that you think that asking for you guys to look up off of your computers and give attention during the short period of time was an unreasonable thing,”  Schwartz  said. “I really feel bad about that.”

He should feel bad about that. We all should. Democracy doesn’t work when elected officials treat the public this way; it can’t. This is democracy in name only. The stunning thing is that Seattle’s city council is so corrupted by their own sense of entitlement, wisdom and certitude that no ethics alarms pinged when an engaged voter begged them to pay attention to him for a couple of minutes.

For a second straight post, let me reference this November 9 whine-fest by feminist Jessica Valenti called, “How do I tell my daughter that America elected a racist, sexist bully?” Continue reading

Interview Ethics: Sabotaging A Job Candidate, With A Kavanaugh Hearing Flashback

Frequent commenter and old friend Vinnymick flagged this one, thus proving that someone took my recent appeal for out-of-the-way ethics topics seriously. He pointed me to a Washington Post article, which lays out its topic thusly:

“While browsing Twitter recently, I came across a post that suggested an innovative interview technique: Take a job candidate out for a lunch interview, then secretly ask the server to intentionally mess up the candidate’s order. The purported goal: to see the candidate’s true nature. “It’s easy to say how you would handle when things go wrong, [but] hard to fake your reaction as it happens,” the post concluded.”

Or, as another type of sabotage, have an old high school colleague of the interviewee sit down at the table and accuse him of sexual assault. Then observe how he reacts to that!

The Kavanaugh debacle came to mind immediately, in part because so many who rationalized the Democrats’ abuse of Justice (now, judge then) Kavanaugh was that it was a “job interview.” No, it wasn’t, as I repeatedly had to explain to people (but, you know, when progressives are in the process of a Trump-related freak-out, you can’t explain anything to them(, in a real, fair and professional job interview, the interviewer hasn’t already decided that he or she doesn’t want to hire you, as nearly every single Democrat regarded Kavanaugh before the hearings began . In a job interview, you are being interviewed by your potential supervisors and those who you will be working with if you are hired. The Supreme Court doesn’t report to the Senate, take orders from the Senate, or work with the Senate. In a job interview, there is a presumption of good faith between the job seeker and the interviewer. No, the Kavanaugh hearings were a transparent effort to sabotage the  judge’s nomination from the outset.

Now back to the article’s hypothetical: Of course pulling a stunt like the one described is unethical. An earlier Ethics Alarms essay on “silly job interview ethics”—it’s pretty good, I must say, and I had completely forgotten that I wrote it— recommended that if an interviewer starts abusing you, and this is abuse, excuse yourself, saying, “I’m sorry. I was under the impression that I was applying for a position with an organization that respected serious professionals, and that would never exploit the interview process for its own amusement at the discomfort of someone who expected fair and courteous treatment. I apparently was mistaken.”

I added,

I think the use of odd interview questions is a symptom of an arrogant and essentially untrustworthy corporate culture. There may exceptions, but I don’t believe it’s worth the gamble. If the interviewer starts messing with your emotions and confidence, tell him or her to cut it out, or better yet, leave.

Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: William Kristol

The Weekly Standard went belly-up today. As usual when a publication dies, there isn’t just one reason. There are many reasons, including a changing market, competition, aging principals and bad luck. These factors were at work in this instance as well. However, the Weekly Standard was primarily doomed by the arrogance and selfish pique of the man who one would think would be the individual least inclined to harm the Standard, since it was his legacy. He went ahead and mortally wounded it anyway, for a stupid reason, if a popular one. He hated Donald Trump. That individual, of course, is William Kristol. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 11/4/2018 (Part I): Gary Hart’s Prophesy, Media Values, And High School Babylon [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

I’m headed to Boston this afternoon for one of my semi-monthly ethics seminars for new Mass. bar admittees. I have been having bad luck with keeping up on the blog while traveling of late, so I’m going to post a two-part Warm-Up to try to avoid falling too far behind.

1. Maureen Dowd made my head explode with her ridiculous profile of Gary Hart—you know, Donna Rice, “Monkey Business”—so I’m going to rely heavily on Ann Althouse’s analysis which parallels mine. Her head is just more resilient, apparently. [Tangent: I wonder how Ann’s traffic is doing? I have noticed that progressive commenters have virtually disappeared from her blog as well, where a couple of years ago they were equally represented. I don’t consider Althouse a conservative at all: she is relentlessly objective and non-partisan, and mostly serves as the web’s best bullshit detector. She has, however, defended the President against unfair attacks and hypocrisy, and called out the news media for fake news, fake headlines, and bias. That’s asking for a boycott, apparently.) Hart makes this statement:

“If all that stuff had not happened and if I had been elected, there would have been no gulf war. H.W. wouldn’t have been president. W. wouldn’t have been president. Everything would have changed. I don’t say that to aggrandize myself. It’s just, history changed. And that has haunted me for thirty years. I had only one talent and it wasn’t traditional politics — I could see farther ahead than anybody.”

I could write a long essay about this arrogant nonsense with my eyes closed. Ann had the same instant reaction I did: Funny, you weren’t able to foresee that daring reporters to check on your martial virtue would result in your being caught adultery-handed in Clintonesque trysts, you big dummy. (My words, not Ann’s.) And if hindsight is 20-20, hindsight aternate future readings are even better. Gary needs to study Chaos Theory  a bit more closely, and watch that old Star Trek episode. For all he knows, his election would have resulted in the world being taken over by Mole People.

Althouse also flagged the Dowd section where the Queen of Snark writes,

“As we fantasize about a parallel universe, where America is not a joke and our president cares about other human beings, the same questions keep swirling in our heads. What has happened to this country? Can he be stopped? When will it end? How the hell did we get here?”

Wow, Talk about bias making you stupid. To many of us who are at least as smart as Maureen, America is a joke when it embraces open borders and edicts by international organizations, when it warps the Constitution by declaring that men and police can be guilty until proven innocent if a member of a favored group accuses them, and allows a partisan news media to control public opinion. It’s not a very funny joke, though. Some trenchant comments on Ann’s post:

“I don’t know why I’m still surprised by liberals’ inability to do any real soul-searching. You’d think by now, after many hundreds of “how did we get here, why aren’t smart people like me listened to by the stupids?” articles, I’d give up hope that they will ever open their eyes and see what’s right in front of them. But then I remember, I’m a pollyanna. I can’t give up on anybody.”

***

“It would seem obvious to me that Trump does care about human beings, but not the ones Dowd think he should be caring about. And maybe her friends consider America a joke, and maybe that’s why we got were we are..”

***

“Dowd’s perspective is Technocratic. Society needs to be supervised by an educated elite. Democracy is just mob rule that will lead to ruin. But, we have to put on a facade so that the deplorables will accept our edicts. So we do the election thing, but the real rules are set behind the scenes by career bureaucrats. Politicians and the medias’ job is to set the agenda and influence popular opinion towards the “correct” attitudes”

Bingo. Bingo. Bingo. Continue reading

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/16/2018: “Ozark,” Slandering Irving, And Language Showdown At Taco Bell [UPDATED!]

Good Morning!

1. Call me an old ethics fogey, but I don’t think these kinds of TV series are culturally healthy. I’ve been watching the Netflix series “Ozark,” and hating myself for it. The show is well acted and even has its ethics dilemmas, but like “Breaking Bad,” which was obviously its inspiration, there are no admirable characters, and the “heroes” are criminals. In the Golden Age of TV, there were unwritten (and sometimes written) rules that shows could not rationalize, trivialize or romanticize illegal, immoral or unethical behavior, and needed to reaffirm positive values. In “Ozark,” “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul,” the latter’s spin-off, as well as “House of Cards,” and “Shameless,” among others, there are virtually no admirable characters at all. I have been watching “Ozark” in part because I like the actors, in part because there’s nothing I want to watch anywhere else except baseball, and, yes, in part because of voyeurism. Still, it makes me want to take a shower, and I fell that the increasing tendency of Hollywood to portray everything and everyone as corrupt makes a “the ends justify the means” rationalization seem like a matter of survival.

2. Post-mortem slander, again. This is a recurring theme here: a famous person is deliberately misrepresented in a dramatic depiction, and legally there is nothing that can be done about it. The First Amendment protects the practice, but it is still wrong, it still leads to public misconceptions, and it still sullies the reputations and legacies of important figures in history who deserve better.

In a recent one-man show Off- Broadway about American song-wrting legend Irving Berlin, writer-performer Hershey Felder portrays Berlin in his dotage as ” a miserable fossil so twisted with rage and zonked on Nembutal that he shooed away carolers who came to his Beekman Place window to serenade him with ‘White Christmas’,”  shrieking “They don’t deserve it,”  meaning the gift of his iconic song. That’s not what happened, however; not even close, according to the Times review of the show:

When he was 95, Berlin not only let those carolers into the house on Beekman Place but also kissed and hugged them and (according to some reports) poured them hot cocoa. “This is the nicest Christmas gift I ever got,” he said.

UPDATE: I relied on the New York Times review for this comment, and not for the first time, trusting the Times to play straight may have been a mistake. Reader Eric Herrault has a very different view, and I am appending his comment here:

In a website however that discusses ethics I think it is important to call attention to the real serious problem here. The quoted “review” in the New York Times of The BERLIN piece, was some kind of personal grudge hatchet job against the performing artist. This brainless reviewer does not describe the show I saw, or in fact the show at all. This is easily provable by seeing the show itself, or having a look at every other New York outlet, major and minor. Nowhere does anyone suggest this twisted and bizarre take on Irving Berlin. The one place it is suggested however, is by the reviewer himself, as he links to and then lauds a review of the book As Thousands Cheer about Berlin, that calls Berlin terrible things and worse. And yet, somehow this neanderthal supports that utter nonsense. The show is full of joy and laughter from beginning to end, with a sad feeling lived too long and the world having passed him by. The ethics violation here is that this disturbed reviewer (for whatever reason) is allowed to write in the first place.

Continue reading

“Melanie Wilkes” Loses Her Defamation Lawsuit…But Was She Right?

A California appellate court yesterday dismissed a defamation lawsuit brought Dame Olivia de Havilland against FX Networks. De Havilland, now 101, is one of the last surviving—and lucid—members of Golden Age Hollywood royalty. Those who are culturally literate know her as Melanie Wilkes, Scarlet’s angelic sister-in-law, in “Gone With The Wind,” Maid Marion in MGM’s definitive “Robin Hood” with Errol Flynn (de Havilland’s most frequent leading man),  my personal favorite, poor Bette Davis’s evil tormentor in “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte,”  and many other roles in an epic career that won her two Academy Awards. (If you don’t know her, get cracking! What’s the matter with you?)

De Havilland had  sued for damages, claiming her portrayal in the Ryan Murphy-produced 2017 docuseries, “Feud: Bette and Joan” about the feud between Davis and Joan Crawford, misappropriated de Havilland carefully nurtured image without her consent, and harmed her reputation by portraying her inaccurately, especially a scene where she is shown referring to her sister, actress Joan Fontaine (“Rebecca,” “Jane Eyre,” “Suspicion”—What is the matter with you?), as a “bitch.”

“When ‘Feud’ was first being publicized, but before it went on the air, I was interested to see how it would portray my dear friend Bette Davis,” de Havilland wrote the New York Times, explaining the suit. “Then friends and family started getting in touch with me, informing me that my identity was actually being represented on the program. No one from Fox had contacted me about this to ask my permission, to request my input, or to see how I felt about it. When I then learned that the Olivia de Havilland character called my sister Joan ‘a bitch’ and gossiped about Bette Davis and Joan Crawford’s personal and private relationship, I was deeply offended.”

“Feud,” she said, represented itself as historically accurate fiction, but falsely portrayed her as a hypocrite “with a public image of being a lady and a private one as a vulgarity-using gossip,” undermining what de Havilland  described as a hard-earned reputation for “honesty, integrity and good manners.” Continue reading