Tag Archives: betrayal

Ethics Quiz And Poll: The Siblings’ Betrayal

Whatever the answer to the quiz, I view this development as a bad sign for all of us.

Republican congressman Paul Gosar ‘s six siblings all agreed to participate in an attack video by his opponent, Democrat David Brill, in the race to represent Arizona’s 4th District in Congress. They all endorse Brill in the ad, while denigrating their brother’s positions on  health care, immigration, and the environment.  “He’s not listening to you, and he doesn’t have your interests at heart,” Tim Gosar said.

Nice.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz Of The Day:

Is this conduct by Gosar’s family members ethical as responsible citizenship and political advocacy, or unethical as disloyal and unfair?

I think I know my answer, but it is a close call, hence the quiz. Now the poll:

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Ethics Observations On “I Am Part Of The Resistance In The Trump Administration” [UPDATED]

You can find the instantly sensational op-ed here, as well as the New York Times’s various and predictable articles exploiting their own “scoop.”

“I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations,” says this alleged “senior official.” “…Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back….The erratic behavior would be more concerning if it weren’t for unsung heroes in and around the White House…. It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room. We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t….

Observations:

  • It doesn’t, or shouldn’t to fair and rational readers, matter what the author claims. He, or whoever he, she or it is, is inherently without credibility, just as all anonymous hit pieces are.  By his own admission and the evidence of the essay, the author is a liar, a coward, a spy, a mole and a saboteur, and an individual who is deliberately attempting to undermine democracy. There is no justification for trusting any aspect of his representations. Of course, those who want to believe the worst  about the President will believe everything he writes, because they want to, and because confirmation bias is strong. Nonetheless, the piece is untrustworthy on its face. It would not be admissible as evidence in any investigation or formal proceeding. No manager or leader would treat such a document as useful or probative.

The essay is less credible and less worthy of discussion or serious consideration than the inflammatory claims of Omarosa, the hearsay/speculation/ fantasies of Michael Wolfe in the generally debunked “Fire and Fury,” orthe latest hearsay and anonymously sourced Bob Woodward “tell-all.” And none of those are respectable either. At least, however, those authors have the decency and courage to reveal their own identities.

  • Despite all the hype and horror, this could have been written by an Ethics Alarms commentator—in fact, I could name some likely candidates— as one more familiar, standard statement of why any Trump-hater is determined that he should be impeached. It is a generic brief on the theory that “Donald Trump is unfit to be President and must be removed,” the first assertion of which was rejected by the electorate, and the second of which is legally unsustainable at this point.

The only aspect the op-ed arguably newsworthy is that the author claims to be a Trump administration official.

  • It should be unnecessary to point this out, because it is obvious, but I will anyway: such an op-ed could be issued by any arrogant, self-anointed “savior” who disagreed with the policies and character of any and every President. Every White House has enemies who would write essentially the same words and accusations. Why has this White House been the first to vomit out such vile stuff in the pages of the Times? My guess is that the vicious culture of the anti-Trump Left has created confidence that there will be a critical mass of journalists and others who will represent this inexcusable conduct as not just excusable, but laudable.

The conduct would never have been regarded as anything but despicable coming from a senior official (if he actually is one) of any other administration.  Democrats, “the resistance” and NeverTrumpers have jettisoned all ethical norms in their hatred of this one man who dared to foil them, who is in fact no different from any other President in the most important respect: he was elected, he holds the office, and he should be allowed to do his job.

  • If the op-ed is not a hoax, and if there are, as the writer says, highly placed members of the Trump Administration who are pretending to be loyal government employees but who are actually trying to undermine the President and his policies from within, then the assertions by conservatives and Trump supporters of the existence of a “deep state,” much mocked by the news media and Democrats, have been accurate all along.

This was apparent, or should have been,  before the op-ed, of course.

  • Should the Times have published this? If they confirmed to their satisfaction that it was genuine, and really came from a senior official who revealed to them his identity, sure. The public should know that there are pompous, lying, unethical saboteurs in their government. And it should scare the hell out of them.

We knew this too, though, before the op-ed.

  • President Trump is not blameless here. He and his staff have shown absurd incompetence in vetting staff high and low. It should surprise no one that a President who would allow the likes of Omarosa, Steve Bannon, Anthony Scaramucci and others to have places of trust within the administration would blunder into admitting other moles, spies and turncoats as well.

The fact that a manager or leader takes inadequate measures to ensure ethical conduct does not justify or mitigate the unethical conduct that results, however.

  • I assume that we will eventually learn who wrote this. Besides firing, what is the  appropriate punishment for someone who deliberately betrays the trust of elected leaders and who sets out to undermine the efforts that he or she is obligated to support? Such conduct flagrantly violates federal regulations, as promulgated by President George H.W. Bush’s Executive Order 12674. issued on October 1990. That EO begins,

By virtue of the authority vested in me as President, by the Constitution and the laws of the United States  of America, and in order to establish fair and exacting standards of ethical conduct for all executive branch employees, it is hereby ordered as follows… To ensure that every citizen can have complete  confidence in the integrity of the Federal  Government, each Federal employee shall respect and adhere to the fundamental  principles of ethical service as implemented in   regulations promulgated under sections 201 and   301 of this order:

The “Principles of Ethical Conduct” following that the anonymous writer has violated and is violating include,

(a) Public service is a public trust, requiring employees to place loyalty to the Constitution, the laws, and ethical principles above private  gain.

(e) Employees shall put forth honest effort in the performance of their duties.

(h) Employees shall act impartially and not give preferential treatment to any private organization or individua

 (j) Employees shall not engage in outside employment or activities, including seeking or  negotiating for employment, that conflict with official Government duties and responsibilities.

(k) Employees shall disclose waste, fraud, abuse, and corruption to appropriate authorities. [NOTE: The New York Times is not an appropriate authority.]

(n) Employees shall endeavor to avoid any actions creating the appearance that they are violating the law or the ethical standards promulgated pursuant to this order.

  • Of course, the President is taking the bait, and now fulminating in his usual clumsy and childish way against the writer and the New York Times. In this he again falls into the trap being constantly set and re-set by those who are engaging in the slow-motion coup.

I wish he’d let me ghost write his tweets.

  • The conduct the writer extols and claims to be engaged in would be unethical and indefensible in any organization, large or small. The ethical responses to opposing ones’ superior’s conduct or the policies of one’s organization are to resign, or not to take the post in the first place. Joining an organization and actively working against the authority of superiors is never justified or justifiable except in wartime or as part of a law enforcement exercise.

Reactions to the op-ed from around the web:

Althouse:

“If I didn’t maintain rudimentary trust in the basic integrity of The New York Times I would think that there is no real person behind the famous anonymous op-ed. I’d think it was a concocted composite based on the Woodward book and motivated by the Woodward book. Look how that little thrown together collection of paragraphs is now drawing more attention than the book Woodward labored over, which dominated headlines on Tuesday. Wednesday, this column comes out. What is in the column that couldn’t have been extracted from the book and worked up into an op-ed purporting to be from a senior official in the White House?”

(Why does Althouse have any trust in the integrity of the New York Times?)

She also writes,

“This person is singing about his own heroism. We just don’t know his/her name, because he/she has got to stay hidden to continue sabotaging the work of the President the deplorables elected”

Bingo!

The LA Times:

“If you’re reading this, senior White House official, know this: You are not resisting Donald Trump. You are enabling him for your own benefit. That doesn’t make you an unsung hero. It makes you a coward. “

Liz Shield:

“How does it feel to learn that there is a powerful self-interested bureaucracy asserting itself above and against the will of the people?”

Byron York (Washington Examiner):

“Early in the piece, the author admits that the Trump administration has had significant success on the issues most important to American voters. “Many of [the administration’s] policies have already made America safer and more prosperous,” he writes. Later, he makes a list: “effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more.” Perhaps the author doesn’t see it that way, but peace and prosperity are any president’s two most important accomplishments. Conceding Trump’s achievement undercuts the broader theme of the article.”

Glenn Greenwald:

The irony in the op-ed from the NYT’s anonymous WH coward is glaring and massive: s/he accuses Trump of being “anti-democratic” while boasting of membership in an unelected cabal that covertly imposes their own ideology with zero democratic accountability, mandate or transparency

Professor Reynolds: 

“The more they tell us Trump’s crazy, the crazier they act. Meanwhile lefties are starting to push the 25th Amendment again — it’s like they’re cycling now — and I have to say, if you think removing Trump will leave you in a better position, well, it won’t. Getting rid of Trump won’t return things to “normal.” It will make sure things are never normal in our lifetimes. But why do I bother? These people are crazy.”

Nick Gillespie (Reason):

There is no question that Trump was a uniquely unqualified candidate to run for president and he seems to have virtually no expertise in anything other than Twitter trolling. He clearly understands nothing about trade deficits, for instance, and his policies clearly don’t add up to anything particularly coherent (then again, they didn’t on the campaign trail, either). He is not a traditional Republican, but since when is that an impeachable offense? The author genuflects to John McCain, a well-respected public figure but also one whose incoherent and grandiose economic, social, and foreign policy positions were hardly worth emulating, and concludes

“Senator John McCain put it best in his farewell letter. All Americans should heed his words and break free of the tribalism trap, with the high aim of uniting through our shared values and love of this great nation.”

With all due respect: What the fuck does that even mean?

Few outlets have been more stridently #NeverTrump than The New York Times, a fair stand-in for the legacy media which also has nothing but contempt for Donald Trump and sympathy for Hillary Clinton (it was her time!) and a broad Democratic agenda of more-active government. The anonymous op-ed can only be read through that light and thus discounted.

To sum up, the Times op-ed is just one more manifestation of the horrific mass misconduct that the entire left side of the political spectrum has persuaded itself is responsible, fair, rational behavior when it is in fact dangerous, undemocratic, and reckless. I am bored with pointing out this fact, but this President was faced with impeachment demands before he took office, was not accorded the minimal election spoils of united acceptance of his election traditionally symbolized by a peaceful, joyous celebration of our system and history at his inauguration, and he has continued to be undermined by behavior that never would have been tolerated by the public or the news media if focused on any other Chief Executive.

There is no question that it is wrong. The only question is how much damage it will do to the United States of America before it has run its course, and whether that damage will be permanent.

 

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Morning Ethics Round-Up, 8/16/18: Those Wacky Conways, And The Anti-Trump News Media Goes To The Dogs

Good morning.

1. A conspiracy theory about a conspiracy theory about conspiracy theorists...Last night, a CBS procedural that I am finally sick of, “Criminal Minds,” appeared to be taking sides in the Trump vs. the FBI wars, with a side-swipe at Alex Jones, not that there’s anything wrong with that. The episode set up a conflict between the Good FBI agents who are the stars of the show, and the crazy, paranoid, anti-government  “Truthers” who see government law enforcement as sinister and manipulative. (There was special focus on the ridiculous Sandy Hook conspiracy theory, with one of the tough serial killer hunter breaking down in tears remembering the massacre.) The most vocal anti-FBI character in the episode, who sneered out her every line about the series heroes (bad direction, in my view), was revealed at the end as the “unsub,” the psychopathic killer.

For some reason this was the first time it occurred to me how much prime  time network TV serves as a PR service for the FBI, with the virtue, bravery and unquestioned rectitude of the agency and its employees being central to multiple dramas. The propaganda is escalating too: Dick Wolf of “Law and Order” fame is launching a new CBS series called, creatively, “FBI.” You would think, would you not, that this would be an odd time to produce such a series, with the reputation and credibility of J.Edgar’s baby at an all-time, and most deserved, low. However, Hollywood and the entertainment industry now sees its role differently than seeking mere ratings.

There is nothing wrong with TV writers and producers bring their political agendas into our living rooms, and there’s not a thing we can do about it anyway, other than change channels. Rod Serling used to get awfully preachy sometimes on “The Twilight Zone.” This was mighty ham-handed pro-Peter Strzok advocacy, though by CBS, or at least it seemed that way to me.

2. Marital Ethics. This is weird. Ethics Alarms has discussed the unethical conduct of Kellyanne Conway’s husband George, who has become a popular “resistance” and #NeverTrump figure by tweeting virulent criticism of the President, who employs his wife. Now Kellyanne has escalated the problem with an interview criticizing her husband, telling a reporter that his sniping ” is disrespectful, it’s a violation of basic decency, certainly, if not marital vows.”  Then, according to an AOL report, she asked that her comments be attributed to “a person familiar with their relationship.” The reporter, correctly, refused.

It is a breach of loyalty and respect for one spouse to criticize the other in the news media. It is cowardly and a breach of honesty to criticize one’s spouse and to try to remain unaccountable for it by pretending the critique came from someone else.

What a fun couple! What a strange couple. What an unethical couple… Continue reading

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Saturday Ethics Warm-Up: Algorithms, The Beatles, Baseball, Football, And Omarosa

Good morning.

1.  More Scorpion-Frog Ethics. I refuse to do a full post on Omarosa, the latest slimy opportunist the mainstream media is suddenly treating as a trsutworthy source because she claims to have dirt to spill on President Trump. To ist credit, NPR is at least flagging her sliminess, in a post titled “Omarosa Tells NPR She Heard Trump ‘N-Word Tape,’ Contradicting Her Own Tell-All Book.”

As I wrote regarding Manigault Newman previously (and the same applies to Michael Cohen), one can be nauseated by the disloyalty, dishonesty and venality of such scum and still have little sympathy for their victim, Trump, who was a fool to trust such obviously untrustworthy individuals, give them influences, notoriety and power they are unfit to have, and still claim to be hiring and appointing “the best people.”

The same sentiment applies to the biased, obsessed and incompetent news media. If journalists keep presenting present the likes of Omarosa, Cohen, Stormy Daniels, Michael Wolff, and, yes, James Comey, as credible first-hand Trump accusers, how can they expect the public to take any legitimate future accusers seriously, should any appear? Their predecessors will have all been obvious publicity-seekers, shake-down artists, motivated by personal agendas or greed, and obviously so. The news media, meanwhile, undermines its own credibility—what little remains–by so eagerly treating these tarnished sources as if they were not what they so obviously are.

2. They’re baaaack!. The NFL’s pre-season games are underway, and what do you know? The players are kneeling again, protesting during the National Anthem in what they deny is a protest of the National Anthem in what the news media regularly calls the “National Anthem protests.”  Wait, what’s that protest about, exactly? The New York Times has settled on “social inequality and police brutality.” And what do they mean? Here’s the latest interpretation by one of the most prominent Kneelers, Malcolm Jenkins of the Philadelphia Eagles:

“Before we enjoy this game lets take some time to ponder that more than 60% of the prison population are people of color. The NFL is made up of 70% African Americans. What you witness on the field does not represent the reality of everyday America. We are the anomalies…”

Anomalies because they aren’t in jail? That sounds rather racist to me. Anomalies because they make millions of dollars? Are the Kneelers saying that all African Americans should be making a lot of money? That prison populations should be representative of the same demographic percentages as the public as a whole? Is he calling for affirmative action in the courts (social justice, I guess) or claiming that the large black prison population is caused by police brutality?  That’s funny: I assume that it is because a disproportionate number of blacks are committing crimes. Is that their fault, or the fault of NFL ticket-holders? This remains the most incoherent, self-indulgent protest ever, and one that prompted one of the President’s more accurate tweets–-two, in fact:

The NFL players are at it again – taking a knee when they should be standing proudly for the National Anthem. Numerous players, from different teams, wanted to show their “outrage” at something that most of them are unable to define. They make a fortune doing what they love………..Be happy, be cool! A football game, that fans are paying soooo much money to watch and enjoy, is no place to protest. Most of that money goes to the players anyway. Find another way to protest. Stand proudly for your National Anthem or be Suspended Without Pay!

That last part relates to the also incoherent NFL policy on kneeling during the anthem. On this, Jenkins told Philly.com, “Quite frankly, guys in our league don’t like being told what to do, what they can and can’t do. We don’t have this type of policies for the other causes we support, whether it be our ‘Salute to Service,’ or breast cancer awareness, or anything else. It’s just when you start talking about black folks, quite frankly. It’s disheartening, but we’ll continue to be creative.”

Huh? Employers in all professions and occupations tell employees what to do, and on-the-job protests disrupting the workplace are universally forbidden. (I know you guys are “anomalies,” Malcolm, but you still collect a paycheck…) Do these players really not see the distinction between engaging in a league-approved promotion like ‘Salute to Service,’ or breast cancer awareness, and a wildcat protest that annoys and insults paying customers? Is anyone going to fact-check that misleading statement,  as someone like Snopes undoubtedly will, regarding the President’s mistaken claim that “most of that money goes to the players”?

Then, “quite frankly,” we get the race card. Of course! “When all else fails…”

Does anyone seriously believe that if only white football players were protesting during the National Anthem, nobody would object? Continue reading

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“McCarthy And Witch Hunts And Fear, Oh My!” PART I: Director James Gunn

I don’t care to live in a culture where law-abiding citizens can have their reputations and careers destroyed by people maliciously publicizing old or private communications to make them hated or distrusted, or worse, a culture where doing this to people is deemed virtuous. Such a culture is one based on perpetual fear, where individuals cannot express an opinion that they may change later, or make a joke to a select audience, or have a conversation expressing strong but spontaneous and transient feelings without risking personal destruction at the hands of someone who wishes them ill.

That is the U.S. culture, however, that extremists on both ends of the political spectrum are successfully constructing,  unles we stop them. Their tools are political correctness, invasions of privacy, abuse of technology, social media and its attendant mobs, and an utter disregard of fairness, decency and ethics.

Two recent example illustrate how serious the problem is. This post is about one of them.

Talented writer-director James Gunn, the creative force behind the  delightful  Guardians of the Galaxy movies was fired by Disney after his old tweets containing offensive jokes were uncovered and circulated on social media and the web. The tweets were deliberately sought by conservative blogger and activist Mike Cernovich,  to intentionally wreck Gunn’s career. Gunn’s real offense was that he has been a vocal “resistance” recruit and a prominent conservative-hater, so once Cernovich had the goods on him, the Right was happy to use them.

No doubt, Gunn’s old tweets included jokes that many would consider worthy of Roseanne Barr on a careless day, like

  • “Laughter is the best medicine. That’s why I laugh at people with AIDS.”
  • “I like when little boys touch me in my silly place.”
  • “The best thing about being raped is when you’re done being raped and it’s like ‘whew this feels great, not being raped!’”

Gunn, realizing that joking about pederasty, rape and AIDS was sufficient to get him Kevin Spaceyed for life, tried to explain:

Many people who have followed my career know when I started, I viewed myself as a provocateur, making movies and telling jokes that were outrageous and taboo. As I have discussed publicly many times, as I’ve developed as a person, so has my work and my humor. It’s not to say I’m better, but I am very, very different than I was a few years ago; today I try to root my work in love and connection and less in anger. My days saying something just because it’s shocking and trying to get a reaction are over. In the past, I have apologized for humor of mine that hurt people. I truly felt sorry and meant every word of my apologies. For the record, when I made these shocking jokes, I wasn’t living them out. I know this is a weird statement to make, and seems obvious, but, still, here I am, saying it. Anyway, that’s the completely honest truth: I used to make a lot of offensive jokes. I don’t anymore. I don’t blame my past self for this, but I like myself more and feel like a more full human being and creator today. Love you to you all.

I believe him. I believe him, though something nasty in me would love to know if he was telling friends that the Milwaukee Brewers should punish Josh Hader for the racist tweets he made in high school, because this whole phenomenon is a Golden Rule matter. That has been the Ethics Alarms position forever, including during the 2014 Donald Sterling Ethics Train Wreck, in which an NBA owner lost his team, millions in fines, and his reputation after his mistress taped an ugly conversation they had in his bedroom and circulated it. I reiterated this position most recently in May of this year:

The position of Ethics Alarms on these incidents, which also includes spurned lovers sharing private emails to the world in order to humiliate a correspondent, the Democratic Senators who leaked the President’s coarse rhetoric about “shithole” countries that took place during a meeting that was supposed to be private and confidential, and Donald Trump’s infamous “pussy-grabbing” statements, is simple. Once the embarrassing words are unethically made public, they can’t be ignored, Once the embarrassing words have unethically made public, they can’t be ignored. Neither should the circumstances of their making, or the unethical nature of their subsequent use was weapons of personal destruction.

There is not a human being alive who has not made statements in private meetings or conversations, whether  those statements be jokes, insults, rueful observations or deliberate hyperbole, that would be horribly inappropriate as public utterances. Thus the feigned horror at such statements by others is the rankest kind of Golden Rule hypocrisy. In addition, the opprobrium and public disgrace brought down on the heads of those whose mean/ugly/politically incorrect/vulgar/ nasty/insulting words are made public by a treacherous friend, associate or colleague erodes every American’s freedom of thought, association and expression, as well as their privacy.

And yes, to anticipate the objection, I do not regard social media posts by non-public persons who later become celebrities to be truly public communications. They are, in the minds of the foolish individuals who send them, personal messages aimed at friendly audiences, and not intended for public circulation. In reaching this position I am influenced by the legal ethics and judicial rule regarding what is public knowledge regarding a former client that can be used by a lawyer . Simply because information is included in a public document that anyone can access doesn’t mean it is considered public enough for a lawyer to reveal it if the information involves a client. Most people don’t know about those facts because they don’t know how to find them, where to look, or whether the information even exists. Information doesn’t become truly public until it is widely accessible and disseminated. Once Gunn (and Hader) became celebrities, their social media presence was public, but not before. True, both Gunn and Hader should have realized that what they posted when they were nobody special had suddenly become a matter of public interest, and true, people need to start thinking that way, but most of our newly famous just don’t. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/15/2018: Alito Gets One Right, Ellison Deceived, And An Ancient, Unethical Tactic Works Once Again…

To a glorious morning, Ethics-Lovers!

1. Bad Alito, Good Alito.  As I briefly noted yesterday (and hopefully will do in detail today), Justice Alito authored an unethical and embarrassing dissent defending a lawyer who deliberately betrayed his client by telling the jury that he had killed someone his client denied killing. Bad Alito. However, the arch-conservative jurist also authored the majority opinion in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, in which the SCOTUS majority struck down a virtuous but unconstitutional law, and did so clearly and well.

These are, I think, my favorite Supreme Court opinions, where the Court ignores the motives and objectives of a law and simply rules whether the legislature is allowed to behave like that. I don’t know, but I would guess that most of the majority feel the way I do about organized sports gambling: nothing good can come of it, and a lot of harm is inevitable. One they get the green light, I’m sure that as many states will take over sports gambling for its easy revenue as now prey on its poor, desperate and stupid with their state lottery scams. Everyone involved–sports, fans, athletes, states, the public’s ethical compass—is going to be corrupted by letting the sports betting genie out of its bottle: just watch.

Nevertheless, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a 1992  law known as PASPA, should have been struck down decades ago; I’d love to know why it took so long. No, it did NOT ban sports betting, though this is what far too many news reports tell you. Congress can ban sports betting directly if it chooses to, as it is interstate commerce. This isn’t in dispute. What it did in 1992, however, was to order states not to pass laws states have a constitutional right to pass. The distinction matters. From SCOTUS Blog, which is usually the best source for analysis of these things:

The 10th Amendment provides that, if the Constitution does not either give a power to the federal government or take that power away from the states, that power is reserved for the states or the people themselves. The Supreme Court has long interpreted this provision to bar the federal government from “commandeering” the states to enforce federal laws or policies. [The] justices ruled that a federal law that bars states from legalizing sports betting violates the anti-commandeering doctrine…

…In a decision by Justice Samuel Alito, the court began by explaining that the “anticommandeering doctrine may sound arcane, but it is simply the expression of a fundamental structural decision incorporated into the Constitution” – “the decision to withhold from Congress the power to issue orders directly to the States.” And that, the majority continued, is exactly the problem with the provision of PASPA that the state challenged, which bars states from authorizing sports gambling: It “unequivocally dictates what a state legislature may and may not do.” “It is as if,” the majority suggested, “federal officers were installed in state legislative chambers and were armed with the authority to stop legislators from voting on any offending proposals. A more direct affront to state sovereignty,” Alito concluded, “is not easy to imagine.”

…The court also rejected the argument, made by the leagues and the federal government, that the PASPA provision barring states from authorizing sports betting does not “commandeer” the states, but instead merely supersedes any state laws that conflict with the provision – a legal doctrine known as pre-emption. Pre-emption, the majority explained, “is based on a federal law that regulates the conduct of private actors,” but here “there is simply no way to understand the provision prohibiting state authorization as anything other than a direct command to the States,” which “is exactly what the anticommandeering rule does not allow.”

Got it.

Good decision. Continue reading

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McCoy v. Louisiana

Today the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Robert LeRoy McCoy, who was convicted of three counts of murder after his lawyer refused to follow his instruction and plead not guilty as he directed. I had predicted that his convictions would be over-ruled; I also wrote,

“If the Supreme Court does anything but overrule Louisiana in this case by a 9-0 vote, I may turn in my law license in exchange for a free Whopper at Burger King.”

Well, the vote wasn’t 9-0. I think instead of turning in my license, I’m going to turn in my respect for the so-called conservative wing of the Court. The majority opinion was authored by Justice Ginsberg, with Kagan, Sotomayor, Breyer, Roberts, and Kennedy concurring. Two of the conservatives concurred in a dissent authored by Alito: Gorsuch and thomas.

I haven’t had time to read it as carefully as I have to to do a thorough analysis, but I read it well enough to flag it as an embarrassing collection of rationalizations. While the majority opinion interprets a straightforward case according to what is significant about it—a lawyer pleaded guilty for him when his client demanded that he plead non guilty, thus making the conclusion unavoidable, Alito resorts to desperate excuses. Well, this kind of case isn’t likely to happen again. So what? A man was robbed of his Sixth Amendment rights! His story was ridiculous. So what? If that’s his story, he has the right to tell it. The lawyer was placed in a tough situation by a client whose claims were unbelievable. The jury decides who to believe, and a defendant has the right to let them do that. McCoy’s lawyer didn’t believe him. So what? Welcome to criminal defense work. McCoy was going to be convicted anyway.

What????

I can’t believe a Supreme Court Justice is making these arguments. So what? The principle of the rule of law is that it is vital that the defendant, if he is convicted, is convicted the right way, constitutionally. The conduct of McCoy’s lawyer was indefensible under the ethics rules, and the Constitution.

Reading the whole opinion and the dissent is revealing, and not in a good way. The majority opinion shows us that the Supreme Court can’t say the sky is blue without making the case in the mots turgid way possible. This opinion should have been a few pages at most.

The dissent lets us know that Justices Alito, Gorsuch and Thomas look for minuscule fragments of justifications to avoid doing the right thing.

 

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