Afternoon Ethics Points, 4/30/2019: New Developments In Old Stories

Pardon if I sound distracted—I’m still giggling about Kate Smith.

1. Kate, Robert E. Lee and the King of Pop. It’s ironic that this comes up as I am debating on Facebook with rabid Robert E. Lee statue-topplers, because this episode perfectly illustrates why they are wrong, and not just wrong, but stupidly and obnoxiously wrong. No historical figure is honored for everything in his or her life. They are honored for their importance, influence, good deeds, finest moments and best traits. The growing totalitarian mob on the Left wants to erase the memory of anyone who failed to meet their current standards of virtue decades or even centuries before those standards existed, when many of the standards  are unreasonable even now.

Great achievers are, with the tiniest sliver of exceptions, flawed, strange, obsessed and abnormal people, and those who would hold them to impossible levels of perfection guarantee a hollow culture, a sanitized and boring history, and a shallow society.

Thus I found myself surprising myself by sympathizing with the decision of an elementary school in Hollywood to keep Michael Jackson’s name on its auditorium, despite the growing likelihood that he was a child molester, as the Los Angeles Times reported. The majority of parents and staff of Gardner Street Elementary School, which Jackson briefly attended, voted to keep his name above the auditorium. Ick, but maybe that was the right decision. Jackson was a great and influential performer, and that’s what he’s honored for. Continue reading

Easter Ethics Warm-Up, 4/21/19: As Ethics Lays Some Eggs…

Happy Easter!

1.  A cultural note: there is no discernible Easter programming anywhere on TV, cable or network. Oh, TCM is playing “Easter Parade” and “King of Kings” in prime time, but that’s it. ‘Twas not always thus.

2. Speaking of TCM…Bravo for the classic movie network’s teaming with Fandango to offer big screen presentations of John Wayne’s “True Grit” in May. They could have justifiably chosen many other Westerns equally worthy or more so, like “Shane” or “High Noon.” I like to think that choosing the Duke’s Oscar winning performance is an intentional rebuke to the recent attack on Wayne’s legacy by the social media mob, a true “Fill your hand, you son of a bitch!” to the cultural airbrushers and statue-topplers.

I’ll be there, cheering Rooster on.

3. Other than journalists, have any other professionals debased themselves and their professional integrity more flagrantly that lawyers and law professors in their determination to Get Trump? This article in Slate by a law professor argues that asking or telling one’s lawyer to do something that the lawyer refuses to do—like firing Robert Mueller—can be criminal obstruction of justice. By this theory, every time a client says that he wants the lawyer to assist in an illegal act, it’s a crime.  But that’s not how attorney-client relationships work. The attorney is obligated to say, when appropriate, “No, you can’t do that, and I won’t do that for you, and here’s why.” In the end, it is indistinguishable from the client asking the lawyer’s advice, because clients only have the power to order a lawyer to do a very limited number of things, like accepting a settlement.

The professor’s argument also assumes that Trump firing Mueller would be obstruction of justice. Not only is this unprovable—that would have to be his intent—the President had a perfectly good reason to fire the special counsel, just as he had good reason to fire James Comey. Mueller’s investigation had been tainted many ways, and since Trump knew he was innocent, he saw the exercise as a calculated scheme to make it impossible for him to do his job. Firing Mueller and ending the investigation  would have been really, really stupid politically, but it wouldn’t be obstruction.

This, however, is how desperate “the resistance” is to bootstrap some kind of impeachment theory. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, April 3, 2019: Morning Disillusionment And “Morning Joe”

Good morning!

Since this is an ethics blog, I guess I’ll have to confess that it’s really a lousy morning, since I was up until 1 AM watching the Red Sox lose to Oakland 1-0…

1. From the “Why do I bother?” Files. I’ve been complaining (too much, but it makes me feel better) about the precipitous fall in Ethics Alarms traffic  since the Trump Deranged fled the objective discussions here and Facebook decided to make it impossible to post anything I write. Yesterday, I returned to the periodic theme of teachers facing termination when their naked forms pop up on the web, including the controversial photo in question. Because of that post, and not any of the important Ethics Alarms commentary over the past 12 months that were significant and useful, the blog  had its highest traffic total in more than a year. None of the visitors had anything to say or constructive to offer, of course.

This is undoubtedly why Tucker Carlson’s website routinely includes tabloid style cheesecake features, like—let’s see what it is today—Ah! “Celebrate Amanda Bynes’ Birthday With Her Hottest Looks”! Bynes is a fallen ex-child and teen star who has been out of show-business for years because of emotional illness and drug problems.

Stay classy, Tucker.

2.  How constant political correctness immersion rots even superior brains: A case study. One of the smartest, sharpest, BS intolerant people I have ever known or ever will know just posted this approvingly on Facebook:

I am  depressed. These directives from a Montgomery County, MD sponsored community groups are largely idiotic, and like all word policing, efforts at thought and language control. My friend is a parent of two teens, but I would expect  her, of all people, to send them the lesson that they should never capitulate to this kind of sinister conditioning, which is what it is: “The Collective will tell you what you can and cannot say without sanction! Await further instructions.” Almost all of these are awkward, meaningless distinctions of the ” ‘colored people’ BAD, ‘people of color’ GOOD” variety. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/18/2019: Paranoia, Pettiness, Pirro, Provoked Applicants, Piqued Students, Posturing And Progressives

Good Morning, Pacific Time Zone!

I’m heading to San Diego tomorrow to talk about “Five Looming Ethics Issues for Lawyers  and  Their  Corporate Clients”  to a group of over 600 lawyers. THEY don’t think my analyses of ethics issues violate community standards…okay. I admit it, I’m getting paranoid. Despite a lot of, I humbly believe, useful, timely and well-presented content, the weekend traffic was terrible, and comments were sparse, if excellent. This year, so far, is lagging behind last year, which seriously trailed the year before. What’s going on here? Has Google secretly joined Facebook in its efforts to keep the posts here from reaching an audience? Of could it be that I just suck? Maybe Donald Trump really has killed all belief in ethics…that’s the ticket! Blame the President!

1. Pettiness and vindictiveness vanquished. Good. The Judicial Council of the 10th U.S. Court of Appeals  has affirmed its December decision to reject 83 ethics complaints against Justice Brett Kavanaugh, all filed by bitter partisans who are determined to hurt the newest Justice because the Democrats’ slimy and unethical ambush tactics failed, as they should have. In a 6-1 decision, the judicial council affirmed its earlier finding that the federal law governing misconduct complaints against federal judges does not apply to justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. Many of the complaints filed against Kavanaugh argued he had made false statements under oath during hearings on his nominations to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 2004 and 2006 and to the U.S. Supreme Court last year—you know, like having an innocent recollection of what “boof” meant in his completely irrelevant high school year book.  Other complaints accused Kavanaugh of making inappropriate partisan statements in his inappropriately partisan hearings, or claimed he treated members of the Senate Judiciary Committee with disrespect, or as I would put it, the disrespect they deserved for attempting to smear his good name and reputation through demagoguery and calls to reject the presumption of innocence.

Let me remind everyone that Ruth Bader Ginsberg, in her confirmation hearings, stated under oath that she had no pre-formed opinions that would affect her objectivity in abortion cases. Nobody filed any ethics complaints. 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 Quiz And Comment Of The Day: The Governor’s Yearbook Photo [Corrected]

You know you’re having a bad week as a politician when one scandal knocks a another scandal you’re involved in off the front page. Welcome to Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s world right now, and where he’ll end up in it, nobody knows.

In case you missed it, Northam and abortion-loving Democrats were in the midst of trying to justify his comments earlier in the week accepting the concept of legal infanticide when a medical school yearbook photo turned up on social media, showing the governor-to-be either in black face or wearing Ku Klux Klan garb. Yes, this was another Hader Gotcha: conservatives were looking for dirt under very old rugs.  Northam confirmed that it was indeed him in one of the two costumes (but not which!) and issued the now familiar “this is not who I am now” apology:

“I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now,” Northam said in his statement. “This behavior is not in keeping with who I am today and the values I have fought for throughout my career in the military, in medicine, and in public service. But I want to be clear, I understand how this decision shakes Virginians’ faith in that commitment. I recognize that it will take time and serious effort to heal the damage this conduct has caused. I am ready to do that important work. The first step is to offer my sincerest apology and to state my absolute commitment to living up to the expectations Virginians set for me when they elected me to be their Governor.”

It was immediately clear that this would not suffice. Northam is a Democrat, after all, and that is the party of race-baiting. Republicans weren’t likely to let Northam talk his way out of this either, not after he won his close 2017 gubernatorial election against Republican Ed Gillespie with the assistance of a jaw-dropping TV ad ad linking Gillespie to  the white nationalists who marched in Charlottesville and showing the GOP candidate trying to run down minority kids in his car.  Although the ad was not a product of his campaign, Northam refused to condemn it, and his campaign reported it as an “in-kind contribution.” The campaign also sent out a mailer tying Guillespie to white nationalists.

What Republicans say about the yearbook photo doesn’t matter, however. Northam’s own party turned on him, with his Democratic predecessor Terry McAulliffe, the NAACP, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, and the Democrats in Virginia’s state legislature all calling on him to resign.

After all, casually endorsing infanticide is easy to defend to the hard-core Democratic base, but wearing a tasteless costume 38 years ago while a student is unforgivable.

Wait…what?

The instant issue might be moot in a few hours, as the betting is that Northam will resign, but  your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day’s  question will remain:

Should Ralph Northam’s 1984 yearbook photo require him to resign as Virginia Governor?

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/25/19: Fleas, Fake Movies, False Equivalency, And Female Bigotry

Good Morning!

1. Roger Stone’s arrest a) Stone is a thoroughly loathsome individual—the man has Richard Nixon’s face tattooed on his back, for heaven’s sake—but like the Mueller investigation generally, his arrest seems more like continued politically-motivated harassment of anyone connected to Donald Trump in order to isolate and impede his Presidency rather than part of a legitimate and independent investigation. Stone’s indictment is substantially made up of the now-familiar “obstruction of justice” bootstrap regarding an investigation of a non-crime charge. In Watergate, there was a crime. In the Clinton impeachment, there was a crime (a President lying under oath). In the Valerie Plame fiasco, there was at least a sort-of crime. Even Martha Stewart’s “obstruction of justice” conviction was related to the crime of insider-trading. “Collusion” isn’t a crime, and if Stone lied to Congress about the degree to which he was communicating heads-ups to the Trump campaign about what Wikileaks had and was about to release, that has no implications of wrongdoing for the Trump campaign at all. Stone telling the Trump campaign, “Hey, Wikileaks has a bunch of DNC emails that show Hillary’s campaign was sleazy and that the Clinton Foundation is an influence peddling scam!” isn’t illegal, it isn’t unethical, and I doubt that this sort of communication is unusual for any campaign in any party. b) CNN cameras were on the scene when Stone was arrested, which means the FBI or the Mueller team leaked to CNN. Now THAT’s unethical, and possibly illegal. c) Once again, President Trump’s persistent failure to avoid close contact with obvious slime-balls has caused problems. “Lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas” : It’s not a hard concept to grasp, but for a man who was raised and rose to wealth and power in the dog-dominated worlds of real estate, hotels, casinos, show business and now politics, I suppose its hard to imagine NOT being surrounded by the metaphorically flea-infested.

2. Integrity watch: OK, I no longer know what a “movie” is. Netflix is streaming “Roma,” which was just nominated for a “Best Picture” Oscar. It has sold no tickets, and as far as I can see, is indistinguishable from any movie-length TV program, like the Christmas drama that spawned “The Waltons,” “The Homecoming.” I though movies were things shown in theater with big screens by projectors. Netflix’s “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” (which is terrific) also got some Oscar nominations. Are Hallmark Christmas weepies now eligible for Oscars? To me, those are “TV shows.” Continue reading