Unethical Quote Of The Week: Slate Legal Columnist Dahlia Lithwick and Law Professor David S. Cohen

if you think THAT's a distortion, just try looking as the Golden Rule in the mirror...

If you think THAT’s a distortion, just try looking as the Golden Rule in the mirror…

“If Mr. Trump had lost the Electoral College while winning the popular vote, an army of Republican lawyers would have descended on the courts and local election officials.”

—-Slate Editor Dahlia Lithwick and Drexel University law professor David S. Cohen in a NYT op-ed, “Buck Up, Democrats, and Fight Like Republicans.”

I love this quote! It is a pure example of one of the many invalid Golden Rule permutations that appear on the invaluable Ethics Alarms Rationalizations list under #58. The Golden Rule Mutation, or “I’m all right with it!” Among the blatant rationalizations disguised in Golden Rule cloaks are…

  • Do unto others as you know others would do unto you.
  • Do unto others what they did unto you.
  • Do unto others as you wish others would do unto you even though you wouldn’t deserve it.
  • Do unto others as those others treat others.
  • Do unto others as they threatened to do unto you.
  • Do unto others as others who think like you do would also do to those others.
  • Do unto others according to how you feel about what they did unto you.
  • Do unto others before they do it unto you.
  • Do unto me as you would want to have done unto you if you were as devoid of civilized values as I am.

As for #58, it translates into…

“Do unto others as if the others felt like I do, even though they may not.”

The possible variations are infinite, and every one of them is intellectually dishonest and unethical. It’s astounding, and depressing, that two lawyers, one an alleged analyst and the other a law professor, would endorse such an unethical proposition.  They do it because they are openly partisan and politically biased, and as we all should know by now if you’ve been paying attention here, bias makes you stupid.

The op-ed’s Golden Rule mutation is one I should add to the list, though it’s a bit long:

“Do unto others as you conveniently assume the others would do unto you, even though there is no evidence that they would.” Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Day: Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick

“Whether or not the alleged institutional abuses are ultimately proven, the reality is this: A severely ill young man wasted away, smeared in his own feces, under the watchful eyes of multiple health care workers, corrections staff, and other inmates. His death will force no accountability and will bring about no change. The illness from which Jamycheal Mitchell suffered could have been better managed through medication, proper treatment, and simple respect. The illness that allows the rest of us to jail great masses of dangerously sick people and mistreat them until they die? It is increasingly seeming to be untreatable and incurable.”

—-Slate’s legal pundit Dahlia Lithwick, writing about the case of 24-year-old Jamycheal Mitchell, who was found dead in his cell at Hampton Roads (Virginia) Regional Jail in Virginia.

Jamycheal Mitchell: Almost nobody thinks his life mattered.

Jamycheal Mitchell: Almost nobody thinks his life mattered.

There is a $60 million lawsuit being filed by Jamycheal Mitchell’s family over his death as a result of an astounding combination of incompetence and negligence. Mitchell suffered from schizophrenia and a bipolar disorder, and was arrested four months prior to his death for stealing a can of Mountain Dew, a Snickers bar, and a Zebra Cake from a 7-Eleven.  He was allowed to waive counsel despite his mental and emotional impairments, and bail was set at $3,000  for stealing less than five dollars worth of junk food. A judge twice ordered him moved to a state mental health hospital, but no beds were available, so he was allowed to languish, and starve to death, in jail.

The videotape of his last days in prison were also erased forever, because, officials say, they didn’t show anything irregular. I was asked if this qualified as spoliation, the intentional and illegal destruction of evidence when a court proceeding is looming or and investigation is underway. No, because spoliation can only take place when a legal proceeding is inevitable or in process, and also because government institutions are remarkably unlikely to ever be held to account for the practice. This was not technically spoliation, because there was no legal proceeding yet, though one could have been predicted by an idiot. Similarly, Hillary Clinton destroying 0ver 30,000 supposedly “purely personal” emails  before they could be demanded by a Senate Committee (and hearings are not legal proceeding) were not technically spoliation. Ethically, it is a distinction without a difference.

Continue reading

Obamacare Defenders, Spinning

Are you hypnotized yet?

It would be nice, it really would, if partisans on both sides of a legitimate, close issue of national importance would admit that there are valid arguments on each side, show some mutual respect, and not frame their arguments as if anyone who thinks differently is deluded, stupid or evil.

Thus it has been elevating, if, I suppose, misleading, to read over a year’s worth of debate on the topic now under consideration by the Supreme Court, Obamacare’s so-called individual mandate, over on the scholar and lawyer- glutted blog, the Volokh Conspiracy. Written by distinguished and articulate academics, it is a right-leaning and libertarian site for sure, yet manages to cover all sides of most of the issues it considers thoroughly and fairly. Nobody could read the detailed, case and precedent-filled essays about the individual mandate and think for a moment that its constitutionality is an open and shut case. It’s obviously a very close question, and one that involves far wider implications than merely one health care law. This is one of the periodic landmark constitutional cases in which the Supreme Court is being asked to approve another key adjustment in the meaning of our remarkably flexible but hard to amend national by-laws, or, in the alternative, put up a red flag and a brick wall that reminds our government that there are some things is cannot do, even if it would dearly like to.

If you care about the case being argued in the Supreme Court as I write this, go read some—it would take you a month to read it all—of the discussions on this topic over at Volokh. If you can understand the sometimes technical and overly-dense writing, you will recognize how difficult a legal issue this is. If you can’t understand it, then stop rendering opinions about the case, the mandate, and the inevitability of its approval or rejection. Journalists and pundits should follow the same advice. Continue reading

Standards of Decency: Where Ethics Belongs, and Law Does Not

If this is the Super Bowl half-time show, will the FCC fine the network?

Slate legal columnist Dahlia Lithwick drives me crazy on a regular basis, but she hit a home run with her tongue-in-cheek account of the oral argument before the Supreme Court regarding the constitutionality of the Federal Communications Commission’s indecency policy, which has broadcast networks shivering in their boots over the possibility of another “wardrobe malfunction” at the Super Bowl or another trash-mouth star saying “fuck” as she picks up an Academy Award. The particular topic before SCOTUS was momentary nudity in TV drama, such as walrus-like actor Dennis Franz’s mega-butt flashing by our horrified eyes on “NYPD Blue.” In an Ethics Hero-worthy moment, attorney Seth Waxman, representing ABC, showed the Court how absurd and arbitrary it is to try to regulate taste and decorum in art. Lithwick writes: Continue reading

Disrespect for a Sacred Document

Those seeking the perfect cautionary tale about the dangers of hyper-partisanship need look no further than the truly disgusting display in the last couple of days by the Democrats and liberals who criticized, ridiculed, mocked and derided the decision to read aloud the nation’s founding document, the Constitution, at the commencement of the new Congress. Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: Rep. Barney Frank

“Anything we’re doing that’s unconstitutional will be thrown out in court.”

—-Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), expressing his disdain for a new House rule that will come in with the new Republican majority, requiring  every bill to cite specific constitutional authority.

Similar sentiments expressed by others: Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: Slate Editor Dahlia Lithwick

“[The G.O.P. nominee for the U.S. Senate, Christine] O’Donnell explained that “when I go to Washington, D.C., the litmus test by which I cast my vote for every piece of legislation that comes across my desk will be whether or not it is constitutional.” How weird is that, I thought. Isn’t it a court’s job to determine whether or not something is, in fact, constitutional? And isn’t that sort of provided for in, well, the Constitution?”

Dahlia Lithwick, current Supreme Court commentator for Slate, during a three-way published exchange about what an unstable, unqualified kook Christine O’Donnell is.

I hope it is at least a little disturbing to Slate that their Supreme Court expert is apparently ignorant of where the basic responsibilities of obeying the Constitution lie. Continue reading