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

CNN Vs. The NRA: Ethically, It’s No Contest

1. Let us begin with this. The National Rifle Association is an advocacy organization. Advocacy organizations operate exactly like lawyer representing clients, and their ethical obligations are similar. They must be loyal to the interests of the object of the representation. They must be zealous, honest, and they must avoid conflicts of interest. In this regard all advocacy organizations, regardless of where they land on the ideological or partisan spectrum, are the same. They have a mission, and a job, and a duty to do it well. The ACLU exists to be an advocate for absolute integrity of the Bill of Rights, particularly the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and Ninth. The NRA has a similar mission regarding the Second Amendment, because the ACLU has never been zealous about that one. FIRE advocates for free speech on college campuses, which is often not a First Amendment issue.

NARAL is a zealous advocate for abortion rights, in absolute terms. Most advocacy groups adopt absolute positions which often seem unreasonable to moderates. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is an advocacy group for business—I once worked for them—and opposed government regulations. The Association for Justice—I worked for them too–is an advocacy group for plaintiff’s trial lawyers, and fights any efforts at reforming the tort system, such as capping damages or punishing frivolous lawsuits. All of these and more take the extreme position on one side of a controversy to balance other advocacy groups that take extreme positions in opposition. In this they are very much like opposing lawyers in a trial, except the public is the jury. This is how democracy works, and it is the only way democracy can work.

Condemning and demonizing an advocacy organization because one does not agree with or dislikes the position it advocates is, in my view, exactly like condemning a lawyer for effectively representing an unpopular client—and a lot of ignorant Americans do that, too. Citizens have a right to have an effective organization promote their views and opinions in the court of public opinion, just as citizens have a right to have a competent attorney to represent their interests in a court of law. Attacks on this principle are unsustainable, unethical, and undermine democracy.

2. CNN, and other segments of the news media but especially CNN, has been aggressively attacking this principle since February 14, when Nicholas Cruz opened fire. CNN is NOT an advocacy organization, or is not supposed to be. It is a news organization, and its job and duty is to present facts to the “jury” without trying to influence it one way or the other. On the gun issue, CNN has completely abandoned objectify and its duty to inform, in an unethical effort to advocate for anti-gun interests antithetical to journalism standards.

3. Here is a stunning admission by the New York Times, which has been almost as shrill in its call for gun bans as CNN, in a front page story (Bolding mine):

To many of its opponents, that decades-long string of victories is proof that the N.R.A. has bought its political support. But the numbers tell a more complicated story: The organization’s political action committee over the last decade has not made a single direct contribution to any current member of the Florida House or Senate, according to campaign finance records.

In Florida and other states across the country, as well as on Capitol Hill, the N.R.A. derives its political influence instead from a muscular electioneering machine, fueled by tens of millions of dollars’ worth of campaign ads and voter-guide mailings, that scrutinizes candidates for their views on guns and propels members to the polls.

“It’s really not the contributions,” said Cleta Mitchell, a former N.R.A. board member. “It’s the ability of the N.R.A. to tell its members: Here’s who’s good on the Second Amendment.”

Continue reading

CNN’s Town Hall Anti-Gun Agitprop, Part II: “A Really Good Discussion”

Emma Gonzalez (L) confronts Dana Loesch (R)

Part I is here.

When we last left our reflections on CNN’s “town hall” in the wake of the Parkland school shooting, Sheriff Israel, who knew his employees had breached their duty and stayed outside the school after the gun fire was heard, pointed the finger of blame at the National Rifle Association while citing as his authority that “The men and women I’ve worked with for almost 40 years, we know how to keep America safe.”

Will this epic hypocrisy be the moment this episode of open mainstream media political agitprop will be remembered for over time? CNN is already furiously spinning to convince America that its February 21 debacle was not what most objective critics saw it to be from the start, while conservative critics composed the sharpest attacks. David Hirsanyi:

Between all the demonizing, heckling, sophistry, gaslighting, platitudes and emotional appeals, members of the crowd — people who should never be the target of conspiracy theories or ad hominem attacks, but who shouldn’t be exempted from a real debate, either…cheered at the idea of banning “every semiautomatic rifle in America.” Maybe someone will ask them if they support banning every semiautomatic in America, period, since the latter is responsible for the preponderance of gun homicides. One death is too many, after all.

Whatever the case, these young people are about to be hit by a harsh reality, because banning semiautomatic rifles or handguns is not only impractical (there are probably over 5 million AR-15s in circulation alone; and semiautomatics constitute the majority of modern guns) and not only likely unconstitutional (the Supreme Court has found that weapons “in common use by law-abiding citizens” are protected) but, for many millions of Americans who worry about the Second Amendment, also highly undesirable…

…[A] star-studded line-up of liberals, many of whom are funding the activism of Parkland students with big checks, cheered with them. Do they all agree that every semiautomatic rifle in America should be banned? Do they agree that anyone who supports legal semiautomatic rifles has “blood on their hands?” Someone with access should ask.

What we do know is that the entire liberal political class couldn’t stop praising the activism and lack of “cynicism” displayed by these kids (a selective admiration reserved for those who coincidentally align with their positions.) The kids were indeed earnest, even if they were generally uneducated about gun laws, legal process, and the underpinning of the Second Amendment — which is to be expected. Those who use them as political shields, on the other hand, are cynical. Those who put them on TV to participate in a national Airing of Grievances are cynical. Those who point to bodies of victims and argue that every American who refuses to accept the Left’s framing of the issue are the ones that deserve contempt.

…[E]vents like the CNN’s town hall go a long way in convincing gun owners that gun control advocates do have a desire to confiscate their weapons. They can’t confiscate weapons right now, so they support whatever feasible incremental steps are available to inch further toward that goal. We don’t know how this plays out in the long run. In the short run, though, it does nothing to stop the next school shooting.

Chris Cillizza, the ex-Washington Post political blogger who has devolved into a full time partisan hack at CNN, led the network’s self-damning spin campaign by first tweeting during the “town hall”:

For people who take shots at CNN, turn to the channel right now. This town hall is a really, really good discussion about a hugely important topic.

Continue reading

CNN’s Town Hall Anti-Gun Agitprop, Part I: Rigged

Anyone seeking smoking gun evidence of the unconscionable bias in the news media need look no further than the conduct of CNN since the murders of 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The network’s anchors and talking head have abandoned any pretense of objectivity, taking on the roles of full-throated advocates without demonstrating any particular acumen or expertise while ranting and hectoring defenders of the Second Amendment. This disgraceful example on Don Lemon’s show was a low point, but many others came close. Contributor Van Jones retweeted a claim that mass shooters were Republicans. Afternoon CNN Newsroom anchor Brooke Baldwin harangued Florida Republican State Representative Matt Caldwell for not submitting to emotional blackmail and voting to not debate a gun banning measure in the midst of media-amped hysteria. [Note: what follows is not journalism. It is activism.]

BALDWIN: They’re asking for you to consider — SIR! SIR! SIR! They are asking for you to consider a conversation — a consideration of a ban of a weapon used in war instead of having it in the hands 

CALDWELL: Brooke, we are — we are going to have a conversation

BALDWIN: — of a deranged individual which we have witnessed in so many shootings in this country. 

CALDWELL: We did. I had a conversation today.

BALDWIN: Why won’t you have that conversation?

Then CNN showed us what it and the anti-gun Left considers “a conversation.” On February 21, it held one of its infamous “town meetings”—you know, like the one where CNN contributor Donna Brazile slipped candidate Hillary Clinton advance notice of a pre-scripted question?—hosted by Jake Tapper. Tapper is arguably the only CNN anchor with a shred of credibility left, or was, until this debacle.

CNN didn’t even attempt to make the program appear fair or balanced. Here was the official title: “Stand Up: The Students of Stoneman Douglas Demand Action.” How even handed! The program followed CNN’s script since the shootings: present teenagers to America as authorities on social policy, crime, psychology and Constitutional law because they survived a massacre. What’s the best description of the arrangement—Set-up? Stacked deck? Kangaroo court? Lynch mob? The school shooter won’t be tried in Broward County because he won’t be able to get a fair trial, and that’s probably a year from now. CNN pretended that it could hold a rational, balanced debate about United States gun policy in a community where school children had just been shot. That is not the environment in which to have a “conversation.”

What lay ahead was made even clearer when Tapper announced the participants: On the NRA is evil, guns are a menace and this is all the fault of Republicans side  were Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch,and Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel. On the here are the people with blood on their hands and deserving of your contempt and hate side were National Rifle Association spokeswoman Dana Loesch, a conservative hack, and Senator Marco Rubio.

Now, I know that CNN can claim that all they did was to include Broward County’s member of Congress and Florida’s two U.S. Senators, but the fact is that it left Rubio as the only Republican in the room. Moreover, as we saw in the debates, Marco is not exactly impressive under pressure. They must have been high-fiving in the producers’ meeting: two politicians who could be counted on to pander to the antigun position and mouth the usual talking points, and Marco Rubio. Not only two against one, but two against one who has proven himself to be a weak advocate for anything. Had CNN been interested in a fair debate with both sides represented with equal force, it would have added an articulate pro-gun advocate, for there are many. CNN is not interested in a fair debate, however. It was staging a show trial.

Rubio should have refused to show up, and Loesch as well. It is not smart to walk into an ambush, and when one does, people will presume consent.

The transcript is here. The audience was entirely one-sided, and Tapper, who was a miserable, timid moderator, doing nothing to quell the hostility in the room. Some points of interest: Continue reading