Saturday Ethics Run-Down, 7/20/2019: Perry Mason, Kamala Harris, And Home Runs-On-Demand

I’m calling it a run-down because I’m run down….

1. More “phantom document” ethics. Last moth I wrote about the ethically dubious “phantom document” tactic, in which a lawyer alludes to a document he or she either does not have, or suggests a document has content it does not in order to trick a witness into recanting testimony.

I just saw the Eighties made-for-TV movie “Perry Mason Returns” that rebooted the classic series (and not so well) for an aging Raymond Burr. The great defense lawyer comes out of retirement to defend old legal assistant Della Street (Barbara Hale), who has been accused of murder. In the trial’s climax, Perry’s investigator Paul Drake, Jr. (played by Hale’s real-life son, actor William Katt of “The Greatest American Hero” fame) bursts into the courtroom and hands Perry a document, which he then holds as he asks the witness (Richard Anderson, playing a different role than he played in the original series) he was in the midst of cross-examining, “Would you like to reconsider your testimony? Would you like me to read a sworn statement from Bobby Lynch, in which he says you hired him to kill Arthur Gordon?”

The witness confesses that he planned the murder that Della was being tried for, and framed her. Della goes free! Perry then tells Della that there was no sworn statement. “I didn’t say I had a sworn statement,” he chuckles, “I just asked if he wanted me to read one.” Continue reading

Last Resort Ethics Catch-Up, 6/19/2019

Desperately trying to salvage the day with the next one looking worse, and a lot of important ethics matters being swept toward the falls, were they risk being swamped by rapidly moving events…

1. Great sequence, unethical to make it…Not only was D.W. Griffith a film pioneer and a racist, he was also quite mad. If you haven’t see this sequence from D.W. Griffiths’ “Way Down East,” you must. That’s Lillian Gish on the ice floe, and actor Richard Barthelmess trying to rescue her for real. It was  shot on a frozen river as the ice broke up,  and Gish was really headed over the falls, though they were only a few feet high.  No stunt actors were used; Gish’s hair froze and she lost feeling in her hand from the cold. Her right hand was never quite right after that.

Things like this are what made actors’ unions necessary.

2.  What a mess.  The President’s Secretary of Defense nominee, Patrick Shanahan, resigned from the Acting-SOD role and removed his name from consideration in order to keep his family from being dragged through some awfully ugly mud, very little of which, it seems was of his making or germane to his qualifications for office.

Before their divorce, Shanahan’s ex-wife was arrested after punching him in the face; after the divorce, his son was arrested after attacking and nearly killing his mother with a baseball bat.  The Waltons this wasn’t. Shanahan tried to defend his son after that episode, arguing in a message sent to  his ex-wife’s brother  that his son had acted in self-defense and writing…

“Use of a baseball bat in self- defense will likely be viewed as an imbalance of force,” However, Will’s mother harassed him for nearly three hours before the incident.”

It was expected that Democrats would weaponize the memo against him in hearings, #MeToo-style.

Shanahan told  The Washington Post  that he wrote the memo in the hours after his son’s attack on his ex, before he knew the full extent of her injuries, to prepare for his son’s initial court appearance. He said  never intended for anyone other than his son’s attorneys and his brother-in-law to read it, but, of course, by showing the message to his brother-in-law it was no longer confidential.

Somehow, in a civilized culture, private tragedies like these should not become an impediment to public service. Yet it is hard to imagine how Shanahan thought it would not, since this is not a civilized political culture. Continue reading

Greek Easter Ethics Warm-Up: Authority, Causation, Credibility And Dead Ethics Alarms

Christos Anesti!

…as my Greek-American mother used to greet us every Greek Easter morn. You were supposed to respond in kind, but my father’s Greek pronunciation was always so  hilarious that I don’t recall that he ever did.

1. Anthony Napolitano and the appeal to authority. Fox analyst “Judge” Napolitano (you’re not supposed to call yourself “judge” after you stop being a judge, but never mind) is suddenly being hailed as a definitive legal authority because he has “broken ranks” (as the liberal websites put it) to argue that President Trump obstructed justice based on the Mueller report. Virtually nothing Napolitano said or opined on prior to this was ever treated by these same sudden fans as anything but the meanderings of a crank, but “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” as someone once said in Sanskrit.

I would never appeal to Napolitano’s authority, though he is far from a crank. He was indeed a lower court judge in New Jersey, he has taught at a law school, and he has written many books. He is not a conservative or a Republican but a libertarian. Like Ron Paul and his son Senator Rand, Napolitano’s ideology is such that he arrives at positions that make it impossible for me to trust his reasoning processes. Notably, he doesn’t think Abraham Lincoln should have fought the Civil War or abolished slavery, saying that it would have been better to allow slavery to peter out peacefully without government intervention. I wonder how the slaves would have felt about that?

He also believes that human life should have full legal rights at conception, and that abortion ought to be outlawed completely. Well, both of those positions—he has others equally extreme—mean to me that as smart as he may be, I don’t know what kind of extremist bats are flying around in the man’s belfry, so while I believe his arguments  on obstruction should be judged on their objective merits, that fact that he’s the one making them do not and should not enhance their persuasiveness.

2. Trump Tweets segue...in a tweet, the President claimed that Napolitano asked him to appoint the “Judge” to the Supreme Court, and that his much-publicized obstruction claim is Napolitano’s revenge for the President refusing. Continue reading

Is The Democratic Party the Party of Anti-Semitism, Infanticide, And Socialism?

Rep. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking Republican in the House, told NBC’s “Meet The Press” last week that Democrats have become the party of “Anti-Semitism,, infanticide, socialism.” This wasn’t quite as inflammatory as when Samuel Burchard, speaking at a GOP pro-James G. Blaine campaign event during the 1884 race against Democratic candidate Grover Cleveland, denounced the Democrats as the party of “rum, Romanism, and rebellion,” but you wouldn’t know it from the howls coming from progressives, because, as we all know, the truth hurts. Well, that’s not quite fair: Cheney was engaging in hyperbole and being intentionally inflammatory, but she wasn’t entirely wrong.

Let’s look at the “infanticide” accusation. Obviously Democrats don’t favor killing babies as a general proposition, but Virginia’s  Democratic governor and renowned Michael Jackson impressionist described exactly how he would make an abortion-survivor “comfortable” before making the newborn dead. (Many states have laws that allowed condemned men to go free if they survived an attempted execution. Seems fair…)

Democrats in the Senate—all but a handfull—blocked a GOP bill requiring doctors to use all means available to save the life of a child born alive after an attempted abortion. They must, it said, “exercise the same degree of professional skill, care, and diligence to preserve the life and health of the child” as they would for “any other child born alive at the same gestational age.”

Senator Ben Sasse, the Nebraska Republican who authored the bill, had called it an “infanticide ban.” Rationalizing like mad, Democrats said that the bill was aimed at discouraging doctors from performing legal abortions—in other words, they were pandering to the pro-abortion extremists—and that it was unnecessary because a similar law already exists, the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act of 2002.—you know, because the Democrats have always opposed redundant legislation. Continue reading

You Know, That WAS An Excellent Post On October 20, 2016!

In response to my recent question in a comment thread about when Ethics Alarms first noted that the Democratic Party was embracing totalitarian attitudes, tactics and principles, reader and commenter Zoltar Speaks tracked the post down, which, as I had speculated, was published in late October, 2016, right before the election. It was interesting, in light of having just passed the two year mark in the Trump Presidency, to review my thoughts at the time. Upon re-reading it, I conclude that there is nothing in that post I would retract, and that I wish I was as smart every day was I was on October 20, 2016. This section, however, really stood out in light of what has occurred since; the context was the last debate between candidates Trump and Clinton: Continue reading

I Break My Own Rule And Publish A Social Media Meme…

Here it is:

The Ethics Incompleteness Principle holds that ethics rules don’t always work in anomalous situations. An Ethics Alarms rule is that internet memes are simple-minded agitprop, lazy ways for the uninformed and the critical thought-challenged to circulate pre-digested talking points and partisan distortions. I hate them.

But I was actually beginning work on a flow chart of the constantly changing arguments against the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, and this magically appeared. (Pointer: Instapundit)

It’s perfect, fair, and true.

Bravo.

Homeward Bound Saturday Morning Ethics Catch-Up, 9/8/2018: Not Spartacus, Not Good Citizens, Not Trustworthy

Good Morning!

1 Good job, everybody. Lots of comments yesterday despite scant new content. Thanks. I am in the process of organizing a new D.C. law firm, Bergstein, DeCailly and Marshall, PLLC. I’m the ethics partner. It shouldn’t interfere with the activities of ProEthics or Ethics Alarms, except for the occasional conflict of interest that raises its hoary head, and time, like yesterday. I was in meetings down here in Ft. Lauderdale from early morning through dinner, meeting with a large group of some of the most fascinating and diverse professionals I’ve ever been involved with. I arrived back at the hotel too fried to even consider posting anything. I have responded to some comments while I’m waking up today.

The lack of participation by those of a more liberal orientation is disappointing, and rankles me daily. I hate being rankled. I guess I should be able to sympathize with why a omitted progressive or Democrat would want to have a bag over his or her head after the last few days of self-immolation by Senate Democrats, or would be paralyzed by embarrassment at hearing Barack Obama, of all people, complain that the Republicans are divisive. The most divisive occurrence in American politics is when the previous President actively works to undermine the current one. There is a reason that hasn’t happened since Teddy Roosevelt turned on President Taft, and the result was the election of one of the most disastrous Presidents of all time, Woodrow Wilson.

2. 16 places you can retire to if you’re a lousy American. The entire attitude underlying this article, 16 countries where you can retire ‘happier’ than in the US. is selfish and irresponsible. You are an American citizen and this is a participatory democracy. I don’t care if you’re retired; you still have a lifetime obligation to contribute to society, your community, and the nation. Happier nations for the retired, according to the article, are rated according to how the happiness of retirees is trending. Of course that method shows the U.S. in a bad light: retirees are justifiably pissed off watching one party set out to rip the country in two, open borders, and undermine the Bill of Rights, the election of Presidents, and our institutions, and the other being led by an irresponsible narcissist. That doesn’t mean that the patriotic and ethical response is to leave the country that got them this far to the antifa and “the resistance.” Continue reading