Labored Ethics, 9/4/2020: Insanity, Desperation…And Poll Answers!

Happy Labor Day Weekend,

for those of you who don’t run your own business and will be working the whole time, because ethics never rests…

1. I guess it’s nice that Shaun King and Rachel Dolezal have another friend, but…I really don’t care about Jessica Krug, the suddenly “trending” professor and PhD who has, she now says, been pretending to be black her whole professional life, though she is a white, Jewish woman. According to George Washington University, she is an associate professor  and  a historian of politics, ideas, and cultural practices in Africa and the African Diaspora, with a particular interest in West Central Africa and maroon societies in the early modern period and Black transnational cultural studies.”

So either she’s a calculating con artist, like Elizabeth Warren, or she’s a nut. Either way, what she says now can’t be trusted, and beyond a a voyeuristic fascination with lunatics or the sight of someone engaged in extravagant self-flagellation ( “I am a coward. There is no ignorance, no innocence, nothing to claim, nothing to defend. I have moved wrong in every way for years….”), a can’t imagine any sock drawer more worth my time than reading about or thinking about this fraud.

We shall see if the next step is a book (“Fake Black Like Me”), a movie, or a series of interviews on NPR.

Meanwhile, it has been more than 24 hours since her confession was posted, and I assume—but who knows with a cheat or a lunatic?_-she gave her employer a heads up. Whether she did or not, she should have been fired by now. Why hasn’t she been?

2. The desperation continues. As the mainstream media and their political favorites finally admit that President Trump is increasingly likely to win in November, the signs of desperation and panic become palpable. A few days ago the rumor was that the President had three strokes, amazingly without anyone seeming to notice or leak to the news media. Who do they think he is, Grover Cleveland? It was ridiculous, and a Big Lie, but Trump felt he had to deny it (he did a good job, actually, with a funny tweet) , which is what Big Lies are supposed to make you do. He should not have. There will be rumors like this treated by the news media as genuine right up to the election. I predict there will be several that the New York Times runs front page stories about immediately, unlike, for example, the way it treated the still plausible accusation against Joe Biden of sexually assaulting a staffer. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/13/2018: The All-Segue Edition

Good Morning!

(Though any day that begins with the legal gossip scandal-sheet website Above the Law sending me a “media inquiry” as they dig for dirt is not a good day.)

1. In brief. Well I have now received the appellant’s brief in a certain lingering law suit regarding Ethics Alarms. What fun. Anyone who wants to read it is welcome; those who have dealt with pro se submissions will immediately recognize the syndrome, lawyers may be amused, and non-lawyers may be edified. I expect to knock out the reply brief today, which won’t have to be more than a few pages. It’s not like I have better things to do or anything…

2. Speaking of cases that should have been thrown out of court…Reason reports:

In June, an Oakland County sheriff’s deputy pulled Dejuante Franklin over in front of a gas station for a traffic violation. While handing Franklin his ticket, NWA’s “Fuck tha Police” began to play in the background. As it turns out, James Webb, who did not know Franklin, witnessed the stop. He decided on his own accord to turn the song up louder before walking into the gas station store. When he exited, the officer slapped him with a ticket for misdemeanor noise violation, citing that Webb played the song at an “extremely high volume.”

It took 9 minutes of deliberation for a jury to bring in a verdict of  not guilty. This was an obvious attempted end-around the First Amendment by the officer, and the judge shouldn’t have let it get to a jury at all.

3. And speaking of abusing First Amendment rights…as well as “A Nation of Assholes,” MSNBC’s “Morning Joe’s” co-host and wife-to-be (don’t get me started on THAT) Mika Brzezinski,  called Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a “butt-boy” during yesterday’s show.  Why not? After all, CBS lets its on-air personalities call the President a “cock-holster.” Mika wouldn’t have had her filters down, of course, if the culture around MSNBC wasn’t rife with such hate, but she realized mid-show that this wasn’t exactly professional or civil news reporting, and babbled an apology. Too late!

An ethical, professional news station would suspend her, but this is MSNBC, and there are no ethical, professional news stations.

4. Meanwhile, speaking of media bias and unprofessional reporting...A New York Times “fact check” on the contentious meeting among Trump, Pence, Pelosi and Schumer had this amusing note:

“Mr. Trump has long charged that Democrats want open borders, slinging accusations at a higher clip in the waning days of the midterm elections campaign in November. Democrats do not want open borders, evidenced in part by border security legislation that Democrats have supported. What Democrats do not want is Mr. Trump’s costly border wall.”

Oh, that’s a fact, is it? No, Democrats, at least a great many of them, DO want open borders, evidenced in part by their wilful refusal to distinguish between illegal immigrants and legal immigrants, their insistence on signalling through their support for “Dreamers” that bringing children across the border illegally is a virtuous act, their position that illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay in the U.S. as longs as they don’t break any more laws, their constant demonization of necessary border enforcement efforts, and their proposals to abolish ICE. Continue reading

Farewell To The Boy Scouts

I’m leading off the day with this topic. My Dad, who would have turned 98 yesterday had he survived that long, would have wanted me to, I think.

The Boy Scouts, he made clear, taught him much of what he learned about being a man, an American, and an honorable citizen. The organization gave a young, physically unimpressive, lonely kid whose father had abandoned him and whose mother was moving between jobs and apartments during the Depression a place to meet the life-long friends who supported each other for more than 70 years, and most of all, to learn basic ethical values. Dad was certain that he might have ended up in jail without the Scouts: he was suspicious of authority, headstrong, and kept his own counsel. He definitely would not have had a family, as he was bitter about his own father’s betrayal. Thanks in great part to scouting, Jack A. Marshall, Sr. was a war hero, a Harvard grad, a lawyer, but most important of all to himself and to me, a loving, supportive, dedicated father.

So, in a way, I owe my life to the Boy Scouts as well. I joined the organization for a while, but outside of having the Boy Scout Law [“A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.”] engraved on my brain for life, it wasn’t my thing. My son never wanted to get involved at all. Yet through my father, scouting was massively influential on the course of my life, and the development of my character.

As you may have heard by now, the Boy Scouts of America is striking “boys” from the name of its flagship program for 11-to 17-year-olds, and beginning in February 2019, will accept girls into its troops. This was the dropping of the other shoe following last year’s announcement that girls could join the younger Cub Scout units. Now young women will be eligible to reach the Eagle Scout rank, the highest achievement of the organization.

Mike Surbaugh, Chief Scout Executive, told the AP, “[W]e’re trying to find the right way to say we’re here for both young men and young women.” Translation: “We’re trying to survive.” The ethical problem such a strategy involves is that when an organization abandons its mission just to stay in business, it has lost its integrity, and should probably just dissolve.  The mission of the Boy Scouts since it was founded in 1910 has been to prepare boys “to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.” Preparing boys to be men and girls to be women are both worthy missions, but they are not the same mission, much as radical feminists and cultural revolutionaries would have us believe. Where does a young boy like my father go now to find a male peer group and the guidance of responsible male role models? Your guess is as good as mine, but the answer isn’t the Scouts.
Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Month: George Takei

That tweet—cynical, desperate, pathetic, ridiculous, hilarious—by the minor “Star Trek” supporting actor turned gay rights warrior turned pop celebrity pitch man turned Kevin Spacey—has been taken down, but it’ s too late. Poor George Takei has set a new mark for complex and creative virtue-signaling as an incompetent crisis management tactic. It’s interesting that this relatively new art form has become so popular for riders on the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck, because it has backfired every time.

It’s gratifying that these Hollywood types are beginning to grasp the cognitive dissonance scale, but the damn thing can’t work miracles.

First Harvey announced that he was going to go after the NRA as he sort of apologized for assaulting, abusing, intimidating and raping actresses, because Weinstein gambled that this would make Hollywood say, “Oh,  you’re a good guy then! We’ll ignore the rapes, as long as your enemy is our enemy.” I can see how he may have thought this would work; after all, it had worked with Democratic politicians his whole career. When Kevin Spacey’s protective Wall of Silence  was starting to crumble, he tried the “I’m gay! Love me!” version of this tactic, figuring that he would more than double his support in the show business community. This did not go well.

Takei had come out long ago, so he couldn’t try that, and he hadn’t been giving millions to the Democratic Party, so a pledge to destroy Ted Cruz or Roy Moore or some conservative organization that he thought people hated more than they have problems with gay sexual predators wasn’t likely to work. What do do? Wait…wait! People blame the Russians for electing Trump! I can’t say I’m going to go after Russia, but I can say that Russia’s going after ME! Sure, that can work! I’ll blame the whole Scott Brunton “Sulu molested me” accusation on Russian bots! Then I’ll take a heroic stand, explain the Putin’s out to get me because I called him out on Russia’s anti-gay policies and proclaim that I won’t be silenced! It’s perfect!”

Uh…no. Continue reading

Weeping And Screaming At The Sky: Dear Democrats, Progressives, And “The Resistance,” Are You Embarrassed Yet? Why Not?

The emerging strategy of the traumatized and indignant Left since the debacle of last November 8 has been, it seems, to try to cause President Trump to snap, so he would do something that unequivocally justifies removing him from office. Actively trying to drive your elected leader nuts is border-line treasonous, of course, so this strategy is unethical, but never mind: so far, it’s not working. Instead, President Trump’s foes are the ones snapping like dry twigs in the woods. The spectacle is unprecedented in U.S. history, and should be so embarrassing to the un-snapped members of the President’s opposition that it is disturbing that they are not yet  wearing bags over their heads and thinking about witness protection.

The anti-Trump forces could justifiably be ashamed to be associated with all the academics who have thoroughly beclowned themselves, like Harvard’s deluded Larry Lessig, and the long-snapped government ethics specialist Richard Painter, who is back to peddling a false theory of how the 25th Amendment works in order to bootstrap an impossible plan to remove Trump. Then there is the risible  $10,000,000 ad campaign by frustrated billionaire Democratic donor Tom Steyer, calling for Trump’s impeachment without being able to articulate a single basis that would pass logical, legal or Constitutional muster. Maxine Waters is going full demagogue (you never go full demagogue) in her own obstinately ignorant proclamations that an elected President can and should be removed because the Congressional Black Caucus disapproves of his tweets, while the official leadership of her party—which, incredibly, just added disgraced cheat Donna Brazile to its ranks, signalling it vales and priorities— opposes the most uncivil and boorish of Chief Executives by routinely seasoning their own diatribes with words like “shit” and “fuck.” Meanwhile, the defeated Democratic standard bearer in 2016, Hillary Clinton, is on a tone-deaf “blame everybody” tour while multiple scandals surrounding her own campaign revive and emerge, as she establishes herself as the least graceful, whiniest, worst loser in American Presidential annals by approximately ten laps.

All of this and more is certainly bag-worthy, but compared to developments this week, they are badges of honor. Behold: Continue reading

Another Harvey Ethics Quiz On Looting….

The comments on the Ethics Quiz on shooting looters was edifying. Now let’s examine the question of “legal looting,” according to a Yale Law School professor.

In a post for Bloomberg, Stephen L. Carter argues that “Peacefully taking what you need from a supermarket isn’t the same as looting.” he writes in part,

Should we conclude that people taking food from an empty store during an emergency are not committing a crime? That’s exactly what we should conclude — they are not lawbreakers — but it’s important that we understand exactly why.

Let’s start by considering our own instincts. If I were trapped and my family was starving, I would grab the food; I suspect most readers would too. Already our instincts tell us, then, that the moral situation in which we find ourselves is different when a disaster has struck. I believe, very deeply, in the importance of strong property rules. In an emergency, however, we should interpret the rules differently…. A well-known example in the Model Penal Code posits a hiker who, trapped by a blizzard, breaks into a cabin and eats the food to survive. The hiker has taken both food and shelter without the permission of the owner. By choosing to violate a property rule rather than starve to death or die of exposure, the hiker has selected the lesser of two evils. This is one form of the defense known as “necessity,” and is generally considered to mean that there is no crime.

(You need to read the whole post to fairly consider Carter’s argument.)

Your Ethics Alarms Hurricane Harvey Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

Is looting an abandoned supermarket for food still a crime?

Continue reading

Observations On That Disturbing Trump Cabinet Meeting

Yesterday’s weird, televised segment of the Cabinet meeting was troubling in many ways. If you missed it, and I am envious if you did because it will haunt my nightmares for a long time, here is what happened:

Trump began by giving a positive assessment of his first 143 days and said,”Never has there been a President….with few exceptions…who’s passed more legislation, who’s done more things than I have.” Bad start. Trump, in fact, has signed very few bills. “Never—with few exceptions”—is classic Trump-speak, aka gibberish. This is also the kind of statement Trump’s Furies call “lies.” This was not a lie. In some convoluted way, the President thinks its sort of true. THAT’S the problem, not that he’s lying.

This was just the appetizer, though. The full course was the Cabinet officials, one by one, around the table, taking turns praising their boss.  This could not have been spontaneous. It reminded me of “King Lear”s” opening when the old, fading monarch requires each of his three daughters to tell him how much they love him as the price for getting a piece of his kingdom.

The charade began with Vice President Pence, who called it the “greatest privilege of my life” to serve in the Trump administration. Then Attorney General Jeff Sessions said it was an “honor” to serve Trump, and the rest of Trump’s Cabinet more or less aped what Pence or Sessions had said. Maybe they had all been given talking points. As a final inducement to projectile vomiting, Lackey-in-Chief Reince Priebus gave us a suck-up for the ages:

“On behalf of the entire senior staff around you, Mr. President, we thank you for the opportunity and the blessing that you’ve given us to serve your agenda and the American people And we’re continuing to work very hard every day to accomplish those goals.”

And may I fellate you here, sir, or later?

Disgusted and depressed observations:

1. This is exactly the kind of self-destructive fiasco  a top Chief of Staff who has a proven record running successful government operations on the state or national level could and would prevent. Instead, Trump has a Chief of Staff who actively made it worse. In February, Ethics Alarms featured my post calling for the appointment of such a figure as “the single most ethical thing President Trump could do.” That was four months ago, and this is more desperately needed now than ever.

2. Since this horrible display did happen, we now can say with certainty that none of the President’s inner circle has the influence, guts or common sense to stop him when he yields to his worst instincts.

3. We can also conclude that not a single member of the President’s Cabinet possesses  sufficient integrity, courage, principle or self respect to be trusted by the American public. These are billionaires and generals, and not one said to Trump, “I’m sorry, Mr. President, but this will make you look weak and me look like an ass-kissing yes-man. I won’t do it, nor will I remain in a Cabinet stocked with lapdog sycophants who would debase themselves and their high offices by doing it.  Do you discard this idiotic charade, or do I resign now?”

Shame on them, every one. Continue reading

How Do We Know The Democrats Can’t Find Any Ethical Reason Not To Confirm Judge Gorsuch? Because They Searched And Searched, And The Best They Could Come Up With Was THIS [UPDATED]

Pathetic. Desperate.

Typical.

“And it’s a HAIL MARY PASS!!!!!!!”

Today headlines screamed—do mark the journalists and news organizations, for they exemplify Prof. Glenn Reynold’s jibe, “Democratic operatives with  bylines”—that Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch had committed plagiarism in four passages of his 2006 book “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia,” which was based on his 2004 Oxford dissertation, before he became a judge.

That’s a stretch, and more than that, making this a major new story now indicates bias.

In the most egregious of the passages cited, Gorsuch included a description of the famous “Infant Doe” case that tracks closely with the description in a 1984 law-review article by Abigail Lawlis Kuzma. Both versions primarily quote from the court opinion: Kuzma’s article tracks equally closely to the original opinion, a 1982 Indiana court ruling that was later sealed, a  pediatrics textbook, “Rudolph’s Pediatrics,” and a 1983 article in the Bloomington Sunday Herald. Gorsuch cited all of these, but did not cite Kuzma’s article.

He should have. That’s a citation error, but probably not plagiarism. Several the sentences in the book and the article are identical or close to it, and Gorsuch should have used quotation marks. However none of the sentences involved anything but factual  and technical descriptions. For example,the article states that “Esophageal atresia with tracheoesophageal fistula indicates that the esophageal passage from the mouth to the stomach ends in a pouch, with an abnormal connection between the trachea and the esophagus,” and Gorsuch wrote, “Esophageal atresia with tracheoesophageal fistula means that the esophageal passage from the mouth to the stomach ends in a pouch, with an abnormal connection between the trachea and the esophagus.” 

Now, if I were writing about esophageal atresia, about which I know nothing, in the course of an analysis of a larger issue, I would probably re-phrase that passage, perhaps writing, “When the esophageal passage from the mouth to the stomach ends in a pouch, with an abnormal connection between the trachea and the esophagus, this is the condition called esophageal atresia with tracheoesophageal fistula.” I haven’t added anything original, though. There are no new thoughts or content. My re-phrasing would just dodge the accusation of plagiarism. When I wrote my thesis, which involved reviewing multiple biographies of every U.S. President, it was not uncommon for me to find paragraphs in the earliest materials that were worked over and re-phrased again and again, with no quotes but citations.

The National Review, a conservative publication, so its position will be discounted as biased and partisan, tracked down Kuzma, who waved off the plagiarism charges:

“These passages are factual, not analytical in nature, framing both the technical legal and medical circumstances of the “Baby/Infant Doe” case that occurred in 1982. Given that these passages both describe the basic facts of the case, it would have been awkward and difficult for Judge Gorsuch to have used different language.”

Weeell, that’s laying it on a bit thick. Gorsuch certainly could have done a more academically acceptable job of re-stating the substance of what she wrote; it’s not THAT “awkward and difficult.”

Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Week: President Barack Obama

“If I hear anybody saying their vote does not matter, that it doesn’t matter who we elect — read up on your history. It matters. We’ve got to get people to vote,” Obama said. “I will consider it a personal insult — an insult to my legacy — if this community lets down its guard and fails to activate itself in this election. You want to give me a good sendoff? Go vote.”


President Obama's argument for electing Hillary Clinton...

President Obama’s argument for electing Hillary Clinton…

—-President Barack Obama, addressing the Congressional Black Caucus gala in a speech excoriating Donald Trump and praising Hillary Clinton as the candidate of black America. Obama warned that while his name would not be on the ballot in November, all of the progress that the country has made over the last eight years was on the line. 

Observations: 

1. What progress? This is the Big Lie that has been repeated from the beginning? The greatest progress made in the last eight years has been the stock market, which is not, I assume, the progress the Congressional Black Caucus cares about. Divisions in American society have been exacerbated, and grossly so. Racial trust is at its lowest level in decades. The schools? Higher education? The debt? The nation’s leadership abroad? The Affordable Care Act, which has helped health insurance become less affordable for anyone not receiving government subsidies? Gross incompetence, malfeasance and lack of accountability in one federal department and agency after another: is that progress?  Has there been progress in dealing with the threat of terrorism? Murder rates are up after years of decline. There have been more mass shootings in this administration than in the last three combined. More Americans are on public assistance: is that progress to Obama? A majority of the public thinks the country is off the tracks; public trust in government is at its lowest point in history, far lower than after Watergate. First Amendment, Second Amendment, and Fourth Amendment rights are under assault as never before. Progress?

The question isn’t political, it’s ethical: if there isn’t progress, then Obama’s statement is a lie. By his own benchmarks when he ran for office, the major one being governing as neither white or black, liberal or conservative, but for the welfare of the entire nation, he has failed disastrously, and the signs are everywhere. No, his spinners don’t get to argue that there would have been progress if the evil Republicans in Congress hadn’t foiled Obama (in part because he hasn’t the political skills to negotiate or the political courage to compromise), because Obama said there IS progress. Continue reading

The Cos Plays The Race Card

race_cardBill Cosby’s lawyer, Brian McMonagle,  issued a statement this week claiming that the comedy legend’s legal problems are the result of racial bias and prejudice. He really did.

“Mr. Cosby is no stranger to discrimination and racial hatred, and throughout his career Mr. Cosby has always used his voice and his celebrity to highlight the commonalities and has portrayed the differences that are not negative — no matter the race, gender and religion of a person. Yet over the last 14 months, Mr. Cosby and those who have supported him have been ignored while lawyers like Gloria Allred hold press conferences to accuse him of crimes for unwitnessed events that allegedly occurred almost a half-century earlier. The time has come to shine a spotlight on the trampling of Mr. Cosby’s civil rights. Gloria Allred apparently loves the media spotlight more than she cares about justice. She calls herself a civil rights attorney, but her campaign against Mr. Cosby builds on racial bias and prejudice that can pollute the court of public opinion. And when the media repeats her accusations — with no evidence, no trial and no jury — we are moved backwards as a country and away from the America that our civil rights leaders sacrificed so much to create.”

I don’t blame McMonagle, and nobody else should. He’s doing what he can to defend his client, who looks about as guilty as a man can. Nor did he say this without the approval of his client. Lawyers discuss their strategy with clients: if Cosby didn’t want to sink this low and look this desperate, he didn’t have to. Then I would have been able to salvage a slim iota of respect for the man.

It isn’t worth much time or thought discussing how ridiculous this accusation is. Bill Cosby? White America’s darling? The Jello pudding man, the charming interviewer of kids, the educator who preached to black families that they need to raise their children to reject hip-hop culture? Whites made Cosby rich, powerful, and once, the most popular, respected and influential celebrity of any color in the nation. And suddenly they turned on him when they realized he was black?

The claim is an insult to African-Americans who really do face bias and discrimination. More important, however, it is so depressing. Is there any prominent African-American in the the public eye who is capable of not playing the race card when he or she is in trouble? I held out hope that Bill Cosby, as loathsome as we now know he is, might be an exception if only because the claim in his case is so, so absurd. Let’s see, which is the reason for Bill’s fall: a hundred women of all races coming forward to detail almost identical accounts of the comedian drugging and sexually assaulting them, or racial prejudice? Gee, let me think; this is a tough one. Never mind, though: apparently this alibi is so ingrained in black culture, so beaten into the brains of American blacks, so exploited by race hucksters and so much a foundation of the left’s politics that it exists as a permanent “In case of a crisis, break glass” last resort that is an African-American’s secret weapon—after all, when whites screw up, they can’t claim anti-white bias, though trends in government, justice and academia may be changing that.

If Roger Ailes were black, he would have attributed his fall at Fox to racial prejudice.

Clarence Thomas played the race card. So has Obama. O.J. Barry Bonds. Herman Cain. Susan Rice. Eric Holder. Kanye West, though in his case it is dwarfed by his other outrages. This is kind of an anti-matter version of “white privilege”: while whites, we are told, are blissfully unaware of all the ways their success, if they have any, is based on systemic advantages in the culture, blacks are immersed in the idea that they are being persecuted because of race and led by role models and leaders to develop a self-image that can render them incapable of ever knowing when the problem might be their own conduct rather than oppression by others. Continue reading