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.
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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?

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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.”

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