Whatever Day This Is Ethics Warm-Up, 11/30/2019: The Bonkers Left Thanksgiving Edition [CORRECTED]

What a week!

Until a minute ago, I had no idea what day this is, as is usual on Thanksgiving week, though it’s possible that fainting during Thanksgiving dinner and landing on my head has something to do with it. [Incidentally, before I get accused of an anti-Left bias (again), if the Right behaved half as bonkers this week as their ideological foes, I would have written about it.] 

1. What does it say about our media that two websites and a TV network feature a guy that writes things like this? What does it say about our society that he has an audience?

We stand on the precipice of losing our American character to the forces of authoritarianism and bigotry. For many people, this holiday season will be the last face-to-face encounter with family members before the most consequential election of our lifetimes. And yet, many people are desperate to pass the potatoes without starting any uncomfortable conversations.

The holidays are when your resistance is needed. Some of you have the opportunity to talk to Trump voters and assorted conservatives this weekend. Some of you will have the opportunity to talk to people who live in an echo chamber of Fox News commentary and Russian troll farms. To waste that opportunity because of your own hang-ups and Mommy or Daddy issues is criminal….You might not like conflict, but if you choose to break bread with Trump supporters and climate change deniers because you happen to be related to them, then conflict is required. Anything less is appeasement, and we’ve had far too much of that these past few years. So stiffen your spine, rehearse your talking points, and get ready to fry some turkeys in your family with your righteousness…

Take a traditional Thanksgiving Day football game. This may seem like safe, nonpolitical ground—so long as everybody agrees to not talk about Colin Kaepernick. But it won’t take long for Trump supporters in your family to say something racist, sexist, or plain nutty while watching the game. They’ll say a white athlete is just a “hard worker” while praising a black athlete’s “natural gifts.” They’ll champion a slur against Native Americans, masquerading as a nickname, on a holiday that commemorates the prelude to a continental genocide. They’ll make fun of the “egghead statisticians,” which will sound like they’re making a comment on football strategy, but actually they’re making an attack on science and math that will later fuel their climate change denier sensibilities. Or maybe they’ll just sit like lumps on the couch while women: prepare dinner, set the table, take care of the kids, clean up after dinner, serve dessert, and fetch them a beer.

In those moments, I think of the children. I think of the behavior that is being modeled for them. I think of the cultural messages they are learning as they’re being exposed to these “traditional” structures….

Who IS this lunatic? Why, it’s Elie Mystal, the race-obsessed, U.S. hating crazy who made “Above the Law” so unbearable to read that I have to go elsewhere for my big law firm gossip. Because he detests whites and the U,S, and of course the President, Ellie is now turning up on MSNBC and, of course, on “The Nation’s” site, where America-bashing thrives.He really, really thinks that white Americans, men and supporters of President Trump (Ellie is a man, but he calls himself Elie, so he has an out) are as he portrays, racist, sexist morons who must be vanquished. An equivalent stereotype for blacks would have them eating watermelon and fried chicken while they listen to the Mills Brothers sing “De Camptown Races.” The man just oozes with hate; almost as much hate as disinformation and progressive propaganda. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/15/2019: Starring Two Of My Favorite Unethical Websites!

WAKE UP!

Oh, great: started this post at 7 am, hell broke lose at ProEthics, and now it’s after noon. Well, the hell with it: I’m not going back to change the headline or the intro, and I like Lenny’s version of the Stars and Stripes at any time of day.

So there.

1. Unprofessional and dangerous stuff from  Above the Law….as usual. The legal gossip and snark online tabloid is run and written by lawyers who are not practicing law, so they feel free to engage in conduct that lawyers are forbidden from engaging in, like misrepresentation.  Lately the cyber rag has been cyber-ragging on Jones Day, a long-time, distinguished D.C. mega firm. Why are they doing that? Come on, it should be obvious.

ATL takes the position—and it has company— that Jones Day is eeeevil and must be shunned because it represents the Trump campaign. Hence you get headlines like “IF YOU HAD TO GUESS WHICH FIRM WOULD DO THIS:New allegations claim Jones Day lightened the skin and narrowed the nose on the picture of one of their lawyers.” Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Insensitive Exam Question

This ethics quiz is designed to balance my own biases.

Above the Law’s Ellie Mystal claimed that a Georgetown University Law Center professor gave his class an insensitive hypothetical in an exam. I am almost as disgusted with GULC as I am with my other alma mater; Above the Law is a hack website; Mystal has proven himself to be a left-wing hysteric, a racist, a biased journalist, a self-evident jerk and a lawyer whose ethics are so warped that he should never be allowed within 50 yards of a potential client. As a result, I can’t be sure that my conclusion that his analysis in this case is as wrong as I think it is, since all of these biases, however justified, may be rusting my ethics alarms solid. Maybe.

You probably recall that Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed earlier this year, killing 157 people. This part of the ongoing Boeing 737 MAX jet controversy that has resulted  in the aircraft being pulled out of service.Cedric Asiavugwa, a third-year student at the Law Center, was one of the victims of the crash.

Georgetown Law Professor M. Gregg Bloche  devised a final for his “The Mind And The Law” class that included a question that asked students to evaluate the legal issues surrounding the FAA’s emergency grounding of Boeing 737s. Mystal is outraged: Continue reading

Ethics Emanations From The Great Mueller Report Disappointment

The mainstream media—mostly–continues to disgrace itself in the wake of the Mueller report, as do others, like the despicable Bill Maher. I can’t wait to see how Stephen “Cockholster” Colbert tries to spin it, while being hilarious, of course. Remember, this was a destructive smear on the character, patriotism and loyalty of a newly elected U.S. President, launched without any justification other than the fact that Democrats , and especially Hillary Clinton, cannot accept the fact that someone like the real estate mogul/ reality TV star could beat the party’s coronated successor to the Great Obama. Surely, some sinister conspiracy had to be at work. Based on this, and nothing else, we have  seen a nearly three-year, oppressive inquiry interfering with the President’s ability to govern, while subjected to a non-stop barrage of news reports finding looming impeachment in every leak.

Ethics Alarms flagged it as the coup attempt it was from the beginning. This didn’t require any special acumen. All it required was objectivity, common sense, and a rueful appreciation of how totalitarian the Democratic Party has become in its values and tactics.

Some notable and illuminating reactions, and some heroes and villains…. Continue reading

Observations On The George Mason Law School Renaming Debacle

Scalia Law School

Summary: On March 31, George Mason University announced that it was changing the name of its law school, which has rapidly risen from marginal status into respectability in the last few years, to the Antonin Scalia School of Law. The reason: a 30 million dollar contribution from the Charles Koch Foundation, a.k.a. the Koch Brothers and an anonymous donor, who made the name change a condition of his or her generosity. This occurring while the various controversies over Scalia’s legacy and the Supreme Court’s deadlock since his passing were still raging guaranteed indignation from many quarters, including many students and graduates of the law school. The internet and social media communities, meanwhile, having the emotional maturity of fifth graders, concentrated its efforts at snickering over the new school’s acronym, which could be ASSoL, and the Twitter handle, #ASSLAW.

The resulting embarrassment led the school’s Dean to announce  that the name of the school was being altered to “Antonin Scalia Law School.”

Comments:

1. Ethics Alarms had a recent post expressing dismay at the willingness of baseball teams to sell the identity of their ballparks to corporations. This is much worse. George Mason is perhaps the most unjustly forgotten of all the Founders, as he was largely responsible for there being a Bill of Rights in our Constitution The fact that George Mason University and its law school has been slowly rising in prestige and visibility had helped to remedy the unjust obscurity of a historical figure to whom every citizen and the world owes a debt of thanks. George Mason’s honor, however, was considered expendable once the school’s leaders knew the price that using the law school for ideological propaganda could bring at a time of sharp partisan division.

2. Rich people have a right to use their money to make others do things that they shouldn’t or normally wouldn’t want to. The issue is whether there are ethical limits to the kinds of actions and conduct money should be used to buy. Rich families have used their assets to defeat true love, paying  unsuitable suitors to leave without explanation. Desperate celebrities have accepted checks to debase themselves on reality shows. Judas was paid to betray Jesus Christ. Where does using one’s millions to induce a university to betray its duties to alumni and students, as well as other donors and the memory of a crucial American patriot, fall on the spectrum?

3. Was George Mason University obligated to accept 30,000,000 dollars under these conditions? Should money supersede all other considerations for an educational institution? No, and no. Allowing the school to be turned into a billboard for conservative jurisprudence did more than simply alter the name. It altered the perception of the law school, the meaning of its degrees, its public image and its ability to attract a wide range of students from diverse backgrounds. If the school’s leadership didn’t comprehend that, it was a stunning example of institutional incompetence and irresponsible decision-making.

4. If the school’s leadership did comprehend the gravamen of the name change and allowing partisan tycoons to bend the school’s management to their will, then the decision was even less defensible. There was an absolute obligation to consult with the stakeholders in this trade-off: students, alumni, and donors. Failing that obligation constituted a stunning breach of trust. Continue reading

Ethics Observations On Georgetown Law Center’s Scalia Foofarah

Scalia-Georgetown

I am a Georgetown University Law Center grad, as well as a former administrator there. I also know and have personal relationships with several members of the faculty. None of this especially informs my ethical analysis of the community argument there that arose from a rather innocuous official expression of respect and mourning in the wake of Justice Scalia’s death, but if anyone wonders why I’m posting about this rather than many other ethics issues nipping at my heels, that’s part of the reason. The other reason is that this academic dust-up raises interesting ethics issues, and has received national publicity.

Observations on the tale as it has unfolded:

1.  Georgetown Law Center issued a press release mourning the death of Antonin Scalia, including a statement from Dean William M. Treanor that read:

Scalia was a giant in the history of the law, a brilliant jurist whose opinions and scholarship profoundly transformed the law. Like countless academics, I learned a great deal from his opinions and his scholarship. In the history of the Court, few Justices have had such influence on the way in which the law is understood. On a personal level, I am deeply grateful for his remarkably generous involvement with our community, including his frequent appearances in classes and his memorable lecture to our first year students this past November. The justice offered first-year students his insights and guidance, and he stayed with the students long after the lecture was over. He cared passionately about the profession, about the law and about the future, and the students who were fortunate enough to hear him will never forget the experience. We will all miss him.”

[Note: In the original post, I missed the first line, and kept missing it. Don’t ask me why. The text has been finally, after a couple botched attempts, been revised to include it.]

Is there anything inappropriate about the dean’s statement? Not in my view. This is nothing but a traditional expression of professional respect on behalf a prominent institutional member of the legal community. There is nothing in the statement, save for the last sentence, that anyone could argue is untrue. Countless academics, as well as Scalia’s more liberal colleagues, did learn “a great deal from his opinions and his scholarship.” He was an influential and significant figure on the Court. Scalia was generous with his time and passion as a teacher, and by all accounts he was a good one.

The opening statement,  “Scalia was a giant in the history of the law, a brilliant jurist whose opinions and scholarship profoundly transformed the law,”  seems to be what rankled Scalia critics. It shouldn’t have. At worst it is standard memorial puffery. But calling Scalia a giant “ in the history of the law” seems fair whether you agree with his jurisprudence or not: he is certainly among the 20 or so most quoted, most debated, and most provocative justices. The rest shouldn’t be troubling to anyone who isn’t suffering from Scalia-phobia. A Justice can be brilliant and transformational while being wrong.

None of the reports of the controversy ignited by this standard issue sentiment mention it, but Georgetown Law Center isn’t on the Georgetown campus. It has its own campus that is a 15 minute walk from the Supreme Court. Law students regularly attend oral arguments; I did: it was one of the great advantages of studying law there. More than any law school, the Law Center has good reason to feel a special affinity to the Court and all its justices.

2.  What about the last sentence? Is it appropriate for Treaner to speak for the law school community and say that “We will all miss him”? He was reasonable and fair to assume that.  Unfortunately, in today’s vicious partisan divide where opinions and sincere positions reached after thought and research are too often treated as proof of consort with Satan, and ion which even lawyers, who are trained not to take legal arguments personally, are frequently unable to respect a colleague for a well-reasoned argument that they may still think is completely wrong, it was not a safe assumption. Pillory the dean, then, for giving all members of his community the benefit of the doubt, and assuming they are capable of grace, compassion, fairness, professional respect and civility.

It’s still not unethical to assume one’s colleagues have some class.

3. They all don’t, unfortunately. Law Center professors Gary Peller and Mike Seidman (I know Mike, never met Gary) then used the Campus Broadcast system, usually used for event announcements, invitations and policy changes, to send a message  to all members of the student body titled, “Responses to Dean Treanor’s Press Release Regarding Justice Scalia.”  Peller’s statement reads,

Like Mike Seidman, I also was put-off by the invocation of the “Georgetown Community” in the press release that Dean Treanor issued Saturday. I imagine many other faculty, students and staff, particularly people of color, women and sexual minorities, cringed at headline and at the unmitigated praise with which the press release described a jurist that many of us believe was a defender of privilege, oppression and bigotry, one whose intellectual positions were not brilliant but simplistic and formalistic….That ‘community’ would never have claimed that our entire community mourns the loss of J. Scalia, nor contributed to his mystification without regard for the harm and hurt he inflicted.”

This was partisan grandstanding of the worst kind. The professors, of course, have a right to proclaim their opinions to the student body any time they want to, but their complaint here was petty and mean-spirited. It also models behavior that is poisonous both to the legal profession and the culture as a whole. The are saying, in essence,We don’t mourn him, we won’t miss him, and we’re glad to be rid of him, because his legal theories aren’t our legal theories, and we are on the side of the angels while he was an uncaring villain.” Such a message accomplishes nothing positive, and much that is destructive. The professors engaged in demonizing, when their profession and their duty is not to denigrate but reason. If they really think they can prove that Scalia was a defender of privilege, oppression and bigotry, they can make that case in a scholarly paper: I doubt that they can. Scalia often defended the rights to engage in conduct that he did not personally support, as well as some he did: the sloppy rhetoric of Seidman and Peller echoes the legally ignorant who accuse criminal defense attorneys of defending robbery and murder. Continue reading

First Nomination For “The Donald Sterling Award Award”: The American Bar Association

Cracked trophy

It’s time to launch  a new dubious honor here at Ethics Alarms: The Donald Sterling Award Award.

The DSAA gets its name from the embarrassing “Man of the Year” award that the San Diego NAACP was preparing to bestow on Donald Sterling shortly before his racially offensive comments to his mistress were recorded and leaked to the news media. Sterling had already engaged in conduct that seemed to make  NAACP recognition both unlikely and ill-advised, so his award, which the organization retracted, is the perfect model to emulate for future organizations determined to undermine their values and objectives by choosing inappropriate honorees.

And the first nomination for the The Donald Sterling Award Award is The American Bar Association, for its decision to give its 2014 Robert J. Kutak Award to New England Law/ Boston dean John F. O’Brien.  The award is given annually “to an individual who has contributed significantly toward increased cooperation among legal education, the practicing bar, and the judiciary.”

Well, maybe O’Brien technically deserves that award, but then Sterling had given a lot of money to local projects benefiting African-American kids in San Diego, too.  The problem is that O’Brien could serve as the poster boy for the ugly underbelly of legal education and its disconnect to the current economics of the legal profession. In 2013, he gave his school unwanted publicity when it was revealed that he earned a salary of $867,000, among the very highest law dean salaries in the country, while  low-ranked New England Law/ Boston charged $40,904 for yearly tuition. Before considering lowering his own compensation, he started cutting faculty positions, until he finally relented and took a pay cut to a paltry $650,000 a year. I know, it’s less than three Hillary Clinton speeches. But the going rate for deans at the top law schools has been estimated to be “only” $450,000, and O’Brien runs a school that is the opposite of “top.” Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Farrakhan, Snooki, Senator Portman, and University Speaker Ethics

Pick your poison!

Your Ethic Quiz question for the weekend: Which of these is the most unethical choice to speak at a University?

Your choices:

A. Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, the over-the-top trashy break-out star of the bottom-of-the barrel cable reality show “Jersey Shore,” hired for $32,000 by Rutgers University to address students. Continue reading