Texas Senate Bill 1515, introduced by Sen. Phil King (R-Weatherford), an ethics dunce, is on the way to the Texas House for consideration. Given the degree of right-wing derangement in Texas, a fair match for Woke Derangement in California, New York and other states, it’s a better than an even bet that public schools in Texas will be required to prominently display the Ten Commandments in every classroom starting next school year. Next up, I suppose, will be a Texas law requiring citizens to say the Lord’s Prayer every morning and to pass a yearly Bible literacy test or be forced to wear sack cloth and ashes. There is no chance, zip, nada, uh-uh, zippo, that the Ten Commandments law survives a legal challenge. None. That is not, as Mona Lisa Vito states under oath in “My Cousin Vinny,” an opinion. It’s a fact.
Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/13/2019: Oh, All Sorts Of Things…
A rainy good morning from Northern Virginia!
1. Weekend Update: I’d like to point readers to two posts from the weekend, recognizing that many of you don’t visit on Saturday and Sunday. I think they are important.
The first is” I Hereby Repudiate My Undergraduate Degree, As My Alma Mater Has Rendered It A Symbol Of Hypocrisy, Ignorance, And Liberal Fascism” about Harvard’s shocking punishment of a college dean and Harvard law professor for defending Harvey Weinstein. There was more to the story than I knew when I posted about it (thanks, Chip Defaa! ). Ronald Sullivan’s wife is also being stripped of her position as a dean—Harvard now designates both spouses as “deans” when they lead residence Houses. It’s not exactly “guilt by association,” since she also only had the job by association, but she still lost her job and cpmpensation. Ronald Sullivan had quit his position as a defense attorney for Weinstein the day before Harvard announced he would not be dean of Winthrop House for the next school year. That’s not very admirable on his part, but I sympathize with his dilemma.
The other is this multi-lateral ethics break-down, which I am upset about now and will continue to be. It demonstrates how far gone rational ethical decision-making is in some segments of our society, and honestly, I don’t know what to do about it.
2. Here’s one of the many little ways the “resistance” is undermining the President (and in so doing, our democracy.) The Children’s Hospital Association paid for a full page ad last month in the New York Times, thanking “Congress and the Administration” for passing the Advancing Care for Exceptional Kids Act (ACE Kids). This is pandering, partisan, ungrateful cowardice. Laws are passed by Congress and the President, who must sign legislation into law. “The Administration” has no Constitutional role in passing laws. This pusillanimous association was afraid of backlash if it dared to publicly thank Present Trump for making their bill law.
Presidential policies, words and actions that the “resistance” can complain about are over-publicized; accomplishments that they can’t find fault with are ignored or attributed to someone else.
Here’s another example, from this week’s Times book section. In a review of a book about the decision to fight the Iraq war, the reviewer refers to “Trumpian malpractice.” That’s just an unsupported and gratuitous slur, assuming that readers believe that the President’s name is synonymous with incompetence, or trying to embed the idea that it is. Continue reading
Fun With Witch Hunts! If The Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck Has To Run Over Someone, Roy Moore Is A Great Choice, But Still…[UPDATED!]
“Republicans in Washington seemed near panic Thursday in the light of a news report in which four women said Roy S. Moore, the Republican nominee for a United States Senate seat in Alabama and an evangelical Christian, had made sexual or romantic overtures to them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican majority leader, said Mr. Moore should step aside ahead of the Dec. 12 special election if the allegations were true.”
“Sexual or romantic overtures,” eh? We are now officially entering the Witch Hunt Zone. Bill Cosby has been accused of drugging and sexually assaulting women. Harvey Weinstein has been accused of sexually harassing many women in the workplace, as well as committing sexual assault and rape. Kevin Spacey was first accused of throwing a 14-year old boy onto a bed,and laying on top of him until the boy managed to get away—30 years ago. Now a controversial politician—he’s controversial because so many Republicans somehow think he is qualified to be an elected official when he clearly isn’t, and the only controversy is over whether they have no scruples, or are merely too dumb to be let outside without a leash—is being accused of “pursuing” three girls ranging in age between 16 and 18 and one girl who was 14 almost 40 years ago, when he was in his early thirties.
Unlike in the cases of Weinstein, James Toback, and most (I haven’t waded through all of them) of the Hollywood types now riding the Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck, only one crime is being claimed against Moore. It is also worth considering that the age of legal consent in Alabama is 16. A thirty year-old hitting on teens that young is certainly creepy, but it’s not illegal, and if Alabama says its legal, it is also saying it isn’t so creepy that the State wants to discourage it.
Thus we are left with just one accuser, Leigh Corfman, whose accusation involves alleged wrongdoing by Moore.. She says she was 14 years old in 1979 when Roy Moore introduced himself to her and her mother as they were sitting outside an Alabama courthouse. Moore was a 32-year-old assistant district attorney at the time. He offered to watch the girl while her mother went inside for a child custody hearing. Alone with her, Moore asked Corfman for her phone number, and later asked her out on a date. (We do not know if he asked her age.) On the first date, Corfman says, Moore drove her to his home about 30 minutes away, told her how pretty she was and kissed her. On the second and final date, she says, he took off her shirt and pants and removed his clothes. He touched her over her bra and underpants, she says, and guided her hand to touch him over his underwear. Corfman says she then asked Moore to take her home, and he did.
Ew. Continue reading
Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/18/2017: Welcome To My World! Special Legal Follies Edition
1 Oh, let’s begin the day with Roy Moore, the former Alabama judge and present wacko whom Alabama Republicans voted to represent the GOP in the 2018 U.S. Senate election, thus proving that there are a lot of deplorables in the state. As was completely predictable given his record, Moore recently told his drooling followers (after being introduced by Abraham Hamilton, Alexander Lincoln being unavailable),
“Somebody should be talking to the Supreme Court of the United States and say, ‘What gives them a right to declare that two men can get married?. . . Tell the Congress: Impeach these justices that put themselves above the Constitution. They’re judicial supremists and they should be taken off the bench.”
Comments Jonathan Turley,
So Moore believes that he should not have been removed from the bench for putting his personal religious beliefs above the Constitution, but justices should be removed if they interpretation the Constitution in a way that contradicts his religious beliefs. This, he insisted, would ‘solve the problem….such a view would violate not just fundamental principles of judicial review but it would violate the impeachment clause. As the last lead counsel in a judicial impeachment case (in defense of Judge Thomas Porteous), Moore’s view is deeply troubling. As I have previously written, the Good Behavior Clause of Article III was designed to protect the independence of the judiciary and insulate it from political pressures. It was meant as a guarantee of life tenure against precisely the type of threat that Moore is endorsing.
But it’s pointless to make genuine legal and historical arguments against someone like Moore. He’s a theocrat, a fanatic, a bigot and a demagogue. The Republican Party should endorse his opposition and campaign against Moore. This fiasco is their fault, and someone like Moore should be kept out Congress at all costs.
2. Now to someone who is, incredible as it seems, somewhat less ridiculous, this gentleman, Christopher Wilson…
No, that’s not a botched tattoo on his forehead: the blurry words are “fuck” and “sluts”, making the whole, eloquent message, “I’m a porn star. I fuck teen sluts.” This roughly translates into “Look at me! I’m an idiot!” The newspapers that refused to print the blurred words (the police had the mugshot altered) that are essential to the story, meanwhile, are telling us, “We don’t understand our profession.” The story is incomprehensible if the actual words aren’t clear, literally or figuratively. Fox News and the NY Post, for example, say, “The Cincinnati man has the words “I’m a pornstar” tattooed on his forehead” and “another vulgar message” tattooed below.” Since the issue is whether the message on his FACE is going to prejudice the jury in his trial for sexual assault, this is juvenile coverage omitting key information to avoid “giving offense.”
Ethics Alarms to the news media: Grow up.
Turley (again…he loves the tattoo stories) writes,
“The court will be left with a question of whether the tattoo is too prejudicial or whether it is unavoidable as a personal choice of the defendant….Yet, these tattoos contain an admission to the crime at issue in the trial. In the end, a judge could legitimately conclude that this falls into the category as bad choices bringing even worse consequences.”
What? First, the defendant is not charged with fucking teen sluts while acting as a porn star. That conduct could well be consensual and legal. Turley is also wrong that the judge could “legitimately” allow the jury to see his message. In both cases involving a defendant’s prejudicial tattoos, the judges agreed that they had to be made invisible, in one case using make-up… Continue reading
The Alabama U.S. Senate Republican Run-Off: The Worst Choice Ever [UPDATED]
And you thought having to choose between Hillary and Donald Trump was bad!
The upcoming Republican run-off for the special election to choose a successor to Alabama previous GOP Senator Jeff Sessions, now U.S. Attorney General, is as bad as it gets. Whoever wins is certain to be elected in super-red Alabama over Democrat Doug Jones, but one GOP candidate is corrupt and absurd, and the other is absurd, a fanatic and a habitual scofflaw. Both can be counted upon to immediately lower the ethical and intellectual level of the U.S. Senate, and normally I would assume that only electing a horseshoe crab or some other lower species could do the latter, while nothing short of sending Hillary Clinton back there could accomplish the former. That Alabama voters would allow their state’s seat in the U.S. Senate to depend on a run-off between these two examples of the worst of the U.S. politics bestiary doesn’t merely show that the state is backwards, it shows that its voters deserve one of these jerks. The rest of us, however, do not.
Let’s look at the two contestants, shall we? First current Senator Luther Strange, whose best feature is his name. Allow me to save you a click by re-posting a substantial section from February’s post about him:
When the Senate confirmed Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General in hearings that may be best remembered as the time Elizabeth Warren earned the fawning admiration of feminists by behaving like a mean-spirited jerk, it meant that Alabama’s Republican governor got to appoint his successor. There wasn’t much discussion in the news media about who this might be, because it’s hard for journalists to inform the public properly when it is concentrating on bringing down the President, per the orders of their Eldritch Progressive Masters—sorry, I’ve got Dr. Strange stuff rattling around in my brain now—but there was some interesting speculation in Alabama.
You see, Republican Governor Robert Bentley is fighting to avoid impeachment as the result of a sex scandal, and one that called his honesty into question as well.
An official fired by Bentley alleged that the Governor had engaged in an extramarital affair with his senior political adviser, Rebekah Caldwell Mason. An audio recording surfaced in which Bentley told a woman named “Rebekah” that he “worr[ied] about loving you so much” and that “[w]hen I stand behind you, and I put my arms around you, and I put my hands on your breasts […] and just pull you real close. I love that, too.” At a press conference, Bentley apologized for the comments but denied having an affair and stated that his relationship with Mason was purely platonic.
Bentley invaded the Ethics Alarms Rationalizations List, saying that he “had made a mistake” by saying “inappropriate things” to his aide, and apologized to Mason , her family and to the people of Alabama. On April 5, 2016, an impeachment resolution against Bentley was filed in the State Legislature, which appointed a special counsel to lead an investigation into the impeachment charges. Then, in November, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange asked that the investigation be halted pending “related work” by his office. This was widely interpreted to mean that Strange, also a Republican but not an ally of Bentley’s, was overseeing his own investigation of whether charges should be brought against Bentley.
Trump was elected President on November 8, and ten days later he announced his intention to nominate Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General. On December 6, 2016, Strange announced that he was a candidate for the soon to be vacant seat, meaning that he would run in the 2018 election, if he wasn’t appointed to fill the vacancy by Bentley.
With the wolves gathering at his door, however, that’s exactly what Gov. Bentley did. He appointed the man who was overseeing his current impeachment investigation to the U.S. Senate, thus creating a vacancy in the Attorney General’s post. Then he appointed a new AG named Steve Marshall (no relation), who many doubt will vigorously pursue an indictment against the governor.
Can you say, “Appearance of impropriety”?
I can’t imagine a better example of how the law can’t anticipate everything, making ethics indispensable. There is an Alabama law prohibiting a governor from appointing himself to fill a U.S. Senate vacancy, but nobody foresaw a situation where a governor facing impeachment would interfere with the investigation by appointing a political adversary and the Attorney General overseeing the investigation to fill the slot. This is entirely legal, and spectacularly unethical.
Some in the state wonder if Strange’s request to the legislature wasn’t part of a deal with the Governor, in anticipation of a Sessions departure. “He definitely slowed down the impeachment process, which put the governor in a place to actually appoint him. That’s the problem we have,” said Ed Henry, the legislator who brought the original impeachment motion to a vote. “He stopped an impeachment process and then in turn accepted the nomination to the Senate. I believe the damage is already done.”
For this to have been a pre-arranged quid pro quo would have required that Strange and Bentley both believe that Trump would win, however. Hmmmm. Maybe they were in league with the Russians too…?
Yet it requires no conspiracy theory to conclude that for Strange to accept Bentley’s appointment makes him complicit in a sequence of events that appears corrupt. It is too redolent of the Roland Burris affair, when now jailed former Illinois governor Rod Blagojavich was caught selling a Senate appointment. Burris swore in an affidavit that he had no contact with the governor prior to his appointment to a Senate seat he had no qualifications for, and then as soon as he was safely on office, suddenly remembered that he had met with “Blago.”
The newly minted Senator Strange, had he been an ethics hero—and shouldn’t we be able to expect our elected officials to be ethics heroes?—could have foiled Bentley, inspired Alabamans, and proved that he would be a worthy Senator when he ran in 2018, if he had simply turned down the appointment, saying,
‘I am grateful and honored that Governor Bentley felt that I was qualified to represent the citizen of Alabama in the U.S. Senate. However, I feel I would betray the trust of those same citizens if I were to accept the post under these circumstances. As the lawyer for the people, I am obligated to undertake and oversee a fair and objective investigation of serious allegations against the Governor, and this raised a conflict of interest for me, pitting my personal political ambition against my duties in my current position. Moreover, should I accept the Governor’s offer, it would raise doubts regarding the functioning of the legal system as well as my personal integrity. Therefore I must decline the appointment.’
Now, however, the Senator has proven himself unworthy of his new job by accepting it.
Now normally I would say that anyone—Kathy Griffin, Jimmy Kimmel, Dormammu—is a preferable U.S. Senate choice than this shameless, ambitious hack. Roy Moore, however, is a piece of work. The one-time kickboxer and full time fundamentalist Christian fanatic first warranted Ethics Alarms notice as an Incompetent Elected Official in 2014, and his recognition came that late only because I viewed his stand-off over displaying the Ten Commandments in his court room and trying to turn Alabama justice into a theocracy too ridiculous to write about (and Ethics Alarms didn’t exist then.) Continue reading
Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month, Or “You Know, Sometimes The Southern States Really Ask for All The Ridicule They Get”: Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore
This is, I know, akin to shooting fish in a barrel, as Moore has long established himself as a renegade wacko, notably when he defiantly displayed the Ten Commandments in his court house even after a higher court declared that it was unconstitutional. It’s unethical to violate a court order if you are a judge (duh!), and as a consequence of his silly and expensive grandstanding in defiance of the Establishment Clause (Moore believes that the Government of the United States was established to support Christianity,that’s all there is to it, and nobody is going to convince him otherwise, so there), he was quite properly removed from office by a court order he couldn’t defy.
Oh, never mind ethics, law, the Constitution, the U.S. Supreme Court and the general advantages of not having a Chief Justice heading your state’s Supreme Court who makes up the law as he goes along: the citizens of Alabama, in their wisdom, elected Moore to be Supreme Court Justice again, and so he is.
WOW. Continue reading
Ethics Quiz: Censoring a First Grader’s Poem
This is a different kind of ethics quiz, because the question is where the blame for an unethical result lies. The result is clearly wrong, but I am uncertain who or what should be blamed for it.
A first-grade student in North Carolina wrote a Veterans Day poem honoring her grandfather, a Vietnam veteran. She had been selected to read the poem at a November 8 Veterans Day ceremony. One of the lines was, “He prayed to God for peace, he prayed to God for strength.”
As Wisconsin Bans a Theatrical Production, Some Questions
“The forces of intolerance just won another victory in Wisconsin,” is how The Progressive headlines a story about a “rightwing evangelical” whose complaints prompted the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to cancel a planned production of “The Bible: Complete Word of God, Abridged” in a state park. From the article:
“Vic Eliason raised a stink. Eliason is an evangelical clergyman in Milwaukee who runs the VCY (Voices of Christian Youth) America Radio Network. He has a show, “Cross Currents,” in Milwaukee, and on August 9, he dedicated his hour-long program to condemning the play as “blasphemous” and “diabolical.” He urged his listeners to contact the board members of SummerStage, and he gave out their numbers. He also urged listeners to call the businesses where some of the board members worked and ask them, “How can you have someone on the board who will literally spit in the face of the Bible?” Eliason also gave out the phone numbers of the DNR’s top two officials and told listeners to ask them why the state was allowing this play to go on, and why it was profiting from it. (The agreement with SummerStage and the Lapham Peak State Park is that 5 percent of ticket sales go to the park, Eliason said.)”
The article ridicules the state and Ellison on several grounds. The play, it notes, is “very light-hearted,” a spoof of the Bible. Ellison admits he never read the script, but that the theme of the comedy is enough. The statement of the Department in cancelling the play smacks of dishonesty: “SummerStage will not be performing ‘The Bible – the Complete Word of God, Abridged’ at Lapham Peak as the event did not meet the provision of the Department agreement requiring all productions to be family oriented,” said a spokesperson. Translation: “This was turning into a hassle with the possibility of a lawsuit, and it just isn’t worth it.”
I agree that Eliason is an officious trouble-maker, a bully who sees nothing wrong with stopping people from entertaining and being entertained if he doesn’t approve of their taste. But I have some questions: Continue reading
Time For The Government To Say Good-Bye To Religious Holidays
South Brunswick, New Jersey schools have announced that they will henceforth close for two days every year in honor of…Diwali. Quick—what religion celebrates Diwali? The answer is the Hindu faith.
That does it, I think. The canary has officially croaked, and there is no way to sugar-coat it, not that anyone wants a sugar-coated dead canary anyway. State, local and national governments need to cut all ties with religious holidays now, before Americans who observe Gantan-sai, Dia de los Reyes, Maghi, Timkat, Imbolc, L. Ron Hubbard birthday, Ostara, Khordad Sal, Ramayana, Visakha Puja, Declaration of the Bab, Ascension of Baha’u’llah and somebody’s god somewhere knows what else start suing every city council in sight, Bill O’Reilly starts screaming about the war on Christianity, and Michele Bachmann gives speeches about how everyone knows America is a Christian nation, because the Founders, you know, like Charles Dickens, Abraham Lincoln and Jerry Falwell, wanted it that way. Continue reading
Religious Tolerance Ethics: Pro
In State v. Daley, the Ohio Court of Appeals reversed a trial court’s mental incompetence verdict and order of treatment for the defendant because it appeared to be based solely on the defendant’s passionate religious beliefs.
Daley was charged in March 2010 with retaliation, intimidation, aggravated menacing, menacing, and telecommunications harassment. The trial court referred Daley to the court’s psychiatric clinic for a competency evaluation, and the evaluating psychiatrist opined that Daley was not competent to stand trial because he was not able to assist in his defense.
At the competency hearing, Daley testified that, to the contrary, he was able to continue assisting his attorney in his defense. He also testified that his opinions about the legal system, such as his description of divorce court as the “high court of Satan,” were based on his religious belief that divorce is against the word of God. Nevertheless, the trial court found Daley incompetent to stand trial and ordered him hospitalized for restoration to competency. It based its opinion on the diagnosis of the psychiatrist, who testified that Daley, a “radical Christian,” “expresses such extreme intensity of religious belief in very unorthodox religious beliefs to the point to constitute psychosis.” The psychiatrist further testified that treating Daley would “change his psychotic symptoms of which are a religious theme[,]” so that his “intensity and [ ] preoccupation with his religious beliefs will be greatly decreased.” Continue reading