Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Catch-Up, 8/22/18: Manafort, Cohen, and Mollie”

No, I wasn’t just looking for an excuse to post a photo of Stormy. This is an ethics blog!

Chris Marschner authored a Comment Of The Day this morning, which reminded me that another of his Comments Of The Day had been waiting on the runway for almost a month.

I’m glad of this, because the topic has nothing to do with the Kavanaugh hearings. Chris was writing about the then-popular impeachment plan–Plan K-— raised by Michael Cohen’s fixing activities. Would I rather think about Michael Cohen or Christine Blasey Ford? Would I rather be kicked in the head by a Clydesdale or a musk ox?

Here is Chris Marschner’s Comment of the Day on the post, Morning Ethics Catch-Up, 8/22/18: Manafort, Cohen, and Mollie:

In your post regarding Gulliani’s quote “the truth is not the truth.” I opined that the truth was what one wishes to believe.

The entire question of whether a payment made by or on behalf of another to obtain an NDA for acts that may be embarrassing is an election law violation begs the question regarding taxpayer funded settlements made to congressional staffers to settle harassment claims by members of Congress. These settlements appear to have similar codicils for non disclosure for the express purpose of avoiding personal embarrassment that could influence their reelection bid.

Michael Avenatti claims his fees are being paid through a crowdfunding site but there appears to be no way to determine if much of those funds that flow through the site are from 10,000 unique people or one person or group. For all anyone knows large sums could becoming from Tom Steyer, George Soros, or even the Russians. Mr. Avenatti does not publicize the fact that he claimed to be the originator of “The Apprentice” and sued Trump years ago. He also does not publicize the fact that he is closely tied to Rahm Emmanuel and the Obamas.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/11/2018: The Yankees Get Nasty, The Times Keeps Distorting, Rudy Is Sacked, And Dangerous Advice From An HR Expert

A lovely May morn to all!

1 As I have always said, the Yankees are evil. Most serious baseball fans,  and presumably all Baltimore Orioles fans, remember how in the 1996 ALCS play-offs,  a young New York Yankees fan named Jeffrey Maier turned what should have been a crucial out for his team into a game-tying home run by Derek Jeter in the 8th inning of Game 1, by reaching over the fence and catching the ball before it could fall into O’s rightfielder Tony Tarasco’s glove. This was interference, but it was before the challenge and replay rule, and the umpires, as is too often the case, missed the play. The Yankees won the game, the series and the World Series, and the Yankees and their city celebrated Maier as a hero—for, in essence, cheating on their behalf. The rules announced at the beginning of each game dictate that such conduct will result in an offending fan being thrown out of the stadium, but never mind: the ends justify the means, consequentialism, moral luck, double standards, hypocrisy…readers here know the litany. Misconduct was rewarded and extolled because everyone loved the result. New York, New York!

Now let’s go forward 22 years to last night’s tense game between the Yankees and their eternal rivals, the Boston Red Sox, also in Yankee Stadium (the new version.) The Yankees, as they had the previous two nights, rallied late against the hapless Boston bullpen and tied the game, 4-4, in the 7th inning. In the Sox 8th, J.D. Martinez hit a lazy fly that just got over the short right field fence and leaping gargantuan Yankees rightfielder Aaron Judge’s glove, into the outreached glove of another young fan, except that this one did not reach over the fence, and did not, as the replay showed clearly, interfere with Judge in any way.

Ah, but the home run he caught was hit by a Red Sox player, and put the Yankees behind in the game, after the fans’ hopes had been raised.

Yankee Stadium security hauled the fan out of the stadium.

The Red Sox won the game.

Good.

2. The Good Illegal Immigrant on stage…just to remind us of how pervasive false narratives are..I have kept an April 10 New York Times feature around just to raise my blood pressure in case I need a jolt. The article hails “Miss You Like Hell,” a new musical produced at Manhattan’s Public Theater. The show is about the pain and suffering endured by people who are in the United States illegally, having presumed to take what they want in defiance of our laws and policy, but no sense of wrongdoing is even hinted at in the story. The Times uses the deceitful cover-phrase “undocumented immigrant,” which was devised deliberately to blur the illegal immigration issue.

Today, as has been increasingly the case throughout the news media, a front page Times article uses “immigration” interchangeably with “illegal immigration.” This, of course, advances the lie that the those who oppose illegal immigration—that is, those who oppose law-breaking without consequence as national policy–are anti-immigrant.

This same story was headlined by the Washington Post, “Trump unloads on Homeland Security secretary in lengthy immigration tirade.” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/3/2018: Katie’s Rationalization, Teachers’ Extortion, Rudy’s Zugswang, And Kanye’s Influence

Goooood morning!

(I thought it was time for “Singin’ in the Rain” again. Of course, it is always time for “Singin’ in the Rain”…)

1. And that’s when you know…When alleged sexual harassers are accused, the way you know whether they are guilty or not often depends on whether the floodgates open, and large numbers of other women step forward. This was Bill Cosby’s downfall. Now we learn that 27 more victims of Charlie Rose have raised their metaphorical hands. Sorry, Charlie!

The mystery to me is why  current and former colleagues of outed abusers and harassers so often rush to defend them, even post #MeToo, and even women. I suppose is cognitive dissonance again: the defenders have high regard for the harasser, and simply can’t process the fact that they may have been engaged in awful conduct. Katie Couric’s defense of Matt Lauer, however, is especially damning.

Variety reported that Lauer’s office had a button that allowed him to remotely lock his office door when he had female prey within his grasp…

“His office was in a secluded space, and he had a button under his desk that allowed him to lock his door from the inside without getting up. This afforded him the assurance of privacy. It allowed him to welcome female employees and initiate inappropriate contact while knowing nobody could walk in on him, according to two women who were sexually harassed by Lauer.”

Yet on “The Wendy Williams Show” this week, Couric “explained”…

“I think the whole button thing, you know? I think — NBC — a lot of stuff gets misreported and blown out of proportion. A lot of NBC executives, they make it sound like some kind of den of inequity. I don’t know what was happening. A lot of NBC executives have those buttons that opened and closed doors… They did. I mean, it was really just a privacy thing. It wasn’t..Honestly I think it was an executive perk that some people opted to have and I don’t think it was a nefarious thing. I really don’t. And I think that is misconstrued….”

Wowsers. First, Couric is intentionally blurring the facts, using “open and close” as a euphemism for “unlock and lock.” I guarantee that no button would cause the office door to swing open or swing closed, as Couric suggested. I’ve searched for such a device: all I can find are remote office door locking mechanisms. Second, while it is true that other NBC execs once had that feature, it appears that Lauer was “was one of the few, if not the only, NBC News employee to have one,”a senior NBC News employee told the Washington Post.

Second, Couric is engaging in The Golden Rationalization: “Everybody does it.”

2.  Extortion works! Arizona’s governor signed a 9% pay increase for the state’s teachers, because the teachers engaged in a wildcat strike, kids were missing school, and parents couldn’t go to work without their state funded child-sitters. I’m not going to analyze whether the teachers demands were right or wrong, because it doesn’t matter. The teachers’ tactic was unethical, just like the Boston police strike in 1919 was unethical, just like  the air traffic controllers strike in  1981. In the former, Massachusetts governor Calvin Coolidge (what happened to that guy?) famously fired all the striking cops, saying in part that  “The right of the police of Boston to affiliate has always been questioned, never granted, is now prohibited…There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.” President Reagan quoted Cal when he fired the air traffic controllers and eliminated its union.

Striking against children and their education is also a strike against the public safety. What now stops the teachers, in Arizona or anywhere else, from using similar extortion tactics for more raise, policies they favor, or any other objective?  What was lacking here was political leadership possessing the integrity and courage to tell the teachers to do their jobs during negotiations, or be fired.

This precedent will rapidly demonstrate why public unions are a menace to democracy Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Week: The New York Times, Regarding Legal Ethics Dunce David Boies’s Ride On The Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck

There are a lot of ethics issues, legal and otherwise, flying around in the shocking—this really is shocking—revelation that lawyer Al Gore’s Supreme Court lawyer (and loser) David Boies was working to help Harvey Weinstein intimidate and discredit the women who were preparing to accuse him of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape.

The New Yorker reports in an investigative reporting piece that the Boies firm was retained by Weinstein, and on his behalf hired Black Cube, an investigative company run by former Israeli intelligence agents to prevent the publication of abuse allegations by creating profiles on the targeted accusers, often using pretexting–that is, lies— to gain access to proprietary information. Black Cube’s work included psychological profiles and sexual histories of the potential Weinstein accusers. The engagement with Black Cube  was presumably run through Boies Schiller Flexner  to place the shady matter under attorney-client privilege.

David Boies personally signed the contract with Black Cube, which, according to the New Yorker, was to obtain ” intelligence which will help the Client’s—that is, Weinstein’s— efforts to completely stop the publication of a new negative article in a leading NY newspaper” and to “obtain additional content of a book currently being written [that] includes harmful negative information on and about the Client.”

Did you see “Michel Clayton,” where George Clooney played a law firm’s “fixer”? That’s what Boies was doing here. “Fixing.” And fixing is a dirty business.

That “leading NY newspaper” was and is the New York Times, which, as we now know, was readying its own sensational story regarding the accusations against Weinstein.The New York Times was also a client of Boies Schiller Flexner, though on unrelated matters, hence the statement above. Unsurprisingly, the Times has sacked Boies and his boys.

[Aside: Here’s a lawyer ethics practice tip. If a client asks you to contract with a company called “Black Cube,” “CHAOS,’ “The Legion of Evil,” “The Black Hand,” or “Murder, Inc.”, just say no.]

Some ethics questions and answers: Continue reading