High Noon Ethics Warm-Up, 11/12/2019: Addendum!

  • I ran out of space and a few items came to my attention right after I posted, so here are additions to the Warm-Up:

5. The obvious weakness of the current field of Democratic challengers has revived the Presidential hopes of several wannabe who—correctly—judged themselves unqualified and unlikely to be elected President in 2020. The latest to say “Oh,hell,  why not?” is wan Obama-imitator Deval Patrick, the former Massachusetts governor.

In that other party, ridiculous Mark Sanford suspended his Presidential bid, making the much anticipated Sanford-William Weld debates a lost hope.

Has the United States ever had such a dearth of qualified and trustworthy political leaders, or two political parties so inept at meeting their obligations to the republic? I began re-watching the wonderful HBO miniseries “John Adams.” over the weekend, It was inspiring and depressing simultaneously. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Evening Ethics Update, 11/7/2019: Dr. King Is Un-honored…” (Item #4)

When I read the headline about the reversal of the name-change for the old boulevard in Kansas City, I was secretly hoping it would be because of recent credible revelations that Reverend Martin Luther King had facilitated a rape, and worse. In May, King biographer David Garrow unearthed previously classified FBI documents showing that King was a bad guy in private by any measure, even using a Donald Trump or a Bill Clinton standard. I had written at the time,

“I want to see the ignorant, doctrinaire college students, progressive history censors and pandering politicians face this crisis and either live up to their alleged virtues and censorious standards, or admit that they were dead wrong, as I and many others have been saying all along….

As a civilization, we must recognize and honor the many, many men and women of all races and origins who have made humanity better by their public deeds, intellectual advancements and accomplishments in civic life, war and peace. Few of them, if any, did not have serious flaws or engage during their lives in conduct that today, or even in their own times, would be considered reprehensible. Using these acts, and solely these acts, to assess which historical figures are worthy of being remembered by future generations leads to a societal suicide, embracing a culture without heroes or aspirations.”

I was thus hoping that the statue toppling side of the political spectrum was being forced to sample some of its’ own  medicine, and that King had lost an honor using the same, misguided principle that had the Democrats removing the names of their party’s founders, Jefferson and Jackson, from their annual dinners. Sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander, and perhaps when the gander realizes it’s bitter and stupid sauce, it will smarten up.

No such luck. It doesn’t seem as if King lost his street because he was a sexual predator, just because more Kansas City voters than not thought the old name shouldn’t have been changed in the first place

Steve-O-From NJ, however, does seem to be right about double standards where honors are concerned.

Here is his Comment of The Day on #4, the Kansas City Street Name Battle, in the post, “Evening Ethics Update, 11/7/2019: Dr. King Is Un-honored, Virginian Republicans Are Non-Functional, Fox News Is Pro-Darkness, And Joy Behar Is Still An Idiot”…

[Incidentally, has anyone read any hint of acknowledgment from the U.S. media, African-American groups or the NAACP that Garrow’s information raises a question about the propriety of honoring Dr. King? Neither have I….]

After two years of statue-toppling and other attempts to erase history, it should come as no surprise that eventually someone should suggest yanking something down dedicated to some darling of the left. The fact is that no city is REQUIRED to have a street named for King, nor is any citizen REQUIRED to honor him. In fact, as has been pointed out here, MLK was far from a saint in life, particularly with regard to his poor treatment of women. There is enough reason to criticize him to justify questioning why he should be honored at all, particularly in light of the current attacks on other (much more significant and influential) historical figures such as Columbus and Jefferson.

Of course the Left, and the black community in particular, doesn’t see it that way. If you’re lucky, they’ll just give you a non-answer, to the effect of the one is nothing like the other. If not, they’ll accuse you of being a racist, not because you said something affirmatively racist, but because you failed to give what they believe is proper deference to one of their icons. Continue reading

Unethical Tweet Of The Week: NBC News (And It Goes Right Into The “Nah, There’s No Mainstream Media Bias!” Files]

That’s the tweet. Here was DJT Jr.’s response:

And here was non-partisan blogger Ann Althouse’s response to that:

He’s right. They are hacks. And it was blackface.

And NBC knows it was blackface, though the truly awful Bahar denies it on the link.

Althouse is right that Trump Jr. Is right, and that they are hacks. All of the mainstream media are untrustworthy, biased, dishonest and manipulative hacks, as we enter a crucial political campaign and impeachment fiasco in which public civic literacy and awareness are critical, even as these organization attempt to  undermine it to advance their own political and ideological agendas. Their behavior could hardly be more dangerous, divisive, or destructive.

Now tell me again why it is wrong for the President to call them out as “enemies of the people.” That description is as accurate as “hacks”, and far more correctly alerts us to the seriousness of their corruption.

And to disgrace and expose themselves to hold common cause with the sordid likes of “The View’s” most ignorant and hateful loudmouth! Astounding! I am again reminded of this moment in “A Man For All Seasons,” as Sir Thomas More confronts the man who lied under oath to falsely prove More'[s alleged treason:

But for Joy Behar!

Netflix’s “The Laundromat” And Money Laundering Ethics

Now streaming on Netflix, “The Laundromat” is an entertaining and flamboyant  examination of the phenomenon and roots of international money laundering, brought to us by director Steven Soderbergh (“Erin Brockovich,” “Traffic”) using a screenplay by Scott Z. Burns. The often tongue in cheek film is narrated by actors Gary Oldman and Antonio Bandaras playing lawyers Jürgen Mossack and Ramón Fonseca , whose now defunct firm set up tax shelters and shell corporations for the rich, corrupt and criminal  all over the world. Their empire was shattered by the Panama Papers data dump in 2016.

The film’s tone veers from smug to blunt as it focuses on three adaptations of true stories involving  Mossack Fonseca clients, all narrated by the excuse- and rationalization-spouting lawyers, the real life versions of which tried to sue to halt the production.

“The Panama Papers” as they are now called consisted of 11.5 million leaked documents that detailed financial and attorney–client information for more than 214,488 offshore entities, many of which were legal, but that supported fraudulent schemes and other crimes.  The documents were the property of  Mossack Fonseca. Even now, the fall-out from the release of the documents is unclear, in large part because so many of them involve attorney-client privilege, and the rules and laws governing their legal handling are spread over many nations, laws and ethics rules. The leak itself was a crime, and the hacker responsible, who goes by the name of “John Doe,” has never been identified.

This is an international ethics train wreck, and one that is so complicated that I didn’t cover it in 2016. That was ethics commentary malpractice on my part, I think. It was the biggest ethics story of the year, even if it is still largely unresolved.

Whether the law firm itself broke any laws is still a matter of debate. As Oldman and Bandaras constantly remind us, Mossack Fonseca set up arguably legal structures, and, they claim, didn’t know or care how they would be used. This is still a gray area of legal ethics in the U.S., one that was highlighted when “60 Minutes” broadcast its Global Witness episode in 2016 . Partners in eleven large Manhattan  law firms were caught on hidden cameras  exploring possible ways to represent an individual posing as the agent of an “African despot” seeking ways to launder millions of dollars. The ethics rules say that a lawyer may not knowingly assist a client in a crime or fraud, but contrived ignorance can be an effective, if unethical, device for lawyers to avoid  accountability when representing  unsavory (but profitable) clients.  Remember, Enron’s law firm avoided any sanctions, while the company’s accounting firm, Arthur Anderson, was prosecuted and destroyed.

No, Ethics Alarms didn’t cover the Global Witness scandal either, though I have talked about it in legal ethics seminars ever since. Clearly, money laundering has not had proper priority here. Again, my fault. I’ll do better. Continue reading

Worst Anti-Gun, Anti-Gun Violence Activist Ever

The one thing I can admire in activists, even those whose agendas I find wrong-headed and irresponsible, is integrity. Are they genuinely passionate about what they advocate? Do they really believe the arguments they put forth? Will they adhere to their stated principles even when it becomes profitable or convenient to reject them? I may think an activist is ill-informed, addicted to demagoguery and not very bright (Rep. Octavia-Cortez comes immediately to mind), but I will always, perhaps grudgingly, appreciate his or her passion, dedication, and persistence, if they are accompanied by integrity.

And then we have activists like Ashley Auzenne, 39, a Texas mother who fought for stricter gun control laws and an end to gun violence until last week, when she used a gun to kill herself and her three young children,  Parrish, 11, Eleanor, 9, and Lincoln, 7.

I think it’s fair to call someone who says she wants to  to end violence (Auzenne’s Facebook profile pictures were accompanied with the hashtags #Enough and #EndGunViolence) and then engages in it herself a hypocrite, a liar who publicly pretended to hold one view while personally being capable of engaging in the exact conduct she condemned when it suited her own perceived needs.

Perhaps, on the other hand, we should regard her as the real life equivalent of the villains in various TV shows and movies like 2007’s “Live Free or Die Hard,” the third installment of the Bruce Willis “Die Hard” franchise. In that movie, a tech whiz who had failed in his efforts to persuade the government that crucial systems were vulnerable to hacker attacks sets out to prove his point by becoming a cyber-terrorist who takes control of government and commercial computers across the United States to launch a “fire sale” disabling  the nation’s infrastructure. Continue reading

All Hail Tyler O’Neil, Sleuth Of Shameless Double Standards ! And Isn’t the Web A Marvelous Thing?

Conservative blogger Tyler O’Neil, observing the sputtering outrage from progressives and Democrats (the New York Times even had a lead editorial about it) over President Trump’s description of the partisan effort to remove him from office as a “lynching” (the right word is coup, Mr President), decided to do a little research.

Would you believe that Joe Biden, Rep. Nadler, and many other Democrats used the term “lynching” to describe Bill Clinton’s (completely deserved) impeachment? Sure you would. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/23/2019: On “Lynching” And Other Things

The day looks good, feels bad…

1. No, “lynching” is not the right word for the Democratic Party/”resistance”/news media impeachment assault. The word worked for Clarence Thomas during the Anita Hill ambush, but someone ought to remind the President that Thomas was and is black.

The correct word is coup. This has always been what the effort to delegitimatize and remove Trump has been, and this is what it remains. “Witch hunt,” which some idiot issued as an anti-impeachment talking point again a couple of weeks ago, is also an inappropriate term. It may accurately evoke the McCarthy-like methods being used, but it is historically and politically confusing, focusing on methodology rather than objective.

The inability of this President and his staff to communicate competently is a dangerous weakness. It has always been so, but now more than ever. The public literally doesn’t understand what is going on, and a clear, credible, trustworthy advocate for the President who is able to explain what is so wrong, so insidious, and so damaging to democracy about what the “Troika of Totalitarianism” (I’m trying to imagine what Spiro Agnew would have called them) have been doing since the 2016 election is an essential bulwark against impeachment and conviction. Even someone like—I can’t believe I’m writing this—Lanny Davis would be an upgrade.  Kellyanne Conway destroyed her credibility with her “alternate facts” gaffe. Rudy Giuliani got himself enmeshed in the Ukraine controversy. Mick Mulvaney proved, with his naive and ham-handed explanation about why there is nothing criminal or inappropriate about any President using the leverage of his office to persuade a foreign government to do something that needs doing, that he isn’t up to the job. And the President is foolish to believe that his tweet-storms are an effective remedy against  a news media determined to tell only one side, the “resistance” side,  of the issues.

Why, for example, isn’t there an advocate for the White House who can point out, clearly, that the misleading characterization in this morning’s Times front page “news” story—the New York Times no longer does “news” involving Trump, only adversary spin—that the President used strong-arm tactics to force the Ukraine to “investigate Mr. Trump’s political rivals”? Joe Biden isn’t “political rivals,” he’s a former Vice President of the United Sates who may have been using his high position to enrich his son and warp foreign policy.

At this point, Joe Biden isn’t an official election opponent of the President either. It is completely legal and responsible for our government to find out exactly what was going on in the Biden-Biden-Ukraine tango, and the idea that a President cannot legally pursue investigation of serious misconduct in the previous administration because the members of it can now be called his “rivals” is, or should be,  a transparent Catch-22 concocted to advance the coup. Is that really so hard to explain? Why isn’t anyone explaining it?

A prominent  reason is that one of the more effective and damaging tactics in the coup attempt has been to intimidate and threaten any competent D.C. professionals who could advise and assist a President under siege. Until the Trump administration, the accepted norm when a patriotic member of the Washington establishment, regardless of party,  was invited to help a President was for the individual so invited to say, “Of course.” This was how President Clinton persuaded Reagan advisor David Gergen to rescue his administration from self-immolation.

Today, any political establishment figure, no matter how well-respected before, can count on being savaged in the news media if he or she agrees to join the administration, as well as harassed if they go out for dinner. The phenomenon effectively gives this White House a lobotomy by making it a huge and risky sacrifice to try to assist the White House.  It also isolates the President, and increases the chances of him making his situation worse out of anger, frustration, and his unfortunate lack of impulse control.

This too has been part of the coup strategy from the beginning: withhold from this President all of the honors, respect, fairness, deference and cooperation every other President has earned as a right of office by virtue of being elected, and eventually he will do something that will justify impeachment.

It’s a coup. “Lynching” just muddies the waters, and in this dirty business, muddy waters is exactly what the “resistance” wants and needs. Continue reading