Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/18/2020: The “ARRGGH!” Edition

A weekend?

Frankly, at this point, I can’t tell the difference.

1. ARRGH! Trump Calls For An Insurrection! I must say, having a President who is 12 does create problems. The President’s juvenile “Liberate Michigan!” tweet naturally had the “resistance” in an uproar; the Washington Post even dug up a lawyer from the Obama administration who was willing to write an op-ed seriously arguing that he had advocated the overthrow of the government. Oh, great, I can’t wait for Adam Schiff to try to impeach him for a tweet that had the gravitas of graffiti.

If one concedes that the President should tweet at all—and since he refuses to use any filters whatsoever, I don’t concede that; I doubt that anyone who wants to maintain credibility and trust should tweet—then urging the states to start nudging the economy back into operation is a legitimate objective, and so is opposing outrageous meat-axe over-reach by governors. mayors and police that abuse civil rights—like banning the sale of seeds, or being alone in a car. However, as I am sick of saying, the President’s mode of communication does not include nuance, which makes tweets like yesterday’s irresponsible and incompetent

2. “ARRGH! I’ve been infected!”  When the going gets tough, the tough get scamming. In Arcata, California, a fake on-line ordering webpage named “Order Hero” copied web pages from local restaurants including phone numbers, addresses and actual menu items. Customers accessed the  website through Google, then provided credit card information to order food.  When the victims arrived at the restaurant to pick up their order, they learned no such on-line ordering services existed.
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I Knew You Were All On Pins And Needles Waiting For The Resolution Of This Story, So..

It was almost exactly two years ago when I noted in a Morning Warm-Up that District Court Judge Robert Cicale of Suffolk County New York was arrested for breaking into the home of his  23-year-old former intern  on multiple occasions and stealing panties from her laundry hamper. His Honor was arrested in March 2018 as he was leaving the woman’s house with with his pockets filled with her awaiting-to-be-laundered delicates.  The 49-year-old married father of three was charged with burglary in the second degree.

Calling the  case “highly disturbing,” the prosecutor said at the time, “This is an individual who swore to uphold the law and violated it in a very serious way.The message here, both from the Suffolk County Police Department and the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, is that no one is above the law.”

You mean judges can’t break into the homes of former female interns to steal their panties and do god knows what with them? Who knew? Damn those obscure ethics rules… Continue reading

From The Pandemic Ethics Lessons Files: Unicorns And Elves Do Not Constitute An Emergency

Courts , like hospitals, are having a difficult time handling all of the matters under their jurisdiction  during the health crisis. Staffs are home-bound; judges, who are generally in a high risk demographic, are available only for true emergencies. A lawyer who claims that his or her client’s concerns qualify is asking a lot, and a spurious claim is going to regarded as irresponsible.

Art Ask Agency creates life-like images of fantasy creatures like elves and unicorns. Its lawyers asked the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois for an emergency hearing in their trademark infringement case, though the  Chicago-based federal court’s executive committee had issued an order just two days before holding “all civil litigation in abeyance.”  A court employee had also tested positive for the Wuhan virus that week, leading to the closing of its clerk’s office to the public. Continue reading

Ethics Warm-Up, 3/17/2020: Wuhan Virus-Free Zone. Well, Almost…

Good morning.

Stir crazy yet?

I have discovered, in my ongoing efforts to get traffic here back to 2016 levels, before Facebook banned the blog and The Great Exodus Of The Trump Deranged, that daily visits are 20% higher if I get a post up before 8 am. This has often caused me to get out of bed at 4 am or earlier to hit the keyboard. Today I couldn’t do it: I was so anxious last night about all the looming cancellations of my ethics programs that I barely got any sleep. Sure enough, I’m down about 400 visits compared to yesterday.

There are remarkably few comments on the Paige Spiranac saga. Well, I thought it was interesting. I also must confess that the post was in part for beloved long-time commenter Lucky, who I hope is still following the blog. Paige is his type.

I have concluded that a large number of my Facebook Friends block my posts from their feeds, because they’d rather read the daily wave of anti-Trump columns from the likes of Paul Krugman, Jennifer Rubin, and Michelle Goldberg without any unsettling clarifications from me. I have never unfriended anyone who didn’t personally insult me, but I’d unfriend someone for that. It reminds me of the “Black Mirror” episode where you can block someone in real life, and then they can’t see you, communicate with you, and vice versa.

I’m procrastinating finishing Part III of the Wuhan Virus ethics series. It covers politics and the news media, and the content makes me so angry I can’t see straight. Increasingly I’ve been wanting to write like Kurt Schlichter, the novelist/conservative gadfly, who writes things like,

“But the battle is really for the shriveled heart of the Democrat Party, and no one better represents the yin and the yang of that dying collection of power-hungry elitists and grasping greedos than the doddering socialist Sanders and that Biden guy who should by all rights be chasing that damn know-it-all squirrel around the park.”

I can write like that, I have written like that in the past, and I enjoy writing like that, but its not ethical. Schlichter recently wrote that a snarling Hillary Clinton would pop out of Joe Biden’s chest at the Democratic National Convention like in “Alien.”   What a great image…

1. Do you feel like you are being conditioned and brain washed against your will? In addition to Hollywood’s efforts to change the race or gender of every white male hero of yore, TV commercials are now giving sex changes and race overhauls to iconic characters in ads. “Mikey” in a new Life cereal commercial is a little girl. “Jake from State Farm” is now a black guy. I really don’t care who plays “Mikey” or “Jake from State Farm.” I do object to intrusive woke propaganda.

I’m waiting for Tony the Tiger to show up as a black panther and for a new Jolly Green Giantess…

…who goes “Hee Hee Hee!” Continue reading

From The Ethics Alarms Archives: “Age and the Judge,” And A Current Day Example.

The discussions regarding Joe Biden’s age-related decline reminded me of a post that had been languishing on the runway since mid February. It was prompted by a tip from Neil Doer (I think it was Neil) who pointed me to this article about  a well-respected federal judge in Brooklyn, Jack B. Weinstein who was retiring after more than a half-century on the bench. He’s 98 years old, and it seems like he’s been an outstanding judge. My position was and is, however, that it is unethical for a judge, and indeed any professional, to continue in a position of responsibility at such an advanced age.

Obviously, I would apply that principle to politicians and leaders as well. This is another area where professional sports, especially baseball, provides useful case studies that can be instructive. Players who were great at 25 are also better when they are 40 than the more average players, whose natural decline as the result of aging will usually cause them not be able to perform  at an acceptable standard by late middle age. The great player often will still be good, but almost no player (almost) will be as excellent in his late 30s and early 40s as he was in his prime. As the financial benefits and other perks of playing major league baseball have increased over time, fewer aging greats are willing to go gentle into the good night of retirement. Their last years are often sub-par, certainly for them, or worse, but they will not voluntarily retire. Check the records of Miguel Cabrera, Pete Rose, Willy Mays, and Mickey Mantle, to name just a few.

Famously brilliant and contrary judge Richard Posner took the unpopular position among his colleagues that federal judges ought to have a mandatory retirement age. He recommended 80, but in his own case, when everyone expected him to stay until the bitter end, he retired at 78, because, he said, it was time. I’m not convinced that 80 isn’t still too old, but at least it’s a limit.

I remember well my one meeting with Antonin Scalia at a bar function not long after he had joined the Supreme Court.  He was relaxed and jovial, and when I asked him how long he thought he’d stay on the Court, he laughed and said that he couldn’t imagine staying until they “carried him out,” like so many other justices. He said it was important to leave the bench “while you still have most of your marbles.,” and to him, this meant before 80. He said he would stay about ten years.

Antonin Scalia died while still on the Court, in his 20th year of service, just short of his 80th birthday.

Here, from 2009, is “Age and the Judge.”

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/4/2020: Meltdown In Iowa Edition [CORRECTED]

Good Morning!

As I write this, there are still no final results from the Iowa Caucuses. The cause seems to be some faulty software and generally poor planning by the Iowa Democrats, resulting in chaos. There is a lot of schadenfreude going on at the conservative websites, and it is unseemly. Much as the Democrats deserve to fall on their faces, this is botched democracy in action, and nobody should be gloating about it.  It’s unfair to all of the campaign workers and supporters of the various candidates—even though the supporters of some candidates should hide their heads under a bag—and chaos in the process serves nobody’s interests. What are the odds President Trump sends out a mocking tweet about it this morning?

Here’s Nate Silver explaining what a catastrophe this is for Democrats.

The bon mot turning up in comment sections and social media over and over again last night was “The Democrats can’t handle a caucus, and they want to run the whole country?”

Until the real vote totals are in  it’s all speculation, but it looks like Joe Biden crashed and burned, with his vote totals missing the 15% threshold required to win any delegates.

1. Pete being Pete. Remember what the Ethics Alarms verdict was on Pete Buttigieg a while back? It stands. Mayor Buttigieg declared himself the winner before any useful vote totals were in. Mediaite: “All this dumpster fire of an Iowa caucus was missing was a candidate who declared victory without a single vote being reported. But shortly after midnight eastern on Tuesday morning, Mayor Pete put the cherry on top of this hideous sundae with a confounding speech in which he seemed to proclaim himself the winner.” He has been sharply criticized by just about everybody, and deserves to be. It’s a jerk move.

Meanwhile, the Sanders camp, remembering the underhanded treatment he received from the DNC in 2016, is suggesting that this may all be a plot by the Democratic Dark lords to rob him of a big victory and the proverbial “Iowa Bounce.” I don’t blame them.

2. Stop making me defend Joe Biden! Biden is getting “Ew!’s and “Ick!”s as a result of this photo..

..taken when he gave his 19-year-old granddaughter s peck on the lips during an Iowa rally. Granted, this wouldn’t be an issue if Joe didn’t have a well-deserved reputation for  inappropriate public behavior with women and girls, but this is one of the best examples I have ever seen of how a photograph, contrary to the old saying, can and do lie. The kiss lasted a nanosecond, but the photo makes it look like Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway in “The Thomas Crown Affair.” Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Month: Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch

“The real problem here is the increasingly common practice of trial courts ordering relief that transcends the cases before them. Whether framed as injunctions of ‘nationwide,’ ‘universal,’ or ‘cosmic’ scope, these orders share the same basic flaw—they direct how the defendant must act toward persons who are not parties to the case….

“Equitable remedies, like remedies in general, are meant to redress the injuries sustained by a particular plaintiff in a particular lawsuit. When a district court orders the government not to enforce a rule against the plaintiffs in the case before it, the court redresses the injury that gives rise to its jurisdiction in the first place. But when a court goes further than that, ordering the government to take (or not take) some action with respect to those who are strangers to the suit, it is hard to see how the court could still be acting in the judicial role of resolving cases and controversies. Injunctions like these thus raise serious questions about the scope of courts’ equitable powers under Article III”…

It has become increasingly apparent that this Court must, at some point, confront these important objections to this increasingly widespread practice. As the brief and furious history of the regulation before us illustrates, the routine issuance of universal injunctions is patently unworkable, sowing chaos for litigants, the government, courts, and all those affected by these conflicting decisions…

“If a single successful challenge is enough to stay the challenged rule across the country, the government’s hope of implementing any new policy could face the long odds of a straight sweep, parlaying a 94- to-0 win in the district courts into a 12-to-0 victory in the courts of appeal. A single loss and the policy goes on ice— possibly for good, or just as possibly for some indeterminate period of time until another court jumps in to grant a stay. And all that can repeat, ad infinitum, until either one side gives up or this Court grants certiorari.”

——Justice Neil Gorsuch, concurring in the grant of the stay of a nationwide injunction imposed by a district judge in New York against the implementation  of the Trump administration’s new immigration standards.

The new rules impose additional criteria for determining which potential immigrants  are likely to be dependent on the U.S. government for benefits  and therefore ineligible for green cards and eventual U.S. citizenship. These were proposed in October, 2019, but have been blocked by Democratic judges until today’s decision. Continue reading

Now Don’t Sue Me, SmileDirectClub, Because This Only This Ethicist’s Opinion, But…

“Hey! That’s a GREAT Idea! I LOVE it! Sure I’ll accept a refund in exchange for never telling anyone how lousy your product is!”

…no one should trust or do business with a company that engages in this unethical practice. Just an opinion, now.

What SmileDirectClub does, as documented in a New York Times Business Section story, is force customers to sign a non-disclosure (or confidentiality) agreement before they can receive refunds for unsatisfactory products. That way, other customer can’t find out about what the SmileDirectClub  can turn out to be, and in ignorance are more unwitting customers.

Here’s an excerpt from the Times piece: Continue reading

Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up. 12/14/19: Insulting George Washington And Other Annoyances

Good Morning!

1. Now THIS ia an abuse of power! It sure looks as if outgoing Kentucky governor Matt Bevin—he’s a Republican, remember— has decided to take revenge on the state that narrowly defeated him for re-election. Right before he moved out of the Governor’s Mansion, Bevin issued 428 pardons and commutations, often without apparent regard to who or what he was pardoning. He pardoned a man convicted of homicide, after the murderer’s  family raised more than $20,000  to help Bevin pay off a debt owed from his previous gubernatorial campaign.  That wasn’t the only murderer Kentucky got back in its Christmas stocking; there were more, like the man who paid to have his business partner killed, and  another who killed his parents.. Bevin released a man convicted of raping a child.

While many of the pardons issued did involve cases where there were allegations of  sloppy police work and injustice, many did not. Bevin pardoned  Dayton Ross Jones, who pleaded guilty to the 2014 sexual assault of a 15-year-old boy, for example. That crime was captured on video and shared on social media. Jones was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2016. Now he’s out.

“A young man was attacked, was violated, it was filmed, it was sent out to different people at his school,” Kentucky’s new governor, Andy Beshear said. “It was one of the worst crimes that we have seen. I fully disagree with that pardon. It is a shame and its wrong.”

But there isn’t a thing he or Kentucky citizens can do about it.

2. Let’s ask Chris Wallace about this sterling example of fair and balanced journalism...I know that Ethics Alarms has documented over many years what a partisan, biased, incompetent and dishonest hack Chris Cillizza is, so this is hardly news. Still, he has a job at CNN, which allows him to inflict his hackery on the public. An ethical news organization wouldn’t keep someone like Cillizza around., but as James Earl Jones used to say, “This is CNN.” The disturbing part is that he’s far from the worst hack on its payroll.

A Monmouth University poll this week claimed that Republican voters believed that George Washington was a better President than Donald Trump by only a 44%-37% margin. (Remember: polls.)  Cillizza said that fact that 37% of Republican respondents chose Trump over Washington provides “a useful way into understanding just how rote the fealty is to Trump within the ranks of the Republican Party at the moment.”

Let me just interject here that almost no Americans could tell you anything about George Washington’s terms in office other than the fact that he was the first President. (This is another reason to watch “John Adams.”)

While implying that Republicans are ignorant morons, however, Cillizza neglected to mention another alleged result of the poll: Democratic voters said former President Barack Obama was a better President than George an embarrassing 63%-29% margin. Continue reading

Missouri Judges Want Public Defenders To Violate Their Ethics Rules

“Hey, Julie! Here’s another drug possession case for you! Looks like a bad stop and frisk…”

The overworked public defender problem is a massive ethics and civil rights problem that few members of the public know about, and fewer care about.

Many cities have underfunded public defender offices, meaning that the mostly young lawyers working there who are charged with protecting the rights of indigent citizens accused of crimes have excessive case loads, often brutally excessive. In some states, judges have ordered the offices to accept no more cases until additional lawyers are hired, because a lawyer’s representation must be competent and diligent, and these ethical requirements become literally impossible to meet when a lawyer has accepted responsibility for too many cases. In situations where public defenders have argued that indigent clients should be able to waive competence and diligence requirements (since the alternative may be no representation at all), the argument has been rejected. Those ethical requirements cannot be waived. They are mandatory.

In his article on the subject, Professor Stephen Hanlon of St. Louis University Law School, a civil rights specialist, writes, Continue reading