No, I’m Not Going To Write About Ethics And #Gamergate

Whatever.

Whatever.

I keep getting emails asking when I’m going to discuss Gamergate on Ethics Alarms. Several readers have sent me extensive links to bring me up to date. I’ve read them, or at least tried. Not since I was assigned the tome Peace and War by Raymond Aron has any text bored me more.

Gamergate appears to have all the markers of an ethics train wreck, but to me, at least, the train might as well be in Mongolia. I can’t contribute anything of value on this topic, because gaming is not part of my life, skill-set or interests in any way. This is a culture I don’t understand, and frankly, don’t have the time or interest to understand. I make a yeoman effort to keep up with popular culture, because I think once it gets too far ahead of you, your ability to understand the world around you is severely limited. But triage is essential. Just a few years ago, I knew who all the celebrity contestants on “Dancing With The Stars” were; this year, I never heard of half of them. More than half the stories on TMZ lately are about “celebrities” that are completely off my radar screen. I am confident, however, that in about six months, most of these stealth celebrities will be where Snookie and “The Situation” are now, which is obscurity, has-been Hell, or maybe jail.

There are ethics lessons to glean from this endless gamer scandal, but Ethics Alarms will just have to glean them elsewhere. For those who feel neglected, I highly recommend the recent post by Ken at Popehat, along with his links. It hits most of the salient ethics issues, and Ken, I gather, follows this stuff, as do his Popehat colleagues. My hat’s off to him, and them. But #Gamergate is one ethics controversy that I am not qualified to explore, and don’t want to be.

Ethics Quote of the Day: Ken White at Popehat

File photo of U.S. Director of Exempt Organizations for the IRS Lerner being sworn in to testify before a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing in Washington

“Pardon me: if you accept the proposition that the government targets organizations for IRS scrutiny because of their political views, and you still say things like ‘why take the Fifth if you have nothing to hide’, then you’re either an idiot or a dishonest partisan hack.”

—-Attorney-blogger Ken White, discussing former IRS official Lois Lerner’s refusal to testify in front of Rep. Daryl Issa’s House Government Oversight Committee

Good point.

Elaborating on the point before this statement, Ken points out why this is so:

“You take the Fifth because the government can’t be trusted. You take the Fifth because what the truth is, and what the government thinks the truth is, are two very different things. You take the Fifth because even if you didn’t do anything wrong your statements can be used as building blocks in dishonest, or malicious, or politically motivated prosecutions against you. You take the Fifth because if you answer questions truthfully the government may still decide you are lying and prosecute you for lying.”

Got it. Or, you take the Fifth because you really did engage in illegal activity in a coordinated effort to obstruct legal political action for partisan motives, on orders from someone with close ties to the White House, which still may be the case.

In the same post, Ken explains that Lerner may have waived her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, or may not. If she has, then she is in contempt of Congress. If she hasn’t, she isn’t.

My observations on this slow-motion ethics train wreck: Continue reading

The Ethics Stories I’m Not Going To Write About

FlamingBirthdayCake1

I am often tempted to write one of those short, bullet point, stream-of-consciousness posts like some fool used to pay Larry King to write for his awful syndicated column, which included trenchant observations like, “For my money, there’s no better game show host than Bert Convy!” Such a post would take a lot less time, and I could cover more of the myriad ethics issues I encounter in my research every day that for one reason or another—the main one being I have to work for a living—never make it to the pages of Ethics Alarms. But it’s my birthday, dammit; I am one year closer to death, I miss my Dad (you too, Mom, but you picked a better day to die), and it’s pretty clear that I will have “epic underachiever” on my headstone where Jack Marshall, Sr’s reads “Silver Star,” so in lieu of any other celebration, I’m going to, just this once, use the bullet point format to note a bunch of the things I normally wouldn’t get around to writing about. Like: Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Day: Ken at Popehat

“If you practice as a lawyer, you owe it to your clients only to do the things you are competent to do. Embarking on the defense of a man accused of murder as your first trial is a moral and ethical outrage. Regrettably, the profession is barraged with eager voices telling us that attracting clients with puffery and keywords and Twitter accounts is the way to build a practice. Nobody’s reminding us that you have an obligation to know what you’re doing before you accept the client. Somebody should.”

—-Ken, the lead blogger/attorney/libertarian/ wit/ First Amendment champion at Popehat, summarizing the lessons of the Joseph Rakofsky saga. Rakofsky was a green D.C. lawyer ( he is still a lawyer, less green but sadder and wiser) who indeed did take a murder defense as his first trial, made an epic botch of it, and then launched a desperate defamation lawsuit at legal bloggers, like Ken, who had told his cautionary tale to the world with appropriate ire. The law suit was dismissed last week.

What's next for Joseph Radofsky? Maybe he'll run for President....

What’s next for Joseph Radofsky? Maybe he’ll run for President….

Competence is an ethical value, especially in the professions, but also in most pursuits. Taking on the responsibility of accomplishing a task creates a duty, and doing so without being justifiably certain that you will have the skills to do it is reckless and irresponsible.

Ken, an experienced and accomplished attorney whom I have consulted for his professional advice in the past, also knows that inexperience does have to be eradicated with experience, and a strict application of his statement in all cases would lead to a frustrating Catch 22. Every pilot has to take that first solo flight; every head surgeon has his first major operation; and Clarence Darrow had to take on that first murder trial before he could say with complete confidence that he knew exactly what to do. On a more basic level, any lawyer taking on a representation in a type of matter she has never handled before, such as drafting a will, will be, in  a sense, accepting a client before she knows what she is doing, because she hasn’t done it before. That’s okay, however: the ethics rules, as expressed in the American Bar Association’s Rules of Professional Conduct (in Rule 1.1) say its okay, as long as, by the time the task is underway, the lawyer is sufficiently competent: Continue reading

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula Is Not A Political Prisoner

My favorite Nakoula arrest meme: Funny, but wrong.

My favorite Nakoula arrest meme: Funny, but wrong.

The Congressional hearings regarding what increasingly appears to be intentional dissembling by the Obama Administration to minimize the political fallout from the Benghazi terrorist attack have, predictably, sparked renewed attention to the fate of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the creator of the anti-Islamist Youtube video that Hillary, the President, and Susan Rice pretended was the reason an ambassador and others ended up dead.

Nakoula is in prison, and his arrest for violating the terms of his probation was certainly well-timed for Obama Administration spin  purposes; purportedly (and if true, outrageously) Hillary Clinton told the family of one of the slain Americans that the filmmaker responsible for the video would be punished. This is only hearsay, but I am inclined to believe it: it is pure Clinton, masterful deceit. Nakoula couldn’t be punished for the video, of course, because of that darn old First Amendment. But Hillary may have known that he was headed for punishment and prison for something else, so it was a perfect ploy to make the victims’ families and any offended Muslims think this was why he was going to jail. Me, I think that oh-so-clever ploy is a betrayal of American integrity and values, but that depends on what the meaning of is is.

The Right, however, is sure that Nakoula was arrested for the video, one way or the other. Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review, has come right out and said that he’s a political prisoner. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Ken At Popehat

Don't look under that federal prosecutor's bag!

Don’t look under that federal prosecutor’s bag!

Not for the first time by a longshot, lawyer/First Amendment warrior/blogger Ken at the sui generis blog Popehat has earned an Ethics Hero award. This time, his achievement included:

  • Recognizing the widespread perpetration of a double standard that cannot be justified
  • Opposing it, though the legal and journalistic establishments are firmly on the other side, and
  • Remedying the immediate situation through his own efforts.

That’s a good year for most bloggers.

Ken was responding to a story that was widely publicized. Justice Sotomayor  had taken the unusual course of writing a separate opinion as she and her colleagues denied cert (that is, refused to take an appeal) in the case of Bogani Charles Calhoun v. United States, using it to condemn what she called the racist tactics of a federal prosecutor. Among her comments, she wrote, sharply, Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Month: Ken At Popehat

“Evil exists. Good people should fight evil. But government is often the wrong instrument to fight evil. The people doing sick and contemptible things to children in the name of “curing” homosexuality very likely feel as strongly as I do, and might — if they got their way — use government to achieve their ends. People who love liberty must fight with their heads, not just their hearts.”

—– Ken, the First Amendment besotted lawyer/blogger/libertarian/wit who reigns at Popehat, writing about his doubts regarding California’s ban of so-called “conversion therapy.”

I recommend that you read the whole post, and everything Ken writes, basically.

I’m somewhat less conflicted than Ken in my opposition to this legislation, and wrote about the ban earlier this year, here, and here.

The Golden Rule Sets Off An Ethics Alarm At Popehat

I posted earlier here about the efforts by lawyers (and bloggers) Marc Randazza and Ken at Popehat to foil the despicable operators of “IsAnybodyDown?” That vile website solicits and uses nude photos of women who have not given permission for them to be posted. It often posts contact information for the women as well, and, as a final touch, promotes an alleged legal service that guarantees that it will get the photos taken down. This is a good bet, since the legal service is operated by the same two men who run the site, though it is very unlikely that the “lawyer” really exists. After Marc and Ken challenged the site, its purveyors launched another one accusing them of secretly working for pornography interests and being funded by the Mob.

These are not, in other words, nice people.

In his most recent post about their ongoing battle, Ken recounted an e-mail exchange with Chance Trahan, who founded and operates  “IsAnybodyDown?”with Craig Brittain. It is an exchange that confirms what one would assume about someone who engages in a business like his. A typical tweet from Chance to Craig reads in part, “You aren’t shit to the world you immoral fuck.” Yet Ken was moved to reflect upon even this individual’s humanity, applying the Golden Rule to and musing about how even the likes of Trahan and Brittain can have redeeming qualities. In doing so he provided as profound and lovely reflection on the ethical process of reciprocity, as well as kindness, fairness, forgiveness and empathy. With Ken’s permission, I present it here. Continue reading

Ethics Hero Vs. Unethical Website and Scammer: Marc Randazza Takes Aim At The Contemptible “Is Anybody Down” and “The Takedown Lawyer”

Go get em, Marc!

First Amendment lawyer Marc Randazza is a genuine Ethics Hero. I speak from personal experience: when a cyber-bully was trying to use a threatened libel lawsuit to force me to remove a posted opinion he didn’t like, Marc (thoughtfully referred by Ken at Popehat), generously offered his time and advice…and Marc does this all the time. Right now he has a different mission: exposing a revolting cyberscam and hounding the perpetrators into retreat. His target is the website “Is Anybody Down,” and a more disgusting web enterprise would be hard to imagine, and its parasitic creation, the “Takedown Lawyer.”

I’ll let Marc explain why he has “Is Anybody Down” on his hit list:

Here’s their business plan:

  • Step one: Register the domain name “isanybodydown.com”
  • Step two: Get ahold of nude photos of people who never consented to having their photos published.
  • Step three:Publish them, along with their names, home towns, and links to their facebook profiles.

So now how do you “profit?” Well, openly saying “I’ll take down the photo for $250,” would probably create some legal issues for you. So, instead, you create a fake lawyer persona and say “I am an internet lawyer, named David Blade, III, and I’ll get your pics down for $250.” Continue reading

An Important Post At Popehat: “A Year of Blasphemy”

Ban it?

Ken, the witty First Amendment champion who blogs at Popehat, had issued an important and meticulously researched review of how blasphemy has been punished around the world in the past 12 months. He introduces his survey, in part, by writing…

“The incendiary film “”The Innocence of Muslims” was merely an unconvincing pretext for a terrorist attack, not the true cause of the attack. Yet the film has spurred new discussions of American free speech exceptionalism, and led some to question whether we should hew to the First Amendment in the face of worldwide demands for an international ban on blasphemy… We should address such views, not ignore them. But as we consider them — as we evaluate whether anti-blasphemy laws will ever be consistent with the modern American values embodied in our First Amendment precedents — we should examine what the competing values truly are. What are the “other values” which other societies believe outweigh free speech? What sorts of things “inflame” people in those societies? If other societies understand free expression differently than we do, how do they understand it? What “international norms” are emerging on blasphemy?” Continue reading