Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/3/2019: “Thing’s Are Seldom What They Seem…”

Good afternoon!

1. Today’s source of maximum irritation. Remember those California wildfires at the end of last year that the news media kept reporting as proof of climate change and that prompted Democrats and talking heads to sneer in disdain at anyone, especially President Trump, who suggested that electrical equipment just might have been the cause? From NPR:

Pacific Gas and Electric says it’s “probable” that its equipment caused the Camp Fire in Northern California, the deadliest and most destructive in the state’s history.

California has not finished its investigation into PG&E’s culpability in last November’s fire that killed at least 85 people, destroyed about 14,000 structures, displacing tens of thousands of people and destroying the town of Paradise. However, the state’s largest utility, which filed for bankruptcy last month, said Thursday it expects the investigation will find that its damaged infrastructure sparked the fire.

Please let Ethics Alarms know how many of the news shows this morning mention this development.

2. Spring Training ethics note: Good news! Ethics Alarms has been campaigning for robo-umps at home plate to call balls and strikes for several years. Now MLB announces that it has finalized a three-year deal with the independent Atlantic League to have the league test rules innovations and equipment for the Show. This will include computer calling of pitches. Not so good news: it will also reportedly include moving the mound back, which is heresy.

3. Concern for Popehat’s Ken White.  There is not a smarter, more passionate, better blogger on the planet than lawyer Ken White, and while we have had our disagreements, his commentary on law and justice especially is a blessing for all Americans, even though most don’t have the sense to benefit from it. One of many reasons I admire Ken is that he has been candid about his battle with depression, a killer illness that too many people don’t understand. That malady runs in my family (or as Mortimer Brewster says in “Arsenic and Old Lace,” “Runs? It practically gallups!”), and has been responsible for more than one suicide. Popehat once was a collective, but now it’s almost entirely Ken, with occasional drop-ins from the acerbic Mark Randazza. The blog’s last entry was January 4, almost two months. I’m worried, as are most of Ken’s fans I’m sure, and I am officially sending Ethics Alarms best wishes and love to one of the really good people in multiple roles: lawyer, blogger, public educator. Get back as soon as you can, Ken. We need you. Continue reading

Popehat Nails Dershowitz For Misrepresenting The Law

Ken White of Popehat comes out guns blazing to take celebrity lawyer Alan Dershowitz down for misrepresenting the law in several of his increasingly frequent media appearances. Ken nails his target, too. Even the former prosecutor’s characterization that Dershowitz is lying is not excessive or unfair.

You need to read the whole post, for it is superb, thorough and airtight. Here is a precis, however, in Ken’s words, not mine.

The subject of Professor Dershowitz’s dishonesty — for the purpose of this essay — is General Michael Flynn’s lies to FBI agents and his subsequent guilty plea for lying under 18 U.S.C. section 1001. Professor Dershowitz has asserted, repeatedly, that Flynn did not violate Section 1001 because his lies were not “material” — that is, meaningful. He claims that the lies were not “material” because the FBI knew at the time Flynn was lying, and was not fooled…

Dershowitz has promoted the same point explicitly in writing:

When questioning any suspect, officials should not ask questions whose answers they already know, for the sole purpose of seeing whether the suspect will lie. If they do ask such questions, untruthful answers should not be deemed “material” to the investigation, because the FBI already knew the truth.

This is a perfectly arguable statement of what the law should be. But someone reading Dershowitz’s column could be forgiven for thinking that’s what the law is — or, at least, that the law is unsettled on the point. The essay utterly fails to divulge that every court to consider the argument has rejected it….

I am not aware of any cases construing Section 1001 that go the other way. Nor is there any credible indication that the United States Supreme Court would go the other way and decide that a false statement to the government does not violate Section 1001 if the government already knows that it is false. To the contrary, the Court has signaled that it would reject that argument…

n short, there is no credible argument that Alan Dershowitz’s repeated assertion is a correct statement of the law. It would be malpractice to advise a client that way. It would be deceitful to tell students. And it’s dishonest to tell the nation without telling them that this is your theory of what the law should be, without revealing what the law is. Advocates push the boundaries of the law. They ought to. But honest advocacy doesn’t involve lying about the current state of the law. Indeed, lawyers have an ethical obligation to reveal contrary authority when arguing in court, and judges will burn you down to the ground if you don’t. I would argue that legal experts — who trade on their reputation for knowing what the law is — have a similar ethical obligation to reveal when existing law flatly contradicts what they are arguing.

Continue reading

Ken White Enlightens Us Regarding Judge Kavanaugh

Libertarian, free speech specialist lawyer/blogger Ken White has some news for the anti-Brett Kavanaugh fanatics who are claiming that he will lead an evil Republican plot to take away our civil rights. In a Popehat post titled “You”ll Hate This Post on Brett Kavanaugh”, —which tells you a lot about his readers, don’t you think?—Ken demonstrates that he. unlike the reflex foes of President Trump’s distinguished nominee to replace Justice Kennedy on the Supreme Court, has done his home work, and has made a fair and objective analysis of Kavanaugh’s record on the crucial Constitutional issue of free speech.

His conclusion?

“In conclusion, Kavanaugh’s work on the D.C. Circuit show a judge strongly protective of free speech rights, and part of the trend of applying free speech doctrines both to classic scenarios and to government regulation. His stance on telecommunications and elections laws will get him painted as part of the “weaponize free speech” movement by results-oriented thinkers. He’s strong on First Amendment limits on defamation law and his approach to anti-SLAPP statutes do not, as some have suggested, signal that he wants to make defamation cases easier. But though he might help upset applecarts by applying the First Amendment to regulatory schemes, and will not uphold broad speech restrictions, he will likely not overturn doctrines that make it hard for individuals to recover for speech violations.”

Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Ken White Of Popehat

I haven’t featured Ken White lately, in part because Popehat’s posts are sporadic, unlike those of mad bloggers who habitually post multiple essays a day. However, Ken’s most recent post is the epitome of  ethical blogging at its best. It is long, but absolutely worth the time to read. His subject is the internet pile-on against a mentally ill writer named Kenneth Eng, who, Ken points out, was obviously not well, and yet was mercilessly attacked and mocked. Fox News even exploited his illness for some sensational cable moments—shades of Sam Nunberg!  Ken, who has written frankly and courageously about his own battles with clinical depression, takes a hard ethics inventory, finds himself and the internet community lacking, and does a superb job—as usual—of clarifying a difficult issue.  I have had my differences with Ken, but at his best, White is as ethically astute and clear a writer as there is online, with an almost unfailing ability to point us in the right direction.

He writes in part, Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/1/17: Moochie’s Back, And Despicable As Ever! Democratic Race-Baiting Never Went Away! And A Jury Shows Why Kate Steinle’s Shooter Keeps Coming Back To San Francisco…

Good Morning!

(Although it was reportedly a rough morning for the former Eleanor Coulouris 67 years ago_)

Or so I was told.

1. It’s NOT okay to be white? CNN Commentator Angela Rye, formerly executive director of the Congressional  Black Caucus, told CNN audiences that “white, liberal women” were the cause of the pressure on iconic Michigan Representative John Conyers to resign from Congress. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi would have never called for Conyers to resign if it weren’t  the other “white, liberal women” pressuring her to do so.  Rye, who earlier in the week said that a racist double standards was causing Conyers to be pressured to resign while white Democratic Senator Al Franken was not, said,

“I think Nancy Pelosi made a commitment to the members of the Congressional Black Caucus that she would not call for Conyers resignation before due process was allowed to take place. Now she’s being faced with the pressure of white, liberal women for the most part who have told her she needs to say something different.”

Rye echoes the reported sentiment of Congressional Black Caucus member Rep. James Clyburn, who noted that all of Conyers’ accusers were white. Doubtlessly agreeing with her is Mrs, Conyers, who told reporters staking out Conyers’ home yesterday to “Go and stalk white people’s houses.”

Observations:

  • Race-baiting and using racism as an excuse for any criticism of black politicians is still the reflex response of far too many Democrats, in part because they face no consequences for doing so, and because any whites who object are tarred as white supremacists.
  • Until the news media and  progressives have the integrity to treat this tactic for what it is, and as exactly as intolerable as white racism, the nation will continue to split hard along racial lines. I guess that’s what the Left wants.
  • How can CNN justify continuing to employ a “contributor” like Rye—it has some others, too—who is a stone-cold racist?
  • How can anyone who abhors racism in all its forms continue to patronize an intentionally racial division-promoting news source that does employ someone like Rye?
  • Here, for people like Rye—you know, stupid people—are some reasons Al Franken’s situation is distinguishable from that of  Conyers: he is thirty years younger and shouldn’t have retired about a decade ago anyway; he, unlike Conyers, hasn’t flatly denied all of the allegations against him as they keep on coming; a Senator resigning is a bigger deal than a Representative resigning; and Nancy Pelosi doesn’t oversee Senate Democrats.

Also there are no reports of Franken habitually meeting with female staffers without his pants on. It’s small thing—well, not that small—but still…

2. No, really, it isn’t OK...In related news,Texas State University student journalist Rudy Martinez wrote an article entitled “Your DNA Is An Abomination”—referring to white DNA, of course—for The University Star,  the University of Texas student publication. The piece also advocated the death of whites, which is unpleasantly close to calling for them to  be killed. If you think I’m going to point out that any student who wrote this about blacks in a student newspaper would be quickly disciplined, while the newspaper editor responsible for publishing such vile material was hounded of campus, you’re right. If the University of Texas administrators had any integrity, common sense or guts, it would, this is what would happen. At least the president of Texas State, Denise M. Trauth, said that “The column’s central theme was abhorrent and is contrary to the core values of inclusion and unity that our Bobcat students, faculty, and staff hold dear.” That’s nice. Why is Texas State graduating racists? From the column:

“Ontologically speaking, white death will mean liberation for all. Accept this death as the first step toward defining yourself as something other than the oppressor. Until then, remember this: I hate you because you shouldn’t exist. You are both the dominant apparatus on the planet and the void in which all other cultures, upon meeting you, die.”

Denise Cervantes, The University Star’s editor-in-chief, pulled the column and apologized, saying “We acknowledge that the column could have been clearer in its message and that it has caused hurt within our campus community. We apologize and hope that we can move forward to a place of productive dialogue on ways to bring our community together.”

Oh, I think it was very clear in its message. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/1/2017: The New York Terror Attack, Indictment Hype, A New Statue Makes My Head Explode, And Jack Russell Ethics

Good Morning, November!

[Programming Note: My original and stated (in the comments) intention was to devote the whole Warm-up to the jaw-droppingly dishonest and contrived media outrage over John Kelly’s completely accurate and reasonable comments regarding the The Confederate Statuary Ethics Train Wreck yesterday. You know, Kelly’s critics should realize when political correctness and false narratives literally require them to argue the opposite of the facts they are using to support their false arguments, that should set off an ethics alarm—but don’t get me started now: I’m going to do the next post on this. There is too much going on not to use the Warm-Up to clear the jam.]

1 I was just nauseated by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio‘s fatuous remarks at the press conference regarding yesterday’s terror attack. Essentially he channeled Michael Moore’s disgraceful riff after 9-11: terrorist attacks are just little bumps in the road that we have to get used to, there’s nothing to be done, it’s a tragedy, but nothing to freak out over, New Yorkers are resilient, the attack failed because the Halloween parade went on as planned, and he’s so proud of the city’s residents  for going on with business and pleasure without submitting to fear and intimidation. Then Governor Cuomo seconded him.

This isn’t the London during Blitz, or Tel Aviv under daily assault by Palestinian scuds. The United States doesn’t have to shrug away terrorists and terrorism. De Blasio’s attitude is politically calculated to undermine serious efforts to stop terrorists from entering the country.  I, for one, do not accept that the future of the United States includes accepting an unacceptable probability that I am going to be blown up, shot or run down by someone, heaven knows why, screaming, “Allahu akbar!”

2. The original sub-title of the Warm-up was going to be, “Now the Left is really starting to scare me.” That title would be appropriate to describe my reaction to yesterday’s tweet by increasingly deranged Times op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof, who wrote (Remember, Twitter is an invention of Satan to make people destroy their credibility);

“The NYC terrorist had a pellet gun and a paintball gun. Good thing that in NYC he couldn’t buy assault rifles, or the toll would be higher.”

How shameless and obsessed does an anti Second Amendment fanatic have to be to use a terrorist attack employing a truck (to kill 8 and wound 12) as a platform for gun control hectoring? Kristof’s  point was willfully dishonest and ignorant. The pellet gun and paintball gun were irrelevant to the attack. Terrorists are not dissuaded by laws; if Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov had wanted to use a gun in the attack, he could have acquired one. Moreover, New York’s gun laws weren’t involved: Saipov was from Florida, where he could have legally have bought all sorts of deadly firearms.

3. Jack Russell Ethics: last night, for no discernible reason, my dog decided to bark furiously to go outside at 2 am, 2:30, 3: 10, 3:25, 3: 48, 4: 12 and again around 5 this morning. This on the first night in over a week when I wasn’t plagued by insomnia. Twice he issued a high-pitched, sharphysterical bark that I have never heard before: Rugby has a large and eloquent repertoire of yips, barks, wheezes, snorts, quacks, purrs, growls and other noises yet to be named; I know what they all mean, but this one was indecipherable.  When Rugby was outside, he didn’t relieve himself; he was in full alert, guarding mode.

I have no idea what was going on. I was finally able to calm him down by curling up on top of the sheets with him, and talking to him quietly about the World series while he happily licked my hands. Eventually the dog fell asleep. I, however, never did. Today is officially wrecked.

Why, Rugby? WHY???

4. The misleading news media reporting on the Special Counsel indictments are another smoking gun example of how untrustworthy and biased our journalism has become. The Manafort-Gates indictment literally had nothing to do with obstruction of justice or the Russian collusion theory, but to listen to broadcast news reports and commentator bloviation on the topic, one would think that the President is minutes away from being frog-marched out of the White House in cuffs. Naturally, the President is annoyed by this. I don’t blame him. Everyone should be annoyed by it.

Ken White of Popehat, a former federal prosecutor, summed up the indictments this way:

“The Manafort/Gates indictment is a fairly standard “kitchen sink” white collar indictment that illustrates the wide array of tools available to federal prosecutors, as well as the power prosecutors have to use an investigation to provoke further federal crimes as leverage against the foolish.”

That nicely describes what happened to the third individual, an obscure Trump campaign advisor who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conduct that wasn’t illegal by any definition. Ken’s entire post is worth reading, as well as linking for your clueless, ranting Facebook friends.

5. This story makes me glad I have the Warm-Up to cover awful things like this without devoting a full post to it, because I would have to devote a full post to it, and the disgust might kill me. Even this short report made my head explode, however. KABOOM.

The District of Columbia, through  the Executive Office of the Mayor,  the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH) and the Marion Barry Commission, is going to spend $300,000 to have an eight foot statute of Marion Barry erected outside the John A. Wilson Building along Pennsylvania Avenue in the nation’s capitol. It is scheduled to be unveiled in for March 6 of next year, Barry’s birthday.

I shall not mince words. I would fall down on my knees and sacrifice a virgin in front of  a statue of Robert E. Lee before I would voluntarily gaze respectfully at a statue of Marion Barry. His most memorable act was getting caught on video smoking crack cocaine with a former mistress, while he was mayor and making regular speeches to inner city school children about the evils of drugs. He openly cheated on his wives while serving as mayor, “catting around” the District late at night, looking for “fun.”. Later he was indicted for failing to pay his taxes, year after year, while serving as an elected official.

As a city councilman after spending time in prison, Barry used tax-payer money to hire his girl friend for a job she was completely unqualified for, then argued that since there was no law against doing that, it was ethical. There is a rationalization named for him on the Ethics Alarms Rationalization List:

4. Marion Barry’s Misdirection, or “If it isn’t illegal, it’s ethical.”

The late D.C. Mayor and lovable rogue Marion Barry earned himself a place in the Ethics Distortion Hall of Fame with his defense of his giving his blatantly unqualified girlfriend a high-paying job with the DC government. Barry declared that since there was no law against using the public payroll as his own private gift service, there was nothing unethical about it. Once the law was passed (because of him), he then agreed that what he did would be wrong the next time he did it.

Ethics is far broader than law, which is a system of behavior enforced by the state with penalties for violations. Ethics is good conduct as determined by the values and customs of society. Professions promulgate codes of ethics precisely because the law cannot proscribe all inappropriate or harmful behavior. Much that is unethical is not illegal. Lying. Betrayal. Nepotism. Many other kinds of behavior as well, but that is just the factual error in the this rationalization.

The greater problem with it is that it omits the concept of ethics at all.  Ethical conduct is self-motivated, based on the individual’s values and the internalized desire to do the right thing. Barry’s construct assumes that people only behave ethically if there is a tangible, state-enforced penalty for not doing so, and that not incurring a penalty (that is, not breaking the law) is, by definition, ethical.

Nonsense, of course. It is wrong to intentionally muddle the ethical consciousness of the public, and Barry’s statement simply reinforces a misunderstanding of right and wrong.

As mayor, he hired cronies, crooks and con men to high ranking posts; many of them eventually went to jail. The D.C. government has never recovered from the culture Barry established. It is still dogged by corruption top to bottom; the last mayor barely avoided a conviction, but seemed pretty clearly guilty of paying off a political adversary to get elected. Barry is a hero to many because he openly, unapologetically, used his office to hire as many blacks as he could, often in complete defiance of any standards or qualifications. Hiring based on race is also called “discrimination.” He used the city payroll as a social welfare program, with the result that the city ran up crippling deficits and debt.

Honoring a corrupt public official as a hero in the District is a catastrophic decision, ensuring that the toxic cultural values that plague the black community in D.C. will not only persist, but that their advocates will have a champion and role model to help them persist. Yet if this community insists that Marion Barry should be honored, crook, rogue, hypocrite and sociopath that he was, that choice should be respected, and respected forever. I would never advocate tearing down Barry’s statue, though if I were a really big pigeon, it would be in my bomb-sights at every opportunity. Indeed, it is important to remember that such a cynical, corrupt leader was regarded as a hero, and why.

Heeeeere’s MARION!

 

 

Whatever Else Can Be Said About President Trump, He Has Caused CNN To Expose Its Abandonment of Ethical Journalism. GOOD. [UPDATED]

“All the news media would have to do to have a shot at beating Trump would be to act in a measured, professional fashion. Trump has revealed that they’re incapable of that; it seems as if that option has never even occurred to them.”

Thus wrote Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, yesterday. I almost made it the Ethics Quote of the Day. The poster child for the malady that Reynolds describes is, of course, CNN. What has happened to that once respected news source in the last few weeks, and accelerated in the last few days, should, in a rational world, be reveille for the others who easily could fall into similar self-baited traps, and probably will. As we have seen, however, most of the similarly infected have either defended CNN or tried to bury its disgrace.

During the campaign for the Republican nomination, the assumption was that eventually Donald Trump would snap, engaging in some ugly conduct or rant that would sink his prospects and decimate his support. It never happened. Then in the general campaign, the same assumption reigned. He was a narcissist without ethics alarms. Goad him, frustrate him, and he would eventually crumble like Humphrey Bogart on the witness stand in “The Caine Mutiny.”  That theory worked well. Never mind: since his election, Trump has been subjected to unprecedented hostility from the news media, disrespect from elected officials, journalists and popular culture like no one before him, and a barrage of hate and insults.  Is part of the impetus behind the tactics of “the resistance,” Democrats and the news media the theory that relentless frustration and abuse will finally provoke that elusive “snap!” that results in an impeachable offense? I think it is. So far, as before, this tactic has failed. Ironically,  it is Trump’s most relentless foe, the mainstream media, that is snapping instead, driven to humiliating unprofessional and unenthical conduct by the President’s juvenile trolling. One wag recalled Wilford Brimley’s classic interrogation of Paul Newman’s character in “Absence of Malice” after Newman had maneuvered a district attorney, a federal agent and an unethical reporter into destroying themselves and their careers,

“Mr Gallagher…I seem to want to ask if you set all this up. If I do, you ain’t gonna tell me, are you?

I don’t think Trump’s sophomoric and undignified tweets were brilliant stratagems; he’s not that smart. He does, however, have the immense benefit of loathsome and inept enemies, and moral luck has been on his side. It is very possible that CNN’s over-the-top, thuggish and ugly response to the President re-tweeting a stunt GIF showing an image of him wrestling with a figure symbolizing CNN will prove to be a tipping point for both the network and the news media generally.

The network’s efforts to defend the indefensible, a senior CNN reporter intimidating and threatening to dox the ordinary web troll who made the GIF, has made it clear to anyone paying attention that CNN simply employs too many awful, unprofessional  people, prone to liberal fascism and habitual contempt for fairness and decency.  This, in turn points to a sick and unethical corporate culture, which was hinted at recently by the James O’Keefe sting videos featuring a producer mocking the concept of journalism ethics.

Today on her Twitter feed, CNN political analyst Kirsten Powers argued that Americans “do not have a right to stay anonymous” if they are expressing offensive views, meaning views that she/CNN/ progressives—you know, the good people who are always right?— find offensive.

Powers was responding to the uproar surrounding CNN’s report on the Reddit user believed to be responsible for the famous WWE meme of President Trump body-slamming the network’s logo. The CNN article included a threat to reveal the meme maker’s name if he doesn’t comply with the outlet’s demands.

The CNN commentator took issue with the people from all sides of the political aisle taking the side of the Reddit user, who goes by the pseudonym “HanAssholeSolo,” and argued he didn’t deserve any sympathy due to his past “anti-semitic racist, and anti-gay” posts. “People do not have a ‘right’ to stay anonymous so they can spew their racist, misogynist, homophobic garbage,” she added, noting that she would have published the GIF-maker’s name for all to see.

“Racism and misogyny is not an ‘opinion'” she said.

Bingo. There it is: the watermark of a leftist fascist, an anti-free speech hypocrite, and the rotting, stinking soul of CNN. Continue reading