Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/11/2020: Law School Indoctrination, The Surgeon General, And One More Mainstream Media Bias Smoking Gun

Not depressed or crazy yet!

This translated (by Mort Shuman) Jacques Brel song made my mother depressed and crazy, yet she insisted on playing it. She was like that. You know…Greek. I’m really glad that she didn’t live to see this particular ordeal through, because I would have made my folks live with us for the duration, and I would definitely be crazy by now.

I did not know John Denver recorded this; as with everything else he sung, he does a masterful job. He fought depression his whole life, which astounded me, given his public demeanor, when I first learned that. That was before I learned how common and pervasive this terrible illness is. They are not being hyperbolic when they say that a protected lockdown will eventually cause a lot of suicides.

1. One more from “Social Q’s. In the same column that triggered me regarding this issue, there was another interesting query :

Like millions, I am working from home and spending lots of time videoconferencing with co-workers and clients. My boss conferences in from his home office, where, behind his smiling face, hangs a painting of a cyclone tearing through a city. He may be so used to it that he’s oblivious to the bad message it sends. He’s not a friend, but we have a cordial relationship. Should I point out that the painting may upset people?

I am less interested in this question for its ethical issue, which is not worth discussing–“No, you idiot, you do NOT have any business telling someone forced to participate in a video conference that he has an obligation to decorate his home to please other participants  and to avoid “upsetting” the hypersensitive!”—than I am curious about how anyone would get the idea that such an obligation exists. It’s not as if he has a swastika or a Confederate flag hanging behind him, or erotic art, or a historical photograph that could fairly be called unduly provocative.

I find this to be a nascent totalitarian mindset, requiring conformity in all things, and it scares me to death, frankly.

2. The indoctrination problem. I just got the latest copy of the Georgetown University Law Center alumni magazine, and was impressed by how large, slick and professional it has become in the decades since I put together the first issue when I was the GULC Director of Development under Dean David McCarthy. Oh, they changed the name a few years ago: the Dean and I had called it “Res Ipsa Loquitur,” which should come as no surprise to any regular readers here. The real revelation, however, is what a pure progressive and partisan indoctrination factory the school has become. Justice Ginsburg welcomed the incoming class. Nancy Pelosi and Henry Louis Gates ( of Beer Summit fame) addressed  the graduating third year students. New York Solicitor General Barbara Underwood successfully  sued the Trump Foundation, so she was worthy of an honorary degree.

The featured interview in the issue: Justice Elena Kagan. A new Workers Rights Institute has been launched.  Invited to serve on a panel about “Challenges to the Rule of Law,” was George Conway. The school just dedicated its “green spaces” to Democratic D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. There is a major article about our obligation to guarantee the health of “migrants,” the current cover-word of choice meaning “Illegal immigrants.” Of course, there’s a climate change activist piece, an anti-nationalism piece, and a pro-diversity piece. Continue reading

Noonish Ethics Warm-Up: Everyone’s Gone To The Moon, But They Aren’t Going To Zoom


The Jonathan King hit from 1965 (most people think was originally sung by Chad and Jermy, who covered it) sounds profound but it’s not; King, who wrote the song in college, later admitted that he was satirizing Dylanesque lyrics intended to have great portent, but in fact he meant nothing in particular. The song sounds timely now, doesn’t it? Yesterday, while taking a walk, my whole Alexandria neighborhood was eerily empty and silent. I started singing loudly as I walked as my own small rebellion, but I didn’t think of King’s song until I got home.

1. The ethics breach is “incompetence.” Imagine having a niche business, waiting for your big break, then you get the break, and botch it. That’s Zoom. When schools, colleges and other organizations were forced to resort to online conferencing platforms, Zoom was a ready-made solution: easy to download, single click-access.

It was, as the saying goes, not ready for prime time. The easy access allowed easy hacking and the new phenomenon of “Zoombombing,” where anonymous assholes—yes, this is another time when the term is fair, apt, and necessary—entered conferences and classes uninvited with with pornography or worse. Zoom was  also caught sending user’s analytics data to Facebook, even if the user didn’t have a Facebook account. There were other privacy issues. Many school districts have suspended classes using Zoom.  Google just banned  the use of the Zoom teleconferencing platform for employees, citing security concerns. [UPDATE: So has the U.S. Senate.] Now many potential users, including me, are looking elsewhere.

The  company’s CEO and founder now says he’ll make his product harder to use to improve Zoom’s safety and security. Good luck with that. I suspect this is a Barn Door Fallacy situation. Business competence requires you be ready for that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and if it arrives and you’re not, you not only might not get a second chance, you don’t deserve one. Continue reading

The Washington College Of Law’s Embarrassing “All Lives Matter” Freak-Out

"I can't believe you would say that!"

“I can’t believe you would say that!”

A law professor at D.C.’s  Washington College of Law at American University, who is identified with civil rights issues, discovered that someone had posted a handwritten flyer reading “All Lives Matter” on his door.

The Horror.

A normal, proportionate, hinged, response would be to ponder the multifaceted nuances of those three words, muse quickly about why anyone would feel moved to leave such a message anonymously, and worry about the Nationals starting pitching, perhaps.  Ah, but this is 2016, so hinged is uncool and so 2008. Thus the faculty member complained to the Dean and the faculty, who both felt that writing  “all lives matter” on a flyer is perilously close to hanging a noose or writing KKK or burning a cross:  Racial harassment and intimidation!

Quoth Claudio Grossman, the Dean: Continue reading

Ethics Quiz! Richmond Law School’s “Cool” Ad: Lame, Deceitful…Or Just Advertising?

Richmond ad Richmond-Law-ad

So, what do you think? Such esteemed legal commentators as TaxProf Blog and Above the Law have mocked and condemned the above Richmond Law School ad directed at law school applicants deciding where to plant their hopes. “The clubhouse leader for the lamest law school ad of 2013” snarked the former. “Calling it “lame” or “uncool” or “hackneyed” or any of the other words in the English language that denote a distinct inability to appear genuine or interesting doesn’t do the ad justice,” declared the latter. Then there is the little matter of puffery, which usually means deceit, spin, or exaggeration, except that in advertising such lies (for that is what they are) are mostly accepted as part of standard practice. That employment within nine months stat cited is dubious in the judgment of those who feel only legal jobs should count–apparently Richmond Law includes jobs where a JD is considered an asset, but the graduates are not working as lawyers. (On the other hand, almost every  job I’ve had since I graduated from laws school has been in the “JD advantage” category, and I’m satisfied with the results.) Continue reading

Web Hoaxes: Would You Trust This Lawyer?

In an earlier post this month, I related the story of Ethan Haines, an unemployed, newly-graduated lawyer who was staging a hunger strike, he said, to protest the fact that law schools misled their recruits about the employment prospects of their graduates. I was not sympathetic, and concluded:

“Law degrees still are valuable credentials, as is a good legal education, and if Haines got a good legal education, he received everything a law school is obligated to provide. Turning the degree into a career is his responsibility, and it is wrong for him to claim that anyone but himself is accountable for his present unemployed state.”

His stunt was more than an avoidance of responsibility and accountability, however it was a lie. Continue reading

The Strange Case of the Starving Lawyer

Newly minted and unemployed lawyer Ethan Haines has gone on a hunger strike in the name of all unemployed former law students, to protest misleading law school employment statistics, commercial school rankings, and antiquated career counseling programs. “I designated myself class representative since these students are not able to come forward themselves, for fear that vocalizing their concerns will negatively affect their careers,” he writes on his website. He is alerting various law schools about his Dick Gregory-style protest, intending “to bring awareness to the concerns of law students and recent law graduates by having them addressed by law school administrators. Their primary concerns are inaccurate employment statistics, ineffective career counseling, and rising tuition costs.” The strike, he says, “was motivated by a recent American Bar Association (ABA) investigate Report, which concluded that educational leaders are unable to timely combat the adverse affects of U.S. News’ rankings on legal education.” Continue reading

Law School and High School Credential Corruption

In many high schools around the country, as many as fifty graduating seniors were designated “valedictorians,” because the traditional honor for the top academic performer is a coveted credential, and the schools wanted as many students as possible to have the benefit of it. On their future resumes, will these students footnote “valedictorian” to let potential employers know that it doesn’t mean they were #1 in their class? Of course not. Their schools have given them a license to inflate their qualifications and achievements. Until every school clones its valedictorians, the credential now is inherently deceptive, and it is the high school administrators, not the students, who are doing the deceiving.

Ah, but “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!” The New York Times reported that at least ten law schools, S.M.U., New York University, Georgetown, and Tulane among them, have deliberately altered their grading curves—-some retroactively—in order to make their graduates artificially look better to employers. Continue reading