Happy Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/27/19: Conniff, Cohen, California, And Co-opting A Classic

Weekends, unfortunately, are only a rumor when you run a business out of your home…but I’m still HAPPY!

1. “To Kill A Mockingbird” ethics. I asked an old friend and talented director to give me her review of the controversial “To Kill A Mockingbird” on Broadway (previously discussed here, and here…). What I was most interested in was whether the new version (by “The West Wing” auteur and liberal political advocate Adam Sorkin) actually meets the contractual requirement insisted upon by Harper Lee’s estate, that “the Play shall not derogate or depart in any manner from the spirit of the Novel nor alter its characters.”  Well, I knew it would not be; Sorkin and the producer held out for being able to make a “woke” “Mockingbird” reflecting “current sensibilities,” and Lee’s greedy relatives wanted the money more than they cared about what Harper Lee might have wanted, like preserving the integrity of her novel.

Sure enough, my friend reported that the play was full of anachronisms and felt nothing like a story set in a small Southern town in the 1930’s. Most jarring of all, she said, was the oft repeated message that the racially prejudiced individuals in the town were “bad people.” This is the exact opposite of what Atticus Finch tells his daughter in the novel.

2. The GDP. Today the New York Times had the good and unexpected GDP news on its front page, so I’ll retract yesterday’s criticism  of the Times for burying that important news, and evidence of some Trump success. Instapundit pulled out this LA Times article  from 2017. It begins, Continue reading

Ethics Warm-Up: I Wish I Were Surprised, But I’m Not

NOW what?

Quite a bit, actually…

1. Res Ipsa Loquitur #1 The Democratic National Committee has barred Fox News from hosting its Presidential primary debates. I guess the Democrats don’t want any tough questions interfering with their efforts to rig the nomination this time around.

If there was ever better proof that the Democratic Party considers the mainstream media their captive allies, I don’t know what it would be. In 2016, Republicans subjected their candidates to outright hostile questioning from CBS and CNBC journalists, and Fox treated Donald Trump as roughly as a candidate can be treated in the Republican debates. I watched all the pre-nomination debates: Fox’s Neil Cavuto was among the very fairest of all panelists, and as Fox News has correctly said in its protest about the Democratic slur, Chris Wallace, Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, the proposed Fox News debate questioners, are at least as objective and professional as any Left-media journalists.

DNC Chair Tom Perez’s excuse for this blackball move is self-evidently dishonest: “Recent reporting in the New Yorker on the inappropriate relationship between President Trump, his administration and Fox News has led me to conclude that the network is not in a position to host a fair and neutral debate for our candidates. Therefore, Fox News will not serve as a media partner for the 2020 Democratic primary debates.” Oh, the New Yorker says so! That settles it then!

The GOP didn’t pull out of the Vice-Presidential debates in 2008 even though the NPR’s debate moderator, Gwen Ifill, had her pro-Obama book sitting at her publisher  waiting for he candidate to win. CBS wasn’t barred from hosting debates, event though David Rhodes, then president of CBS News, is the brother of Ben Rhodes, Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser. Meanwhile, Ben Sherwood, president of ABC News, is the brother of Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, an Obama  special assistant.  Claire Shipman, a national correspondent for ABC’s “Good Morning America,” was married to Jay Carney when he was President Obama’s press secretary. These were real, hard, conflicts of interest. The bias of the Fox News journalists is apparently based on the fact that they may run into Trump pal Sean Hannity in the lunch room.

The Democratic Party is prepared to do everything in its power to make sure the American public does not get properly informed regarding the character, skills and beliefs of its 2020 Presidential candidate, and is confident that every network but Fox can be depended upon to assist them in achieving that goal.

2. Almost certainly untrustworthy study of the week, but great for confirmation bias purposes:  According to an article in “The Atlantic,”  a survey conducted by the polling firm PredictWise that assembled a county-by-county index of American political intolerance  based on poll results determined that ” the most politically intolerant Americans… tend to be whiter, more highly educated, older, more urban, and more partisan themselves.”

That would explain the posts by my Facebook friends… Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 3/2/2019: Road Trip Epiphanies…And The Washington Post’s “Note” On The Covington Fiasco

Hi, everybody! It’s good to be back home!

I was torn whether to mention in this morning’s post that I would be Northern Virginia-bound from the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area (Washington County) for most of the day. Who knows what banned and lurking commenters would seize on that intelligence to raid the forum here while I was unable to moderate, as occurred yesterday?

1. I wonder if most lawyers have the same reaction… The Pennsylvania lawyers I spoke to all seemed to share the same impression of the Michael Cohen testimony that I had. Why would anyone believe someone like that? What is the point of Congressional testimony by a convicted liar and disbarred attorney? No one disagreed that Cohen couldn’t be a witness in any proceeding, not would his testimony be admissible. How could anyone see this as anything but a transparent and  base effort by Democrats in Congress to try to smear the President with ad hominem slurs and unprovable allegations by someone obviously trying to somehow improve his own, self-made, miserable position? The lawyers are also concerned Congress is weakening the crucial attorney client privilege by encouraging a witness to breach it.

2. Ethics Corrupter: Nancy Pelosi. How dare the speaker of the House insult the President before the public by saying, “Do the country a favor, don’t run in 2020?” The democratic Congress continues to lead the effort to strip the President and his office of all the respect and basic deference they both must have for the government to function. Her snide condescension is unprofessional and nauseating….as well as bizarre, coming after the Trump-led economy just had its best month of growth in a decades—just as he promised it would. Given the state of her own party right now, a plea of “Do Democrats a favor, don’t run in 2020” would be more logical.

3. Engineering ethics. My GM rental car was keyless. It’s cool and all, but why? Congress is trying to pass new safety regulations because keyless cars are killing people. Drivers leave them running without realizing it, and sometimes poison themselves or other with carbon monoxide. They also may be easier to steal.

What, exactly, is the problem that keyless ignition was needed to solve? The “improvement” adds to the cost of cars, and appears to be a classic example of fixing something that ain’t broke, just Americans like gadgets. I have attacked the “if it saves one life” idiocy of the anti-gun lobby, but that’s because guns have very valid uses. If a completely gratuitous change in engineering and technology kills anyone without conferring some counter-balancing advantage, then that change is irresponsible and reckless.

4. Not good enough—not even close. The Washington Post, which is being sued by lawyers for 16-year-old Nicholas Sandmann for its role in focusing partisan hate on a student who had in fact done nothing wrong, issued an “Editor’s Note” on the episode late yesterday. Here it is in its entirety: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/1/2019: Mania In Pennsylvania

Hello from Cannonsburg, PA.

Mr. Adams, but Mr. Adams
The things I write are only light extemporania
I won’t put politics on paper, it’s a mania
So I refuse to use the pen in Pennsylvania

—-Ben Franklin, in “Mr. Adams,” 1776

(But Ben didn’t have a computer…)

1. Like watching a zombie outbreak. Predictable, embarrassing, scary, disgusting, and hilarious. The comments on my Facebook feed by Trump Deranged friends and friends of friends really does begin to make me wonder if protected Trump Hate is mental illness. Multiple people were willing to go on record as saying that they believed Michael Cohen, and—get this—that they found him to be a sympathetic character! Now it’s true that these same people believed Jussie Smollett, Nathan Phillips, Bill Clinton and Christine Blasey-Ford based on nothing more than ideological bias and anti-Trump animus, but even these four are paragons of honesty and trustworthiness compared to Cohen. It is also amazing that these Coehn fans are so confident of the Facebook echo chamber that they don’t hesitate to write something so mind-numbingly stupid.

2. Petty perjury. The Republicans who are trying to prompt an investigation of Cohen for alleged perjury before Congress are abusing process, and worse, they are  imitating the bitter Democrats who argued that Bret Kavanaugh committed perjury by giving his recollection of an innocent definition of “boofing.” Among Cohen’s alleged “lies” is that he said he never wanted to work at the White House in the hearing, but said elsewhere that he did want to work there. The man is inately unbelievable (but sympathetic!) He’s a criminal. He has violated too many legal ethics rules to count. He betrayed his client’s confidences. He has lied under oath. He’s been disbarred. It is literally impossible to have less credibility than Michael Cohen. There is no point in proving petty perjury, except to be vindictive.

3. Testing the tolerance, determination and gag reflex of those who believe in innocence until proven guilty. Michael Jackson’s family is out in force to condemn “Finding Neverland,”is out in force to condemn “Finding Neverland,” a documentary debuting on HBO this weekend.  It purports to chronicle the King of Pop’s alleged serial child abusing, featuring two former kiddy pals who slept in Michael’s bed, all in good fun, according to the Jacksons. No jury ever found Michael guilty, though one has to wonder if the result would have been the same if he looked and sounded like Vin Rhames. On the other hand, Jackson was so, so strange that virtually anything is believable, including the theory that he really was just a big, famous, harmless, case of arrested childhood whose motives were pure as the driven snow. The Jacksons say his now grown playmates are just seeking money and book deals. That’s certainly plausible. What isn’t plausible is that the Jacksons say they never thought Michael’s obsession with young children was suspicious or troubling, and that they see no reason why anyone would have expected them to advise their brother not to act like a pedophile, whether he was one or not.

4. Selma Blair. Selma Blair never became a big star; I remember her best in “Hellboy.” She was talented, though, and now we know she’s gutsy, appearing on the Oscars red carpet using a cane. Blair has multiple sclerosis, which has disabled a career already shot by another crippling malady for movie ingenues–getting older. Blair announced her illness on Instagram, saying, “I am disabled. I fall sometimes. I drop things. My memory is foggy. And my left side is asking for directions from a broken gps. But we are doing it. And I laugh and I don’t know exactly what I will do precisely but I will do my best.” Now she is defying typical Hollywood vanity to appear in public, giving invaluable support to the million-plus Americans who suffer from MS. Wrote Ed Tobias on the MS support website, MS News TodayMS News Today:

“If a photo is worth a thousand words, then the video of Blair and her cane, as she slowly made her way along the red carpet at the Oscars, is worth a million. It shows pain and persistence. Caution and class. It shows what many of us have to handle each day. And Selma Blair showed an audience of millions how to do it. Bravo!”

Agreed.

5.  Now let’s see how many acting jobs David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel get after this. An arbitrator awarded $179 million,awarded $179 million, much of it in punitive damages, to the two and one of their partners in the long-running hit TV show “Bones,” holding that Fox executives lied, cheated and committed fraud at the expense of the show’s stars and executive producer Barry Josephson. That creative Hollywood accounting robs stars is the third worst-kept and longest running secret in show business, #1 being that directors and producers use their power and star-makimg ability to force actresses to have sex with them, and #2 being that an awful lot of actresses take advantage of that illicit entree. James Garner was one of the few big stars to challenge the swindle in court, and he did so more than once. He won, too, but he also paid a price in lost roles. Most stars just put up with the cheating and take their paychecks, which are pretty big anyway.

Maybe Boreanaz, a latter day Garner who may have sensed that he has maxed  out his career as he enters his fifties (surely you remember him as Angel, Buffy the Vampire Killer’s tragic true, un-dead love?) and Deschanel, who has always been oveer-shadowed her younger, cuter, funnier sister Zooey, may have decided that there was no downside in fighting for their fair share. Or maybe—just maybe—they are making a courageous stand for their profession. Either way, it is good ethics news any time the Hollywood moguls get foiled in this game.

Unethical Tweet Of The Month: Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla)

To be fair, he’s not quite as unethical a lawyer as Michael Cohen, but then Cohen isn’t in Congress…

Hey @MichaelCohen212 – Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she’ll remain faithful when you’re in prison. She’s about to learn a lot…

Nice.

Gaetz sent this tweet before Cohen testified before Congress. It is witness intimidation. It is also stupid witness intimidation. Among other things, it gave Speaker Pelosi an opportunity to appear fair and responsible, by stating,

Goetz doubled down on his ham-handed “nice little family you got there; too bad if something were to happen to it…” threat by denying that he was witness tampering, telling a reporter that he was “witness testing.

This jerk is a Florida lawyer, and his bar is now investigating whether he breached the ethics rules by threatening a witness. Of course he did, and he did it on Twitter, which makes it the dumbest example of witness tampering in history.

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up. 11/3/2018: Cohen Does What He Does, Ocasio-Cortez Mongers Hate, And Hoggett Goes Rogue

I’ll give you a morning golden and true…

1 .Regarding Michael Cohen. The news media, Trump-haters and “the resistance’ are all giddy over Michael Cohen claiming that President Trump made racist comments in his presence. Lawyers who say such things about clients get disbarred. They get disbarred because it is proof that they lack the honesty, trustworthiness and integrity to be trusted professionals.There is no reason whatsoever to trust Michael Cohen, so relying on his account of anything is just an exercise in confirmation bias. He is not a reliable source, and what he says at this point should be taken for what it is: the latest effort by a desperate crook to somehow survive the consequences of his own low-life ways.

2. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez easily makes my list of the dozen most unethical candidates seeking election next week; I hope to get that up soon. Here is the fundraising email the New York socialist sent out:

“Six days from now, we can defeat the brutal white supremacist forces of anti-Semitism, anti-immigrant nativism, and racism.We can hold accountable the cold-hearted monsters who have repeatedly attacked our health care. We can send a message to the bigots and billionaires that this country belongs to all of us. We can win if we show up on November 6. We must end Republican control of Congress and begin to reclaim our nation. A Democratic majority will not bring back the eleven Jewish people in Pittsburgh, massacred while they prayed. Or the two Black people gunned down days before at a Kroger grocery store in Kentucky. It won’t fully stop the relentless attacks against immigrants in America. But on Sunday evening, Pittsburgh mourners—angry and broken-hearted like us—chanted ‘Vote! Vote! Vote!’ They understand the magnitude of the midterm election six days from today: that it affords us the chance to forge a powerful bulwark against Donald Trump’s hate and hold accountable the Republicans who have been complicit in every step of his toxic, self-serving, and destructive agenda. We must offer a path out of the darkness….This is our chance to take action in solidarity with everyone whose lives are threatened by the hate-filled policies of Trump and the GOP,” she says. “Our chance to push back against white supremacist forces across our nation, against the xenophobes who are militarizing the border, against the bigots who seek to erase our transgender families, against the apologists for sexual assault and the Islamophobes who sow hate to divide us.”

I considered doing an ethics audit of this screed—remember, she’s supposed to be a rising star of the Democratic Party—but decided that any objective reader here is more than capable of doing so without any help from me. Res ipsa loquitur.

How should we characterize someone who would vote to give power to a candidate willing to sign such a message?

3.  By all means, let’s believe all female accusers...Judy Munro-Leighton, who as “Jane Doe” accused Brett Kavanaugh of rape in an email to Senator Kamala Harris, was treated as a credible accuser and caused the Judiciary Committee to question the SCOTUS nominee about her claims. Now she admits that it was all a partisan-driven lie.

Who suspected that?

She confessed to Committee investigators that she “just wanted to get attention” and that “it was a tactic.” She said she had called Congress during the Kavanaugh hearing process before the Blasey-Ford  accusation multiple times  to oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination. Regarding the false sexual-assault allegation sent to the Committee through Harris, she said: “I was angry, and I sent it out.” Asked  whether she had ever met Judge Kavanaugh, she said: “Oh Lord, no.”

Her false rape allegations against Kavanaugh had exactly as much corroborating evidence as Blasey-Ford’s: none whatsoever. Yet, still, to this second, an astounding number of smart, reasonable Democrats, especially women, argue, and presumably believe, that such an accusation–in Blasey Ford’s case, one that is three decades old and dates from high school— should disqualify a man with an unblemished adult and professional reputation from high office. And they are indignant about it, too.

I don’t get it.

Reportedly, the Senate received over a thousand claims from women claiming that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted or harassed them.

The Senate has asked for criminal sanctions against Munro-Leighton.

Good. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Catch-Up, 8/22/18: Manafort, Cohen, and Mollie”

No, I wasn’t just looking for an excuse to post a photo of Stormy. This is an ethics blog!

Chris Marschner authored a Comment Of The Day this morning, which reminded me that another of his Comments Of The Day had been waiting on the runway for almost a month.

I’m glad of this, because the topic has nothing to do with the Kavanaugh hearings. Chris was writing about the then-popular impeachment plan–Plan K-— raised by Michael Cohen’s fixing activities. Would I rather think about Michael Cohen or Christine Blasey Ford? Would I rather be kicked in the head by a Clydesdale or a musk ox?

Here is Chris Marschner’s Comment of the Day on the post, Morning Ethics Catch-Up, 8/22/18: Manafort, Cohen, and Mollie:

In your post regarding Gulliani’s quote “the truth is not the truth.” I opined that the truth was what one wishes to believe.

The entire question of whether a payment made by or on behalf of another to obtain an NDA for acts that may be embarrassing is an election law violation begs the question regarding taxpayer funded settlements made to congressional staffers to settle harassment claims by members of Congress. These settlements appear to have similar codicils for non disclosure for the express purpose of avoiding personal embarrassment that could influence their reelection bid.

Michael Avenatti claims his fees are being paid through a crowdfunding site but there appears to be no way to determine if much of those funds that flow through the site are from 10,000 unique people or one person or group. For all anyone knows large sums could becoming from Tom Steyer, George Soros, or even the Russians. Mr. Avenatti does not publicize the fact that he claimed to be the originator of “The Apprentice” and sued Trump years ago. He also does not publicize the fact that he is closely tied to Rahm Emmanuel and the Obamas.

Continue reading