Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 2/17/18: Mueller And A Movie

Good afternoon..

1 Well, we have some exit poll results…on my integrity and denial question in the Mueller indictment post I started at 4 am, hence the late Warm-up. Based on the comments so far, I am going to be disappointed: the “Trump is guilty of something” crowd is, so far, arguing that an indictment statement including  “There is no allegation in the indictment that any American was a knowing participant in the alleged unlawful activity. There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election” means that the President’s election was illegitimate and that he is guilty of wrongdoing. We also have such jaw-dropping moments as a commenter praising the Mueller investigation for not leaking the indictments beforehand—wow. Leaks are unethical, and when a grand jury is involved, illegal. The leaking from the Mueller investigation and the Justice Department have been a national disgrace, and we are now at the point when government lawyers not breaking the law is deemed worthy of praise in some quarters.

Of course, we don’t know what was leaked. Since leaking grand jury testimony is so serious and always sparks its own investigation, I wouldn’t bet against reporters having been tipped off, but using the advance notice to prepare their “Trump’s still guilty!” responses.

A better example could not be found of how the the news media and the intentionally divisive partisan rhetoric of the past decade have caused a fracture in the ability of Americans to perceive facts unfiltered by confirmation bias. I find this disheartening. But exit polls are not always accurate…

2. An unexpected take on the indictments. Eccentric conservative blogger Da Tech Guy  had some interesting observations:

“Section 1 and section 24 notes that it’s against US law for “certain foreign nationals” to enter the US without a visa providing truthful and accurate information to the government. Apparently these laws don’t apply to dreamers and those who brought them…section 41 talks about identity theft including social security numbers; again, this could be a charge against the DACA kids…Section 85 completes the list, the illegality here is that they pretended to be Americans and didn’t register as foreign agents while doing activities that if done by Americans would be completely legal…Does that mean that DACA folks and illegals who have held political rallies will be indicted next?…Section 89-95 on count 2 and section 96 again notes identity theft and moving money via such theft., boy this could be an indictment of the illegal alien DACA crowd if they wanted. But they don’t.”

3. Ethics movie review! I watched Denzel Washington’s “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” twice last week, in part because it is a legal ethics movie, and in part because Washington’s portrayal of an idealistic autism-spectrum civil rights attorney whose ethics alarms get corrupted is so unusual for him. I’ll basically pay to watch Denzel play canasta. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Law Professor/Blogger Ann Althouse, Because We Have Reached The Point…”

whattheheck

This is a bit of a hybrid Comment of the Day. It wasn’t complete until commenter Isaac, in response to a request, added the references and sources to the media statements he posted in the original comment/

Here is Isaac’s Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Hero: Law Professor/Blogger Ann Althouse, Because We Have Reached The Point Where Any Blogger, Journalist, Pundit Or Citizen Who Helps Expose The Disgraceful Debasement Of Ethics And Duty By American Journalists For Partisan Goals Is A Hero, And We Need As Many Of Them As It Takes To Stop This Crap…

Let’s assume that there isn’t just some sort of bug that makes hardline Leftists this way only if they take up journalism or blogging. It’s an entire political hive mind of crazy in government, academia, entertainment…any place where too many spoiled products of nepotism hang out. They’re inescapable, and the average person who just wants to be cool can’t help but be caught up in it.

You start by shouting “Amen!” as some late night comedian does an “epic truth takedown” of Trump or Republicans or whatever, and the next thing you know you’re in a vortex of Leftist insanity that you can’t really escape from without going over to the dreaded “Right-wing media” with all of their fake news. It’s the virus taking over the host organism.

It feels like all they do all day is gaslight us, telling us that we can’t believe our own eyes. Continue reading

Unethical Website Of The Month: Daily Forest

My dog didn't make the list.

My dog didn’t make the list.

Daily Forest published one more of the ever-popular link-bait dog lists and slide shows. My sister sent it to me for the dog photos, which are lovely. the post was so incompetent, misleading and full of errors and anti-breed propaganda that I spent most of the slid show grimacing. Nobody connected with the post—the editor, the author, the site itself—knows anything about dogs. Thus it is a disservice to readers, the public and dogs to allow this misinformation and innuendo to be published. My rule: absent a take-down,  a remedial post and an abject apology, this kind of unethical post flags an unethical, untrustworthy website.

The post was titled, “21 of the World’s Most Dangerous Dog Breeds.”

That’s misleading immediately. There are no “dangerous dog breeds.” There are individual dogs that are maladjusted, abused or trained to be aggressive. Individuals of large breeds are obviously more dangerous when they are maladjusted, abused or aggressive than say, tea-cup poodles, but that doesn’t make the breeds themselves “dangerous.” It is this sloppy and inaccurate characterization that has led to the deplorable “dangerous breed laws” in various states, cities and Great Britain, and the scare-mongering anti-dog zealots who persecute dogs and their owners.

The list itself is ridiculous. #2, naturally (behind boxers, about as loving and perfect a family dog as there is) is “pit bulls.” “Pit bulls,” as used here and elsewhere on the web, isn’t a breed, but a conglomeration of several very different breeds that people who are ignorant of breeds mix up. None of the breeds are dangerous, but here’s where the list signals its abject incompetence. The picture the site uses for pit bulls isn’t even one of the breeds lumped in with “pit bulls,” but this…

Corso Cano

 

…a Corso Cano,  the Italian mastiff. I recognized the breed immediately, being something of a mastiff-lover. This is the breed owned by Ray Donovan’s wife on the Showtime series “Ray Donovan.” It’s not a pit bull breed, because all of those breeds have terrier forebears. Anyone who thinks this is a “pit bull”  doesn’t know a dachshund from a soccer ball, and has as much business writing or editing a post about dogs as Felix the Cat. Morons. The list even includes Corso Canos later on,and has a picture that is obviously of the same breed used under pit bull in the same post. Continue reading

Big Lies Die Hard

No, this was no way to pick a President..

No, this was no way to pick a President..

It is clear after nearly 15 years that bitter Democrats will always believe that the 2000 Presidential election was “stolen,” just as the losing parties in 1824, 1876 and 1988 claimed those elections were stolen. (In 1876, the election was stolen.) But as the cliche goes, while they have a right to their opinion, they do not have a right to their own facts. I understand why Democrats flogged this myth during the first term of the Bush Presidency—it was irresponsible, dishonest and divisive, and helped make political discourse the vile swill it is today, but I understand it. However, history should not be permanently warped by strategic lies.

The 2000 Election Big Lie turned up again today, in an indignant letter to the Washington Post. George Will had written a column condemning third party Presidential candidates for warping elections, using Ralph Nader’s quixotic 2000 run as an example and claiming that Nader cost Gore the White House. Will was wrong. Nader ran on his usual “pox on both parties” platform, and nobody knows how his voters would have split if he hadn’t run, or how many of them would have voted at all. Nader’s lawyer, Oliver Hall, protested against Will’s analysis in a letter to the editor, properly pointing out that a chaos-theory illustrating confluence of factors led to Gore’s narrow electoral college loss, not the least of which was that Gore was an inept candidate. (The person most responsible for Gore’s defeat, of course, was Bill Clinton.)

That correct interpretation, however, runs counter to the Big Lie, so partisan reader Bill Yue reiterated it today. His letter claimed that “the removal of any one of those elements ” mentioned by Hall would “likely have put Gore in the White House,” “for example, if the Supreme Court had allowed the recount to continue.” Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: “Face the Nation” Host Bob Shieffer

“The nation was plunged into shock. Nothing like this had ever happened.”

—“Face the Nation” host Bob Shieffer, looking forward to the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination, and describing the aftermath of the murder in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

Wait…what???

Hey Bob...do any of these guys ring a bell?

Hey Bob…do any of these guys ring a bell?

As it is, younger generations have a tendency to assume that what is happening now is unprecedented, that every crisis is the worst crisis, that what they are experiencing is unique. The remedy to this self-centered, ignorant and crippling cognitive malady is education, resulting in perspective. Unfortunately, the schools are doing increasingly little to provide useful historical context, and our leaders find it useful to exploit the low-information voter (worker, driver, patient, parent, student) for its own devices.

That leaves the field of journalism. Journalists, however, do not generally go into the arena of describing the present because of any particular respect or appreciation for the past, so their ability to convey perspective is usually limited as well. Fortunately, there are still older, veteran, experienced pros like Bob Shieffer,  76 years young, who…who…who appears to be as irresponsibly ignorant of basic American history as the college goofs Jay Leno makes look silly on his “Jay Walking” segments. How is this possible?

What could Shieffer possibly mean by saying of JFK’s assassination that “Nothing like this had ever happened” that is not flagrantly misleading, careless, ignorant and wrong? For those of you as bad off as Bob, there had been three previous Presidential assassinations before JFK, and all of them were big deals. Lincoln’s was a bigger deal than Kennedy’s in fact, because the U.S. had barely finished a war, and Lincoln’s assassination caused legitimate fears that it was part of a second Southern assault. Let’s see…maybe we can give Bob the benefit of the doubt and find an explanation for his statement that doesn’t involve having to shop for rest homes: Continue reading

And While We’re On The Topic Of Outrageous Lies, Who At The DNC Dreamed Up THIS One?

The Trail of Tears, just one of those pace-setting civil rights initiatives by President Andrew Jackson, father of the modern Democratic Party.

With my head swathed in ice and restraints, trying to stem the explosion (I have vacated the house of all other living things), I note this, which I happily was unaware of until a few hours ago, from a history of the Democratic Party, on a new Democratic National Committee web site .

 “For more than 200 years, our party has led the fight for civil rights, health care, Social Security, workers’ rights, and women’s rights.”

Health care? Okay.  Social Security? Obviously. Workers’ rights? A closer call, but sure. Women’s rights? Sold, though literally none of these can be traced back to 1812. Nobody was thinking about health care until the 20th Century. Worker’s rights became an issue in the late 19th. Social Security wasn’t a twinkle in any Democrat’s eye until the 1930’s, and the Democratic Party wasn’t very concerned about women’s rights until the 20th century either.

But can the Democrats claim 200 years’ support of civil rights? Absolutely not. To claim this is beyond mere lying, and reaches Orwellian proportions as an effort to re-write history. It is also blatant misinformation, clearly designed for the uneducated, the historically ignorant, the gullible or the stupid—you know, most people—or it was written and approved by members of this group who built the DNC site. Let’s be unequivocal: The Democratic Party did NOT lead the fight for civil rights for “more than 200 years.” No historian believes this or has written this. It is a complete, nonsensical, made-up, silly piece of dishonest puffery: Continue reading

The Damage Incompetent Pundits Do: Criminal Defense Misconceptions

See? I WARNED you not to listen to Mercedes Colwin!

A couple of months back, I flagged some outrageously mistaken commentary on Sean Hannity’s radio talk show given out by Mercedes Colwin, who is a lawyer but prone to howlers whenever she shows up on Hannity or Fox News, which I suspect favors her for qualities that have nothing to do with her law practice. On the occasion that roused my ire, Colwin suggested that she could not defend a criminal client who told her he was guilty, because she was “an officer of the court.”

This is pundit malpractice grafted to legal incompetence: a defense attorney MUST maintain a client’s legal innocence whether the attorney knows the client is guilty or not, and being an officer of the court has nothing to do with it.

Colwin, who was discussing the Casey Anthony trial, represented herself as an expert and then reinforced the most persistent and most damaging popular misconception about the legal system, which is that there is something unethical about defending guilty criminal clients. The system has to be held to a high standard of due process, and even an “obviously” guilty defendant must be proven guilty with admissible evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. Defense attorneys are there to make sure the state meets its burden of proof by making the strongest argument for their clients’ innocence as possible, whether the defendant has confessed his or her guilt or not. For one thing, a defendant often doesn’t know if he is legally guilty, even if he “did it.” For another, even if he did it, the state still has to prove it.The defense’s job in to make sure it does, Continue reading

A Brief Rant Against Irresponsible Misinformation

Bill Wambsganss makes an incredibly easy play in Game 5 of the 1920 World Series

I was watching baseball on television all day yesterday, and had to see more commercials than are good for me. It struck me that despite the advent of the so-called “Information Age,” commercials seem to be written by increasingly ignorant writers, and ads that contain blatantly incorrect facts make it to the air where they rot innocent young brains and delight badly-educated  old ones.

Since the average TV commercial must be seen by literally hundreds of writers, executives and technicians on its way to this carnage, what does this tell us? It tells us that the education system is just as bad as we feared, and that these irresponsible people don’t care enough about being accurate to do a 20 second Google Search so they won’t misinform people. Making such a search is called due diligence and responsible conduct. Not doing so is called lazy, negligent and unethical. Continue reading

Obama’s Fractured History

"Don't know much about history..."

I have been, some say, too hard on Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and Herman Cain, for their various gaffes related to our American heritage. The reason I believe that these politicians are especially blame-worthy for their fractured history is that they are all constantly evoking America’s historical past, especially its founding. If you are going to take on the responsibility of educating Americans about the Constitution (which Cain mixed up with the Declaration), Paul Revere (whose ride Palin mangled) and the Founders (to whose number Bachmann added John Quincy Adams), you better get your facts straight, because the public trusts what you say.

What then, is the proper and fair reaction when a President the media has anointed as brilliant states in a nationally televised speech before Congress that Abraham Lincoln was the “founder of the Republican Party”? Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Unethical Blog Post of the Week: ‘But What About Caylee?”’

As comments, accusations and retorts featuring the Ethics Alarms All-Stars were flying around on the blog in reaction to the Casey Anthony verdict and my reaction to some of those reactions (here, here, here, and here), Lianne Best came through with an  especially measured take, one that was immediately cheered by other commenters.

There is nothing wrong with feeling deeply, and emotions are important; after all, Mr. Spock had limitations as a leader. When emotion rather than analysis drives public opinion, however, there is a risk of real harm: those attempting objective analysis may be vilified, marginalized or ignored, and rash, reckless decisions and consequences can result.  (I could, but won’t, argue that the 2008 presidential election was a classic case in point.)  Lianne cuts to the real issue deftly. Here is her Comment of the Day:

“I too often find myself embroiled in emotional opinion, with no basis in facts. It’s easy here: an adorable and completely innocent, dependent little girl was killed. Virtually every human, particularly parents, want to see that vindicated, justice found and brought. That somehow makes it better. But you know what? It doesn’t make it better to go racing off on just a blazing gut reaction, not when people’s lives are affected by our lack of thought and analysis. I was a juror in a kidnapping and murder trial. It was an immensely difficult two weeks, and the decision was agonizing. Luckily, it was also popular; it would have been awful to suffer through loud, manic public criticism of our reasoned decision on top of the process … loud, manic public criticism by people who weren’t there, who knew less (or at least differently) than we did. We have a jury system for a reason, 12 people found Casey Anthony not guilty (13 if you count the alternate juror) and we have to trust them.

“Personally, I appreciate Jack’s cooler head prevailing when my mother’s heart is shrieking.”