Tag Archives: misrepresentation

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/16/17: Keeping the Public Ignorant About Unethical Lawyers, Sugar Lies, And A Terrible Trump Tweet…

Good Morning, John!

Sing us into the first item, would you?

1 “Is anybody there? Does anybody care?” Everywhere I go, lawyers are talking about the David Boies scandal, which I wrote about here. I haven’t seen much media discussion about it at all. We have now seen one prominent hack lawyer, Lisa Bloom, and one prominent, skilled and respected lawyer, Boies, demonstrate high profile professional conduct that should receive serious sanctions from their profession, and it appears that most of the public and the media neither knows this nor cares.

Bloom is just a venal, incompetent, bad lawyer. The real crisis is when top lawyers blithely engage in wildly unethical conduct in a high profile case, but I doubt the public sees the difference. Very little commentary on Boies’s betrayal of the New York Times  focused on the throbbing black-letter ethics violation involved.  Today, a front page story in the New York Times about Black Cube, the sinister investigative crew hired by Boies to gather dirt on the Times before it blew the whistle on Harvey Weinstein completely missed this crucial element of the story. It also makes it near-certain that no one will read the report who need to know how poorly legal ethics are enforced.

Here’s the headline in the print edition: “Sleuths for Weinstein Push Tradecraft Limits.”  Tradecraft? Online: “Deception and Ruses Fill the Toolkit of Investigators Used by Weinstein.” Nowhere in the article are readers informed that lawyers are forbidden, without exception, from using any contractor that regularly uses deception.

Here is the kind of thing Black Cube specializes in, from the Times piece:

“Earlier this month, a former hedge fund employee was flown from Hong Kong to London for a job interview. Around the same time, a current employee of the same Toronto hedge fund was also flown to London for interviews. The company courting them was fake. Its website was fake. There were no jobs to be had, and the woman who set up the interviews was not a recruiter but an agent working for an Israeli private investigative firm.

This was not an episode of “Homeland” or the latest “Mission: Impossible” installment. Interviews and court papers show that these deceptions were part of a sophisticated and expensive investigative operation. The objective, according to one filing, was to gather proprietary information held by the hedge fund. The agent worked for Black Cube.”

Every single jurisdiction in the United States declares in its legal ethics rules, usually in the rule about misconduct, 8.4 (bolding mine):

It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to:

(a) Violate or attempt to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct, knowingly assist or induce another to do so, or do so through the acts of another;

(c) Engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation…

How much clearer can it be? It is unethical for a lawyer to employ someone or an organization that he or she knows routinely and reliably engages in “dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.” Yet that’s the only reason anyone hires Black Cube. Conclusion: Boies breached a major ethics requirement, perhaps the most serious one there is. And why?  Because a client paid him to. Continue reading

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Easy Ethics Quiz: Bill Nye The Science Guy’s Ambush Slapdown

On his own Reddit forum where readers are allowed to “Ask Me Anything,” Bill Nye the Science Guy, who has recently been making a pretty penny shilling for the climate change policy lobby, was made the target of this:

Hi Bill,

I have a great way you can start. Stop pretending you’re a scientist.

In science, we begin with facts. The facts show you have no formal science education beyond a Bachelors in mechanical engineering from Cornell. That’s it. Not even a Masters degree, let alone a Doctorate. You literally have no formal science education beyond an undergraduate degree. The facts also show that the whole “Science Guy” persona emerged out of a stand-up comedy routine you used to perform on local public-access TV back in the 80’s:

Good science requires valid data, so, here you go:

You’ve spent years parading around in a lab coat, even after your Disney series ended.. parading around in a way which makes most people, particularly children, think that you’re qualified to speak on matters you have no formal experience, education, or training on. For all intents and purposes, you’re a talented actor-comedian with an opinion who inserts himself into public dialogue…and that’s about it.

Good science also requires peer-review, so, here you go: Continue reading

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Unethical Headline Of The Month: NBC Sports

I suppose the Ethics Alarms headline could also be Ethics Dunce: Bill Baer, for the NBC baseball writer responsible for the irresponsible, misleading, ignorant and mighty close to libelous story under the headline, which is…

Sherwin Williams is trying to back out of a charitable contribution at Angel Stadium

No, it isn’t. Not even close.

Here, in part, is what Baer writes. Raise your hand when you realize that he is full of beans:

The paint company Sherwin Williams created a neat promotion at Angel Stadium. There’s a giant paint can with the brand name in left-center field. If a player hits a ball into the can, Sherwin Williams will donate $1 million to the Angels Baseball Foundation, the Angels’ charity for kids.

Angels outfielder Justin Upton appeared to trigger that charitable contribution when he hit a solo home run to left-center field against Indians closer Cody Allen on Tuesday night. The ball bounced in front of the can and then went in on a hop.

ESPN reports that Sherwin Williams is using a technicality to try and get out of the obligation. Because Upton’s home run didn’t land in the can on the fly, Sherwin Williams is saying they’re not obliged to make the $1 million donation. In 2014, Frazee Paint and the Angels agreed to the paint can promotion and indeed the press release says, “…if an Angels player hits a home run that lands in the can on the fly, the company will make a $1 million donation to benefit the Foundation’s efforts to improve the lives of children in the community.” Frazee Paint is now owned by Sherwin Williams.

The first lie in the story that helps generate the false headline is, “If a player hits a ball into the can, Sherwin Williams will donate $1 million.” False. As the story itself confirms, the paint company agreed to donate the sum if a player hits a ball into the can on the fly, meaning without hitting the ground first. Also, presumably, this has to occur during a game, and not batting practice. I would assume that a player can’t stand ten feet away between innings and try to hit a ball into the can either. Or use a tennis racket to do it.

The second lie is that Sherwin Williams is using a technicality to try to get out of the obligation. Actually, the second lie is that ESPN reports that Sherwin Williams is using a technicality, because ESPN’s story, unlike NBC, is accurate. It doesn’t use the term “technicality” anywhere. Its headline is also accurate: ” Justin Upton’s homer doesn’t count for $1 million paint can promotion.”

That’s correct. The homer didn’t, and doesn’t. The ESPN story does say that the crowd applauded and cheered when the ball landed in the can, thinking the terms of the promotion had been met. What a surprise: a crowd of fans doesn’t know what’s going on. Sports reporters, however, are paid not only to know what’s going on, but to accurately explain it to the great unwashed.

After three lies, Baer (all right, if the headline is the first lie, then it’s four lies), writes, “indeed the press release says, “…if an Angels player hits a home run that lands in the can on the fly, the company will make a $1 million donation to benefit the Foundation’s efforts to improve the lives of children in the community.” Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/24/17

Good Morning…

…and gee, it’s good to be back home! You have no idea how good it is.

1. ARRRGH! I returned to Ethics Alarms with 6 pending comments, and I want to apologize profusely for the back-up, especially to poor Paul Schlecht, whose avatar inexplicably makes WordPress hold every single one of his comments  in moderation until I rescue it. Only one post got up yesterday, and that was a close call: I was in resort/airport/travel Hell yesterday in Daytona  Beach, then Charlotte, pretty much from the moment I got my wake-up call at 6 AM to when my plane finally arrived at D.C.’s Reagan National Airport at just short of 1 am. today.

At least my law firm retreat seminar on legal ethics and technology was lively, but now I am way behind on posts, and also not exactly at the top of my game. Again, my apologies to all. And I’ve got to get a new laptop without a jumping cursor and that doesn’t crash my browser every 20 minutes or so.

2. I mentioned last week that the New York Times Sunday Review section is a weekly exercise in anti-President Trump porn. I couldn’t find a Sunday Times yesterday, so as a test, I’m going to open the copy my wife saved for me and look at the section now.

Let’s see…well the above the fold story is a feature about “why women aren’t CEOs.” The anti-Trump shot doesn’t come until the last paragraph, where the author, Susan Chira, couldn’t help herself from quoting Hillary Clinton as she blamed misogyny for her defeat. The Deplorables, you know. The second story on the front page is a mocking piece by a British historian, about a new Trump Doctrine, but with the term in scare quotes. How dare the President stand up for Western Civilization, we are asked to consider? This author, Stephen Wertheim, claims that the Trump administration’s problems with Iran, North Korea and China are based in racism and religious bias.  (Obama’s problems with the same nations were, presumably, based on a sincere concern for peace.) The  essay is also fairly anti-American, but concludes with the insult that the problem with the President isn’t so much what he does as who he is.

This is essentially the argument of “the resistance.” You know. Bigotry.

Let’s see—that piece took up all of page two, so we move on to page three. Two op-eds are there, one again mocking the ex-press secretary Sean Spicer, which the Times editorial board had already done, and the other, by Frank Bruni, attacking Jared Kushner. It closes with this, in part:

His counsel to Trump has been flawed, to say the least. He reportedly lobbied for the firing of James Comey, which didn’t turn out so well….I hear that he feels persecuted. Wronged. In that regard, too, he’s like his father-in-law, though Trump wears his self-pity, fury and ruthlessness right out front, for the whole world to see.

This is the company line. Actually, firing Comey turned out spectacularly well: the President was able to get rid of a highly placed leaker who had proven himself incompetent and untrustworthy. Bruni and the Times feel it was a mistake because the completely legal, appropriate, indeed overdue dismissal brought down the ire of the news media determined to get rid of the President. Message: When will you learn that we call the shots, you fool?

In fact, the President and his entire family have been persecuted by the Times from the very beginning, in obvious contrast to the news media’s disgusting fawning over the Clintons and Obamas, and even their chilly respect for the Bushes.

On to page four! Oh! Here’s a cartoon of the President as Donald Duck, and an op-ed by a New York City mother about how embarrassing it is to have a toddler who–The Horror!—likes the President of the United States! Beneath that screed, with a picture of Don, Jr., is an op-ed attacking another member of the President’s family in a piece about “men who never grow up.” The Trump boys are lumped in with Billy Bush, Ryan Lochte (the moronic Olympic swimmer), the fortunate college rapist Brock Turner, and the police officers who shot Tamir Rice!  Funny, the nation’s most prominent perpetual adolescent, who embarrassed the whole nation by using the White House as his passion pit, is never mentioned.

The non-Trump stories then take over for a few pages, and we’re finally at the editorial page. Two of the three editorials attack the President’s policies as the embodiment of evil: one condemns the very concept of the Election Integrity Commission— did you know that trying to find out how much actual voter fraud there is constitutes voter suppression?—and the other uses the President’s border wall plan as a prop to level general insults.  The rest of that page is devoted to a special selection of Letters to the Editor critical of…Donald Trump! Every one, all ten. You’re right, NYT, the paper doesn’t reflect this opinion thoroughly enough. On the facing page, two of the three op-eds consist of more Trump bashing. Maureen Dowd is one, but to be fair, all she does is level snark at everyone. The other is a second attack on Jared Kushner, because one per section is not enough.

The total: Nine Trump-hate pieces, plus ten anti-Trump letters, and not a single supportive word, balanced analysis, or defense. And the Sunday Review section is like this every week.

3. I can’t believe I’m writing this. The Discovery Channel’s always idiotic and often misleading “Shark Week” told audiences that Olympic Gold  Medal swimmer Michael Phelps would be racing a Great White Shark in the ocean. Admittedly, most potential viewers should be smart enough to figure out that there had to be a catch (no pun intended) despite the misleading title “Phelps vs. Shark: Great Gold vs Great White.”  They should be, but we know they aren’t, based on the other stupid shows they fall for on the network, and also because there have been three “Sharknado” movies with a fourth on the way. That Discovery Channel title is a lie: Phelps never was in the water with a shark; he never saw a shark; he never raced a shark. He “raced’ a computer-generated shark that was put into the film after Phelps was safe and dry. Some of Phelps’ gullible fans are annoyed.

They should be. On the other hand, they are morons. The entire exercise should have taken about 6 seconds, the amount of time it takes to say “White sharks swim faster than humans, even Olympic champions. Bye.” Continue reading

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This Is Why It’s Time For Political Cartoons To Go

 

Here (and above) is a sample of the bumper crop of political cartoons inspired by the Donald Trump, Jr. aborted meeting to acquire damaging information on Hillary that never materialized.

They are all, to various degrees, unfair, misleading, or simply untrue. Why is this acceptable? If presenting a false representation of the truth is required to make a joke, and the intended audience accepts what is false as fact, how is that justifiable?

The cartoon above, one of the most unethical, is typical of the work of Tom Toles, the Washington Post’s relentlessly biased cartoonist.

The others are presented below, in approximate order of unfairness and dishonesty.

They collectively state that there has been treason, a crime, corruption, collusion and conspiracy, and that there is actual, as opposed to speculated, “news” that the Trump campaign worked with Russia to interfere with the election. This is old fashioned yellow journalism-style political cartooning, throwing red meat to members of the public who want to believe that the President of the United States is a traitor so they can undo the election. That isn’t funny. That’s disgusting.

As I wrote in 2012, focusing on another dishonest and partisan Toles cartoon:

” Political cartooning peaked as a form of commentary about half a century ago, and has been declining ever since. Now it is dominated by hateful, unfunny and witless culture warriors who have as much in common with Jules Feiffer and Bill Mauldin as Mario Mendoza had in common with Hank Aaron. Are there exceptions? There are always exceptions. Pat Oliphant, Exhibit A, is brilliant, nuanced and clever; he’s also 77 years old, the last of the greats. If there are Oliphants out there, legitimate commentators who can make fair and honest observations with humor and a pen, great: what a wonderful alternative to the typical pundit rants. Put them on the editorial pages. The standard, however, should be content, not form. Political cartoons were once an efficient means of aiming a thousand words at non-readers and members of the public without the skills or education to grasp complex issues. They have become a vehicle for the unqualified and trivial-minded to acquire a platform they don’t deserve, to the detriment of the public and journalism.”

Now the evidence: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/29/17

1.  The GOP’s travails as it tries to fix, replace or repeal Obamacare continues to be mocked in both the conservative and liberal media, and by the Democrats who caused the crisis in the first place. Ethically, the party is behaving like a responsible party should with major legislation: not moving in lockstep, with sufficient members of Congress withholding support until the new law appears to be competent and an improvement of the current one. The damned if you do/damned if you don’t game Democrats and the media are playing is wildly dishonest and calculated to win political points at the expense of getting a better system than the festering mess called the Affordable Care Act (irresponsibly passed with public misrepresentations and parliamentary tricks by the other party.)

True, many of the balking Republicans are basing their opposition to the current law less on principle than on polls, which now show a majority of citizens don’t like the proposed bill. On matters of complexity and national importance, polls should play exactly no role in legislation at all. How many of those polled have read the bill or understand it? A tenth of a per cent? Less? Uninformed opinions based on hearsay, ignorance and propaganda are worthless (and after the 2016 election, polls may be as well) ; this is why we have representative democracy and not a direct democracy. Legislators and executive who use polls as crutches are either incompetent, dishonest, cowards, or all three.

2. Especially in light of the despicable tactics of Democrats who are accusing Republicans of killing people by reforming Obamacare, the proper Republican response, which would have the advantage of being both fair and politically smart, would be to announce, through the President:

The failure of the Affordable Care Act is now no longer debatable. Projections for 2018 show massive premium increases. Insurers are pulling out of many markets. The optimistic CBO projections, which critics correctly called absurd at the time, have been decisively shown to be wrong. This law was passed by one party only, using public disinformation,  dubious methods and dirty politics. It has made health care for the public as a whole less affordable, and done nothing to lower health care costs or improve health care quality.

It is now clear that the Democratic Party’s strategy is to shift responsibility for this fiasco to Republicans, by viciously attacking any attempts to fix Obamacare while also preparing to condemn the party if the current law leads to disaster, as it almost surely will on its current course. The Democrats, in short, are placing political considerations over the nation’s health and welfare. Therefore, as of today, the Republican Party will not seek to pass, nor will I sign into law, any health care insurance law or any revisions of the current Affordable Care Act that does not originate from Congressional Democrats, and that Congressional Democrats do not accept accountability for in every respect. The Republican Party will support any such bill, reserving of course the right to suggest additions and changes, but only if there is no question regarding the Democratic Party’s ultimate responsibility for its drafting, as an admission that their original law was fatally flawed.

In the absence of such a bill, I and the Republican Congress will allow the  this “signature legacy of President Obama” to continue, with the understanding that its failure is a Democratic failure, and the lack of a timely fix is entirely due to the cynical tactics of the party that created it.

3. Unethical Quote Of The Day That Is So Predictable That It Isn’t Worth Posting As The Unethical Quote of the Day: Salon

This will be a short break, a one-day experiment: June 27 will be Trump-Free Tuesday here on Salon.

We’ve been thinking about this for a while, and it seems like the right moment. There are so many other things to talk about and think about, in politics, culture or our daily lives. We are stuck with this guy for the foreseeable future, which is a difficult truth for many of us to handle. If we cannot dislodge him from the White House anytime soon, maybe we can start to deflate the outsized role he plays in our national psychology. This is a baby step in that direction.

How will Trump-Free Tuesday work? We have established some rules for ourselves — which we are prepared to break under certain circumstances we have tried to define in advance. (Those circumstances seem unlikely. But who knows what counts as likely anymore?)

We will not publish the president’s name on Tuesday or use his picture. We will not cover his outrageous Twitter utterances or deride his surrogates for whatever stupid things they may or may not say on television. (We try not to do that the rest of the time, too.) We’re certainly going to cover American politics and the United States government, but we will avoid focusing on the dominant personality at the top of the pyramid. We will strive to focus on issues and policies and how they are likely to affect the lives of our readers.

Note the smoking-gun line “If we cannot dislodge him from the White House anytime soon…” Continue reading

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No, Insurance Companies Treating People With Pre-Existing Conditions Differently From Other Customers Is Not “Discrimination.”

Here is a prime example of how the news media’s intentional or careless use of words warps public perception and policy.

Yesterday, the New York Times front page story about the GOP House’s health insurance bill noted in its second paragraph that the bill wouldn’t do enough to prevent “discrimination” by insurance companies against those with per-existing conditions. I have seen and heard that term, discrimination, used over and over again to describe the per-existing condition, and I apologize for not blowing the whistle on it long ago.

Using the term, which is usually used in other contexts to signal bigotry, bias and civil rights violations, is misleading and virtually defamatory. Insurance companies are businesses. They are not charities. They are not public resources. If an automobile company turns down an offer of half what a car costs it to make, it is not discriminating against that customer who made the offer. If a restaurant customer says to a waiter, “I have just four bucks, but I want you to bring me a dozen oysters, a steak, and a nice bottle of wine,” the establishment isn’t discriminating against the diner for sending him to McDonald’s.

Insureds with per-existing conditions want to pay premiums that are wildly inadequate for the coverage they know and the insurance company knows they are going to need. Insurance companies are portrayed as villains because they don’t eagerly accept customers who they know will cost them money, often a lot of money. That’s not discrimination. That’s common sense, basic business practice, fiscal reality,and responsible management. The news media and the under-cover socialists among us want to create the illusion that a company not wanting to accept customers who lose money rather than add to profits is a mark of corporate greed and cruelty, hence the use of “discrimination” as a falsely pejorative term, when the fair and honest word is “problem.” Continue reading

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