Lunchtime Ethics Appetizer, 6/3/2019: Self-Censorship, Trump’s Ridiculous Jumbo, Turley On Mueller, And A College Ranking Scandal [Updated]

Bon Appettit!

1. To self-censor or not to self-censor. Right after expressing here my dilemma about whether to risk political and partisan backlash by raising current, important and legitimate legal ethics issues from the Mueller investigation, there were a flurry of articles and podcasts about the dangers of self-censorship in a climate where Americans are being systematically intimidated from opposing the Woke Collective. This is a classic ethical dilemma, with ethical considerations like integrity, duty, citizenship, honesty and responsibility, are opposed by non-ethical considerations, like keeping one’s job, paying the bills, and not being cast as a pariah in one’s profession.

I was also reminded of my problem by Instapundit referencing today an old  Washington Post article about Mao’s mass murders. My company lost a lucrative sexual harassment training deal after two Chinese nationals (that I did npt know were in the audience) too offense at a tangential comment about Mao’s exterminations dwarfing those of Hitler and Stalin  (but not Darth Vader). Both contacted me and demanded apologies, claiming that it was Western propaganda and that the Great Leader had “only” executed millions out of necessity. I refused (I know I have mentioned this before here) and said I was sincerely sorry they had been subjected to cultural influences that had warped their ethics, and that if I had been aware that this was a sensitve topic to anyone in the audience, I would have omitted the reference. Having spoken the truth, however, I was not going to deny or apologize for it.

“Why didn’t you just apologize?” my client asked. And I was reminded of the moment in “1776” when a royalist in the Continental Congress asks Jefferson why he called King George “a tyrant” in the Declaration. “Because he is a tyrant,” Jefferson answers.

I’m an ethicist, I said. I’m not going to whitewash the massacre of 45-60 million people because someone is offended by the truth.

That was the end of that contract…

2. The President issues a Jumbo. Why does he do things like this? I have no idea. It si the political equivalent of pushing a pie into his own face. In an interview with the British tabloid, The Sun tabloid, Trump responded to a query about his reaction to  Megan Markle’s statement  that he is a “misogynist” and her suggestion that “she’d move to Canada if you got elected; turned out she moved here.” He said, “Well, a lot of people are moving here, so what can I say. No, I didn’t know that she was nasty.”

Of course Trump was attacked for saying that to a British newspaper—it was racist, it was an insult, the usual. Of course the President shouldn’t stoop to personal swipes at anyone; on the other hand, that’s what he does when he is attacked himself.  “Tit for Tat” and “doing unto others as they did to you” are part of Trump’s “ethics.” Can’t we stipulate this by now? Can’t TRUMP stipulate it at this point?

Then he tweeted, “I never called Meghan Markle ‘nasty.’ Made up by the Fake News Media, and they got caught cold! Will @CNN, @nytimes and others apologize? Doubt it!” He did this knowing that the Sun had his statement recorded, and sure enough, the paper  released the audiotape.

See, the idea behind Jimmy Durante saying “Elephant? What elephant?” when caught stealing the biggest pachyderm in the world in a musical comedy is that it’s obviously desperate and ridiculous, and intended to be funny.

This is just self-destructive, disturbing, and really, really stupid.

3. Jonathan Turley on Mueller. The George Washington Law prof has consistently been a voice of reason and objectivity reagarding the Mueller investigation. He has recently written two excellent columns on Mueller’s public statement, here, and here.

Greg should send them to his ex-friend.

4. Why is this more damaging to a school than, say, falsely instructing students about justice, the right to representation, and due process?

From TaxProf Blog: “University Of Oklahoma Inflated Its Alumni Giving Data For 20 Years, U.S. News Strips Its #127 Ranking”

The University of Oklahoma admitted to  U.S. News that it had inflated its alumni giving data since 1999, which affects its placement in the National Universities, Best Value Schools, Top Public Schools, Best Colleges for Veterans and A-Plus Schools for B Students rankings and lists. For the 2019 Best Colleges rankings, the University of Oklahoma originally reported its two-year alumni giving rate at 14 percent. The school informed U.S. News the correct value is 9.7 percent. The average alumni giving rate has a weight of 5 percent in the Best Colleges ranking methodology.

And now,

A former OU student has filed a class action lawsuit against the University of Oklahoma as a result of the university being stripped of its U.S. News & World Report ranking. [Gretzer v. Oklahoma, No. 19-490 (W.D. OK May 28, 2019]

The lawsuit, which was filed May 28 on behalf of former OU student Elani Gretzer and all OU undergraduate students since 1999, alleges the university broke contract by providing false alumni giving data to U.S. News & World Report, inflating its ranking in U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Colleges” ranking as a result.

The lawsuit alleges the U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of the Price College of Business was a “material factor” in Gretzer’s decision to enroll at OU. … The suit is also filed on behalf of an estimated minimum of 350,000 people — all OU students who have enrolled since 1999, the year in which OU has admitted it began providing false information to U.S. News & World Report.

Morgan Cloud (Emory) & George Shepherd (Emory), Law Deans In Jail, 77 Mo. L. Rev. 931 (2012):

A most unlikely collection of suspects — law schools, their deans, U.S. News & World Report and its employees — may have committed felonies by publishing false information as part of U.S. News’ ranking of law schools. The possible federal felonies include mail and wire fraud, conspiracy, racketeering, and making false statements. Employees of law schools and U.S. News who committed these crimes can be punished as individuals, and under federal law the schools and U.S. News would likely be criminally liable for their agents’ crimes.

Some law schools and their deans submitted false information about the schools’ expenditures and their students’ undergraduate grades and LSAT scores. Others submitted information that may have been literally true but was misleading. Examples include misleading statistics about recent graduates’ employment rates and students’ undergraduate grades and LSAT scores.

U.S. News itself may have committed mail and wire fraud. It has republished, and sold for profit, data submitted by law schools without verifying the data’s accuracy, despite being aware that at least some schools were submitting false and misleading data. U.S. News refused to correct incorrect data and rankings errors and continued to sell that information even after individual schools confessed that they had submitted false information. In addition, U.S. News marketed its surveys and rankings as valid although they were riddled with fundamental methodological errors.

One question: why isn’t Harvard’s ranking being lowered? I suspect that it’s because maleducating students and systematically undermining American values and civil rights isn’t included in the criteria.

It should be.

Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/29/2019: ‘It Depends On What The Meaning Of _____ Is’ Edition” [Item #1]

One of the many things I deeply resent about the “resistance”/Democratic Party/ progressive/mainstream media assault on the President, elections, our democracy and the connective tissue that has held the United States together—aside from such minor inconveniences as the likely permanent damage it has done to society and the viability of the American experiment—is how it has rendered so many familial, personal and professional relationships unsustainable after one party or the other has fallen prey to Stage 5 Trump Derangement.

Commenter Greg has chronicled an experience that too many will find familiar. Here is his Comment of the Day on #1 in the post, “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/29/2019: “It Depends On What The Meaning Of _____ Is” Edition.”

I’m not on Facebook, so I can’t unfriend anybody. But inspired by Jack, I finally did block a (former) friend from texting me today after the following exchange, which is in tone exactly like all of the other text conversations that I have endured with him for over three years:

Former Friend: https://twitter.com/atrupar/status/1133766034874404864. Compare what Barr said and what Mueller said:

BARR: “[Mueller] made it very clear that was not his position. He was not saying that but for the OLC opinion he would have found a crime.”

MUELLER: “If we had confidence POTUS clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”

According to Barr, Mueller didn’t find that Trump committed crimes and the OLC didn’t have anything to do with it. But Mueller says Trump committed crimes and he would have charged him if not for the OLC opinion. So Mueller contradicted both of Barr’s LIES today. Barr lied and dropped the charges and let Trump go. We gotta impeach both these criminals.

Me: There’s no inconsistency between what Mueller said and what Barr said. There is a continuum:

1. Clearly did not commit a crime.
2. Probably did not commit a crime.
3. 50/50 whether he committed a crime.
4. Probably committed a crime.
5. Clearly (i.e., beyond a reasonable doubt) committed a crime. This is the only circumstance under which a crime would be charged.

Mueller said the evidence was not sufficient to establish #1 and he did not comment on whether it established #2 through #5. Barr said the evidence was not sufficient to establish #5 and he did not comment on whether it established #1 through #4. Mueller didn’t say that Trump committed crimes and he certainly didn’t charge him with any crimes.

Former Friend: Bullshit. Barr said the barrier to charging a president was NOT a factor in failing to bring a case against Trump. Mueller said today that is the only reason why they didn’t charge Trump. A LIE.

Me: No. Barr didn’t say that the barrier to charging a president wasn’t a factor in Mueller’s decision. He said that it wasn’t a factor in his own (and Rosenstein’s) decision. Barr and Rosenstein decided not to consider whether or not a president could be charged with a crime under any circumstances because they had determined that the evidence did not establish #5. Mueller decided not to consider whether or not the evidence established #5 because he had determined that a president could not be charged under any circumstances. There’s no inconsistency.

Former Friend: Read the fucking transcript.

Me: I read the transcript and I read the Mueller report and I read Barr’s letter. Barr’s letter said: “Rod Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense. Our determination was made without regard to, and is not based on, the constitutional considerations that surround the indictment and criminal prosecution of a sitting president.” That means that they determined that there was no proof of #5 even aside from the barrier to charging a president.

The Mueller report says, “We considered whether to evaluate the conduct we investigated under the Justice Manual standards governing prosecution and declination decisions, but we determined not to apply an approach that could potentially result in a judgment that the President committed crimes.” That means they did not make any determination about whether or not the evidence established #5. They said they decided not to make that evaluation because the “threshold step” had not been satisfied. The “threshold step” was a determination of whether the president could be charged with a crime. Because they determined that the answer was no, they did not move to the second step, which would have been evaluating whether the evidence was sufficient to establish #5. That means they decided not to make a determination one way or the other about #5 because of the barrier to charging a president.

That’s what Mueller said today, too. “We concluded that we would not reach a determination one way or the other about whether the President committed a crime…. We will not comment on any other conclusions or hypotheticals about the President.” This is exactly the same as the report. They are not expressing any opinion about #2, #3, #4 or #5 and they refuse to speculate.

Former Friend: You are so full of shit. You just sit there and repeat Trump’s talking points over and over again. Evidence doesn’t matter to you at all.

Me: [block]

Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Year: U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr

“One of the ironies today is that people are saying it is President Trump who is shredding our institutions. I really see no evidence of that. From my perspective, the idea of ‘resisting’ a Democratically elected president and basically throwing everything at him, and really changing the norms on the grounds that we have to stop this president. That’s where the shredding of our norms and institutions is occurring.”

—The Attorney General, on CBS This Morning today.

Exactly. Continue reading

Lunchtime Ethics Warm-Up, 5/30/2019: Bye! Go For It! And Who Cares?

A yucky ethics meal.

(Sorry)

1. Why is this worthy of being published? Here’s a long Washington Post writer whine that he ““doesn’t recognize”the U.S. any more, and wants to run off and hide someplace better. Why is this any more useful and enlightening  than the rant of some wacko who has decided that human beings have been replaced by pod people, or that we’re really all lying dormant in a Matrix-like sleep? The article is just free-flowing Left-wing bitching and Trump hate that could have been written by any one of thousands of resistance fanatics in the last three years.

Why should anyone care or be enlightened that Ted Gap, whoever he is, regards the U.S. as a viper pit of  “xenophobia” (aka “enforcing the law and protecting the borders”), “its saber-rattling” (aka “foreign affairs”), “its theocratic leanings” (known as “religion”), “its denial of facts and science” (code for “not being willing to spend trillions and send the standard of  living and the economy backwards based on unconfirmed theories and projections”), “its tribalism” (I suspect Ted means the “tribes” he doesn’t personally favor), and “its petty and boorish president” (so if Ted’s candidate loses an election, it means that it’s not the U.S. any more. Got it. Typical “resistance” member.) Continue reading

Robert Mueller’s Bizarre And Unethical Public Statement

There have already been comments on Ethics Alarms regarding Robert Mueller’s surprise public statement to, I assumed, clarify some things being muddled in the political grandstanding and media mush. Frankly, I am not certian what  he thought he was doing, but my suspicions aren’t pretty. The statement was either unethical, or incoherent. Just so we are on the same page, here is the full statement. I’ll be back at the end… Continue reading

I Figured It Out: The Congressional Democrats Are Imitating Saddam Hussein [PART II]

[Continued from PART I, here]

As with Saddam’s disastrous bluff, the “we have enough for impeachment but we’re not going to impeach just yet” dance involves some reckless brinkmanship and depends on corrupt and under the table alliances, with the mainstream media replacing the U.N and its complicit members. So far the media has neglected to educate the public regarding how desperate and absurd the current subpoena tactic is, with its close similarity to the Radical Republicans’ attempt to get rid of President Andrew Johnson by demanding that he obey an illegal law, the Tenure of Office Act. (“Andrew Johnson? Who’s that? You must mean Lyndon Johnson, right? No?”)

As Johnson did, President Trump has a Constitutional obligation to protect the Separation of Powers from a House majority intent on abusing its oversight powers. The House Democrats are simultaneously claiming that they have enough WMDs—lets’ call them WTDs, Weapons of Trump’ Destruction—to take down the President, while they continue to search desperately for what they are lying about having. Thus they are demanding that they see the unredacted Mueller report, which would be illegal, getting Trump’s tax documents, which would be a dangerous abuse of privacy and the oversight function, and forcing the former White House Counsel to reveal privileged information, which he cannot legally or ethically do. The idea appears to be to let these orchestrated controversies distract the public and continue into the 2020 campaign, with the Democrats running on a “he should be impeached, but it’s easier just to beat him” theme.

The only question is whether the news media will be any more successful saving the Democrats from their dishonest and dangerous bluff than the U.N.’s crooks were protecting Saddam. I doubt it. The U.N. had and even now has more credibility than  the self-flaying news media, and for good reason.

Last week, for example, two New York Times columnists made foolishly weak arguments that Trump had committed impeachable offenses. For clinically Trump-deranged Charles Blow, for whom every column is a barely restrained primal scream against Trump’s existence, the imagined offense is criticizing the press for being exactly as corrupt, biased and untrustworthy as Blow proves it is every week. His own dishonesty is what distinguishes the column; for example, he writes that a poll (Blow loves cherry-picking polls, a flaw he shares with Trump) found that 49% to 36%, Republicans agree that the news media is “the enemy of the people,” but all other groups say that the media “is an important part of democracy.” Continue reading

I Figured It Out: The Congressional Democrats Are Imitating Saddam Hussein [PART I]

I was just lying awake with a dismal headache, as  “Iolanthe’s” Lord Chancellor memorably sung, when it suddenly came to me, like a bolt from Olympus.  I realized what it was that the unethical impeachment-rattling strategy of Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats reminded me of. It’s the same trick Saddam Hussein attempted regarding his elusive “Weapons of Mass Destruction” charade.

If you recall, Hussein tried to pull off a dangerous bluff. Having removed, shipped away to allies, or destroyed all of his WMDs to avoid the Gulf War against him resuming (it was only a cease fire, remember, with conditions that were supposed to be enforced by U.N. members), he flamboyantly behaved as if he still had them. The despot refused to allow the full inspections that the cease fire deal required, and also interfered with air surveillance. These were flagrant violations of the cease fire, but Saddam was certain that he could forestall any military action because the U.N. leadership, and notably Russia and France as well, were profiting from bribes and under-the-table deals to help Hussein get around U.N. sanctions, enriching both him and them while the Iraqi people suffered. His corrupt pals assured him that they were capable of keeping the United States at bay.

Why was Hussein playing this dangerous game? As he explained to his captors after his government was overthrown, he was bluffing to keep Iran from attacking, which he was certain it would do if they knew he had disarmed.

Now, you well might ask why anyone would admire a plan that not only got hundreds of thousands of people killed and wasted billions of dollars, but that also ended up with the planner being captured in a “spider hole” and ultimately executed.  Remember, we’re not talking about entirely rational people here. We’re talking about “the resistance,” and those a party that is hostage to it. The circumstances of the Democrats’ lack of metaphorical WMDs are different in their details: the “resistance” had convinced themselves  that they would get damning evidence from the Mueller Investigation (Trump is a bad guy, so he must be guilty of something), but it provided nothing useful. The Democratic leadership is now trapped in a dangerous game that they think requires them to pander to and mollify a fanatic, anti-American, anti-democracy, furiously anti-Trump base, that is, as that description might suggest, irrational and destructive. Continue reading