Tag Archives: oaths

Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/5/19: Bait And Switch, Inconvenient Honesty, Fake News

Oh, good morning, I guess…

1. Once again: this should be illegal, because it is unconscionable. Recently re-elected Rep. Don Marean, a multiple term Maine state legislator from York County, announced that he was leaving the Republican Party to become an Independent.  In a Friday text message last week, he said that “out of respect” for House Republicans  he would not  comment on the resaon for his decision and would let it “speak for itself.”

It does speak for itself; it tells us that Marean is an unscrupulous, liar who gained election to office fraudulently. Elected officials who betray voters this way have an ethical obligation to resign from office and run again under the party affiliation they will stick to.

2. Keep it up! Please! The freshman Democratic House members, in a single day, managed to strip away the mask of the Democratic Party and expose more of the ugliness beneath than the party veterans deemed wise. Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) refused to be sworn in with her hand on the traditional Bible,  and insisted that a law book be used for the purpose instead. She is a member of the party that has been questioning whether Catholics are fit to be federal judges, and the message that one party is openly hostile to religion is becoming clearer and clearer. The Bible is a moral/ethical document, and accepting it for the purpose of a binding oath should not be a problem for anyone unless they are trying to make a point. Using a law book is no more appropriate or meaningful than using a Harry Potter novel: oaths are declarations of duty, honesty and integrity, not law. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

Comment of the Day (2): “Ethics Hero: Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins”

jag

The celebration here of Dallas DA Craig Watkins’ installment of an open file policy to ensure that crucial evidence that might exonerate a criminal defendant doesn’t get “inadvertently” left out of the material shared with defense counsel prompted this comment from one of the Ethics Alarms resident Marine vet, THE Bill:

“I’ve always wondered why the civilian courts haven’t adopted the military practice of having both the prosecutor and the defense council in the same office under the same command as they do in JAG. It would seem that this would eliminate the US versus THEM mindset.”

I responded…

“It’s because of loyalty and trust, Bill. The adversarial relationship and the appearance of such assures the accused that the two lawyers aren’t colluding against the defendant, and attorney-client confidentiality is surely at risk if there is not physical distance. That’s why in law firms a lawyer with a client who might be adverse to another lawyer’s client in the same firm has to be screened from substantive contact with the other lawyer.”

(I will note here that the last section about screening is an over-simplification of a very complex and confusing issue, as when and if screening is permitted varies state to state, and in many cases still isn’t enough to deal with an unwaivable conflict of interest.)

texagg04 then added the following discussion of the cultural differences between the military and civilian America, and how this informs the differences between the ways the respective systems deal with criminal prosecutions.

This is an appropriate place to salute tex, who is among the most prolific, serious and vital Ethics Alarms commentators. As his comments are often in an advocacy or adversarial mode rather than an expository one, his percentage of  officially recognize commentary excellence is less than it should be considering the consistent quality and frequency of his participation here. He has long made Ethics Alarms better and sharper, if perhaps scarier for first time swimmers in these waters, since thanks to tex (and others), the tide is swift and merciless.

I hope he realizes how much I value  and appreciate his thoughtful and vigorous contributions.

Here is texagg04’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Ethics Hero: Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins.”

There is a presumption given the weight of military Commissions combined with the added weight of the Oaths of Office, that barring any obvious corruption, the officers in charge are not corrupted. Whereas in the civilian world, the presumption that so much burden lies on the state and the accused’s innocence until proven guilty, that even a hint of amiability between defense and prosecution is enough to worry about corruption. Continue reading

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Filed under Law & Law Enforcement, War and the Military

Ethics Over Compliance: The Dutch Banker’s Oath

bankers oath

“Professional ethics” is a never-ending battle between compliance and ethics, between rules and penalties on one side, and principles and values on the other. Compliance is easier: all you do is tell people with rules and regulations what they must or can’t do, and promise that there will be consequences if those rules are violated. For ethics to work, people actually have to understand ethical values and be committed to living by them in a professional context.

Compliance has little to do with ethics. Jack the Ripper will follow rules if they are clear, if he knows he’ll get caught if he violates them, and if the punishment when he does will be  harsh enough. That won’t make him ethical. In fact, compliance–rules-based professional conduct control—is often antithetical to ethics. Rules and laws are merely a challenge to the type that Oliver Wendell Holmes called “The Bad Man”-–which includes bad women—to find ways to do things that are wrong but that avoid violating rules sufficiently to justify punishment.  This is why most compliance codes have language in their introductions noting that it’s impossible to make a code that will cover every wrong someone can think of, so ethics are important too.

Pure compliance-based systems don’t improve ethical conduct. The financial collapse in 2008 was largely caused by financial manipulators operating in the grey areas of the rules and laws—that’s why so few of them could be prosecuted. In politics, The compliance mindset is extremely convenient for clever liars and cheats like the Clintons, which is why Hillary could try to explain her e-mail shenanigans by saying that “I fully complied with every rule I was governed by (heh-heh-heh!).” Unethical people will always find ways to get around rules. Ethical people, in contrast, barely need rules at all.

Another benefit of ethics over compliance is that ethics rules–compliance codes—have to be long and detailed, otherwise it’s too easy for Clinton-types to find loopholes, though they usually will find some anyway. Ethical values, on the other hand, can be stated very simply. An ethical employer thinks, “Hmm, that intern is cute, but I am married and have duties of loyalty and honesty to my wife and family, and it would be an abuse of power and influence as well as irresponsible for me as a leader to have an affair with someone under my supervision in the organization.” The Bad Man thinks, “Wow, she’s hot; my wife won’t care as long as I’m not caught; getting a hummer isn’t considered sex where I come from, and there’s nothing that says a President can’t fool around!” For the former, “A leader should not have sex with subordinates” is clear as a bell; his values tell him why. The latter, though, is thinking, “Hmmm. How can I get around this? That rule says “should” but not “shall”— that’s good. No punishment is specified. Sounds like more of a guideline than a rule. “Sex”—that must mean sexual intercourse: great! Lots of wiggle room there. And “subordinate”—is an intern really a subordinate? And I bet I could argue that this is personal, not official conduct. All good…now where’s that cigar?

Invoking ethics rather than compliance is a new oath required by the Dutch Bankers Association. It could be printed on a postcard, and if a banker is ethical, it is all he or she needs:

I swear within the boundaries of the position that I hold in the banking sector…

…that I will perform my duties with integrity and care;

…that I will carefully balance all the interests involved in the enterprise, namely those of customers, shareholders, employees and the society in which the bank operates;

…that in this balancing, I will put the interests of the customer first;

…that I will behave in accordance with the laws, regulations and codes of conduct that apply to me;

…that I will keep the secrets entrusted to me;

…that I will make no misuse of my banking knowledge;

…that I will be open and transparent, and am aware of my responsibility to society;

…that I will endeavor to maintain and promote confidence in the banking system.

So truly help me God.

And if a banker isn’t ethical,

it won’t matter anyway.

__________________________

Pointer: Legal Ethics Forum

Sources: Bloomberg, The Conglomerate

Graphic: Bloomberg

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Filed under Around the World, Business & Commercial, Character, Finance, Professions, Workplace

Incompetent Elected Official of the Week: U.S. Rep Rubén Hinojosa, D-Texas

The mind of a Congressman.

Nine term U.S. Democratic Rep Rubén Hinojosa was asked about the Second Amendment at a political debate this week with his opponent, Republican businessman Dale Brueggemann. His response:

“There are so many people in Washington who come and talk to us about the Constitution and the rights that they want kept sacred and that not do anything about them. That we not change them. That we not amend them. And I can tell you that — I’m drawing a blank on the Second Amendment, but I think it’s the weapons, isn’t it? The NRA?”

He thinks it’s “the weapons”?

Yikes! Continue reading

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Filed under Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials