Mid-Labor Day Weekend Ethics Barbecue, 9/1/2019: Good Quotes, Bad Quotes, And Someone To Avoid Forever

Boy, it seems like everyone’s on strike this week. I can actually see tumbleweeds rolling across the Ethics Alarms traffic stats…

1. Ethics quote of the weekend: Former GOP House member Trey Gowdy, on the astounding gall of James Comey (and Rep Adam Schiff, who apparently lacks the embarrassment gene) to call on Gowdy to apologize for his criticism of Comey’s unquestionably unethical conduct, after it had been thoroughly confirmed by the recent Inspector General’s report.  Comey even said Gowdy “defamed” him, an inexcusable hyperbole for a lawyer—even he knows better. Gowdy said,

“I never said Comey would or should go to jail. I’m certainly not going to apologize to anyone who violated FBI and Department of Justice policy, who violated an employment agreement, who shared sensitive information about an ongoing investigation, who sent classified information to an unauthorized person and then had amnesia when the FBI came to his home to try to retrieve government property…I will give him a piece of unsolicited advice: You should aspire to more in life than simply skating by without having been indicted.”

Bingo!

2.  What is the proper societal response to this horrible, horrible human being? Because it was her last day on the job and she had given her two weeks notice, Donna Reneau, a 911 operator, decided she would take out all of her grudges and frustrations on emergency callers she didn’t know and was obligated to assist. After all, what could her employers do, fire her?

So, when a flash flood swept away  Debbie Stevens’ car, with her in it, a week ago in  Fort Smith, Arkansas and she desperately called 911, instead of the trained professional she needed,  she reached Reneau, suddenly an avenging operator from Hell.

“Please help me, I don’t want to die!”, Stevens pleads at the start of the  22 minute recorded call. “I can’t swim! I’m scared! I’m going to drown!” Reneau reponded by telling the terrified woman that rescuers would “get there when they get there,” and even told her to  “shut up” as Reneau’s hysteria grew.

As the water began filling Stevens’ SUV and she cried, “I’m scared! I’ve never had anything happen to me like this before,” the 911 operator jeered. “Well this will teach you, next time don’t drive in the water,! I don’t see how you didn’t see it, you had to go right over it…”

When police were finally able to reach the swamped car, Debbie Stevens was dead, drowned. Fort Smith Interim Police Chief Danny Baker, in a statement, acknowledged public outrage but said  Reneau had not  broken any laws nor “violated policy.” THAT’S got to be a mistake, unless the policy in Fort Smith is to razz citizens in crisis.

Now the question is what should be done with, to, and about Reneau. Her performance on the recording is signature significance: nobody behaves like that who is fit for human association. She can’t be trusted as an employee, a neighbor, a colleague or a friend. She lacks empathy and decency; if she isn’t a psychopath or a sociopath, she’s too close for comfort. I don’t want her in my cul de sac…do you? I don’t want her associated with my city, or anything related to me, and that’s how every resident of Fort Smith should feel…and behave toward her accordingly.

And if, because she can’t find a job and no one wants her in their establishment or business—there is no law preventing discrimination against individual blights on society—she ends up living in a shack somewhere in the Okefenokee Swamp with the company of  snakes and leeches,  if they’ll have her—GOOD.

Be on the look-out! Here she is…

Reneau had her chance at living with civilized Americans, and blew it. [Pointer: Reg Fife. Keep those ethics story tips coming, everybody!] Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/27/2019: Desperation

Good morning.

1. Here is why the breast-beating about “doing something” about climate change is dishonest, disingenuous, futile and pointless. Brazil is telling the rest of the world, especially nations that developed their own economies with reckless impunity on the way to wealth and power, to back off its demands that Brazil stop burning its own rain forest. Of course it is taking this stance, and Brazil isn’t the only developing nation that will take that position and has every right to take that position.

Brazil’s defiance is also a definitive rebuttal to the argument that the United States should spend billions—trillions?—in virtue-signaling climate change policies that under the most optimistic scenarios won’t “fix” anything without mass cooperation by nations in Brazil’s position—and that’s not going to happen.

2.  The theory: somebody has to pay. A judge in Oklahoma yesterday ruled that Johnson & Johnson  intentionally hid the risks and hyped the benefits of opioids, ordering the company to pay the state $572 million in damages. This is the first trial of a drug manufacturer for the destruction wrought by prescription painkillers.

I don’t know if the verdict is fair, having not seen the evidence and heard the arguments. I don’t know that the verdict will hold up on appeal. The theory used by the state was questionable: the judge found that Johnson & Johnson perpetuated a “public nuisance” by  contributing to an ongoing public health crisis that could take decades to address successfully. Yet there was no proof offered that doctors who prescribed the drugs were misled, or that Johnson & Johnson violated federal drug regulations.

Public nuisance laws typically apply in cases where something interferes with a right common to the general public and results in danger on roads, parks,and other public areas, and not usually public health, which is what the state argued in this case. Johnson & Johnson’s lawyers contended that the state was contorting public nuisance law to the point of being unrecognizable. Of course, the same argument was made when product liability laws started moving beyond the “buyer beware” stage.

Not reading and hearing all the evidence, I can only wonder if this is case of deep pockets being held responsible for a tragedy that had no single, obvious villain. Doctors prescribed drugs approved by federal regulators, and the drug manufacturers supplied them, legally. Then citizens took the drugs, voluntarily, in a political and social culture that increasingly shrugs off drug use and abuse. Continue reading

A Show Of Hands, Now: Who Thinks Brian Stelter Is Telling The Truth This Time?

CNN’s laughable “media critic,” Brian Stelter, who has distinguished himself and embarrassed his field—supposedly media ethics—by devolving into a mere shill for CNN and a dependable scourge of Fox News, may have hit a new low yesterday. I say “may” because  its hard to make qualitative distinctions in the murk at the bottom of the barrel.

Stelter brought on the former chairman of the Psychiatry Department at Duke University, Dr. Alan Frances, apparently because he has a raging, Level 5 case of Trump Derangement. This is sufficient qualification  for a national news media platform now. No enlightenment necessary, no reasoned analysis, just good, old fashioned, bat-shit Trump hate, with plenty of spittle and that wonderful “Is he going run off on all fours biting people?” suspense. On Stelter’s show with the doctor was Bandy Lee, who defied her profession’s rule against diagnosing political figures from afar throughout the 2016 campaign, saying that she was  “obligated to break [the rules] in times of emergency,” thus evoking eleven rationalizations by my count. That’s right, Lee and Francis were the representatives of the psychiatric profession CNN’s “media ethics” authority decided would give a balanced assessment of the practice of psychoanalyzing the President.

Really.

Dr.  Frances pretended to criticize his professionally irresponsible colleagues like Lee for assisting in the resistance’s Plan E, trying to illegitimately apply the 25th Amendment allowing a disabled President to be removed from office.   Oh no, he said: doing this was just plain wrong:

“Well, I think ‘medicalizing’ politics has three very dire consequences. The first is that it stigmatizes the mentally ill. I’ve known thousands of patients, almost all of them are well-behaved, well-mannered good people. Trump is none of these. Lumping that is a terrible insult to the mentally ill and they have enough problems and stigma as it is. Second, calling Trump crazy hides the fact that we’re crazy for having elected him and even crazier for allowing his crazy policies to persist… Now, it’s absolutely impossible, you can bet the house that the Congress, that Pence, that the cabinet will never ever remove Trump on grounds of mental unfitness. That will never happen. Discussing the issue in psychological name-calling terms distracts us from getting out to vote. The important thing is to get Trump out of office.”

Is that your expert opinion, doctor? Simply wanting to defeat the President is all it takes to get on CNN, apparently.

Ah, but it was within those ellipses that the doctor really came through, saying, Continue reading

The Big Lies Of The “Resistance”: A Directory. Big Lie #2: “Trump Is Not A Legitimate President”

The Directory of the Big Lies cynically and unethically employed by the President’s political opponents continues with…

Big Lie #2. “Trump is not a legitimate President”

Although this was not the first of the Big Lies, it was the foundation of all the others to come. The assertion, seeded by Hillary Clinton and spread by pundits and the news media, is pure poison to the democracy, national unity, the public trust, and the national welfare.

It boggles the mind that progressives and Democrats have been willing to risk so much harm to the United States and its culture for the sole purpose of waging political warfare against the President of the United States. I have to believe that at other times in our history, any party considering such a strategy would be stopped short by a respected and responsible leader. Incredibly, the Democrats didn’t have one (and still don’t). The obvious individual who could have minimized the political and cultural carnage was Barack Obama. He had neither the courage, the character nor the bi-partisan concern for the nation to do so. This was one more failure of leadership for the most wildly over-praised President in U.S. history.

The most damning aspect of the Democrats’ refusal after the  election to follow the tradition of all previous losing parties is that they had lectured Donald Trump, when they were certain of victory, about how he was obligated to accept the will of the voters.

Hillary Clinton, another leader of the party who could have killed this insidious  tactic in its cradle, was very clear on how essential such acceptance was—when she thought Trump would be the loser:

“To say you won’t respect the results of the election, that is a direct threat to our democracy,” she said at a rally at a late October rally the University of North Carolina. “We’ve been around 240 years. We’ve had free and fair elections and we’ve accepted the outcomes when we may not have liked them and that is what must be expected of anyone standing on a debate stage during a general election.” Later, she said unequivocally that “The peaceful transfer of power is one of the things that makes America America.”

For once, Hillary was right. Unable to accept her own responsibility for her shocking defeat, however, she engaged in the exact conduct that she had—correctly—condemned as dangerous, and allowed (and I assume encouraged)  her party to employ it—to this day—as its signature Big Lie. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, October 11, 2018: Ethics Flotsam and Jetsam

Hello, I must be going…

Ugh! Big seminar to teach at a downtown D.C. law firm and no time to linger! Some quick ethics notes…

1. The Nike pander. Can a TV commercial be pandering to one side of the political spectrum and dubious ethical conduct more? In the new Adidas ad, Colin Kaepernick, grandstanding boob, is treated like a cultural hero. So is one of the most abrasive of the Parkland shooting anti-gun kids, and Serena Williams. It made me wonder what was the matter with the other pseudo-celebrities who quickly crossed my vision: I assume that they are ethics corrupters too. Like Nike…

2. So much for Plan E. Plan E is the 25th Amendment impeachment plot (the whole list of Democratic and “resistance” plans to undo the election is here.) President Trump gave Fox and Friends another of his hyper-energized monologues today, over 45 minutes-worth. He still sounds like Trump, but anyone listening to that who wants to claim the man is disabled will have a lot of explaining to do. I dare Nancy Pelosi to free-style for 45 minutes without crashing and burning.

3. Maybe this will be Plan O: After the President’s rant, Fox and Friends’  co-host Ainsley Earhardt asked the President to wish her father a happy birthday over the air, which he graciously did. I’m not sure what was horrible about that, but I’m sure someone will claim that it is a dangerous breach of some “norm” or other.

4. Now, impeaching Fox talking heads is another story. The K-pop group NCT 127 appeared on Fox’s Good Day L.A. yesterday.  Following their performance, band member Mark Lee told  co-host Megan Colarossi—guess what color her hair is? Come on, guess!— that he is from Vancouver. She responded with, “Very cool, your English is awesome. I love it.”

Asked one Twitter wag…“I mean he’s from Canada, what is he supposed to speak, moose?”

Why should the public trust the news media when so many of them regularly expose themselves as idiots? Continue reading

Homeward Bound Saturday Morning Ethics Catch-Up, 9/8/2018: Not Spartacus, Not Good Citizens, Not Trustworthy

Good Morning!

1 Good job, everybody. Lots of comments yesterday despite scant new content. Thanks. I am in the process of organizing a new D.C. law firm, Bergstein, DeCailly and Marshall, PLLC. I’m the ethics partner. It shouldn’t interfere with the activities of ProEthics or Ethics Alarms, except for the occasional conflict of interest that raises its hoary head, and time, like yesterday. I was in meetings down here in Ft. Lauderdale from early morning through dinner, meeting with a large group of some of the most fascinating and diverse professionals I’ve ever been involved with. I arrived back at the hotel too fried to even consider posting anything. I have responded to some comments while I’m waking up today.

The lack of participation by those of a more liberal orientation is disappointing, and rankles me daily. I hate being rankled. I guess I should be able to sympathize with why a omitted progressive or Democrat would want to have a bag over his or her head after the last few days of self-immolation by Senate Democrats, or would be paralyzed by embarrassment at hearing Barack Obama, of all people, complain that the Republicans are divisive. The most divisive occurrence in American politics is when the previous President actively works to undermine the current one. There is a reason that hasn’t happened since Teddy Roosevelt turned on President Taft, and the result was the election of one of the most disastrous Presidents of all time, Woodrow Wilson.

2. 16 places you can retire to if you’re a lousy American. The entire attitude underlying this article, 16 countries where you can retire ‘happier’ than in the US. is selfish and irresponsible. You are an American citizen and this is a participatory democracy. I don’t care if you’re retired; you still have a lifetime obligation to contribute to society, your community, and the nation. Happier nations for the retired, according to the article, are rated according to how the happiness of retirees is trending. Of course that method shows the U.S. in a bad light: retirees are justifiably pissed off watching one party set out to rip the country in two, open borders, and undermine the Bill of Rights, the election of Presidents, and our institutions, and the other being led by an irresponsible narcissist. That doesn’t mean that the patriotic and ethical response is to leave the country that got them this far to the antifa and “the resistance.” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/15/18: Spin Wars (Part I)

Good Morning…

…from a galaxy not nearly far enough away…

1. Quick takes on a remarkable 51 minutes on the White House lawn. I just, and I mean just, finished watching President Trump’s spontaneous press conference on the White House lawn, standing within easy spitting distance—brave, given how much so many of these people detest him—of a pack of reporters as Fox’s Baby Doocy held a microphone for him, and picking questions, often hostile, out of the cacophony. Has any previous President done something like this? I’ve never seen such a thing.

If you can’t admire this performance, your anti-Trump virus is raging out of control. I miss the reflex, knee-jerk Democrats and progressives who have, I hope temporarily, taken a hiatus from Ethics Alarms because, in my assessment, they no longer can muster credible defenses of the way this President has been treated by the news media and the resistance, so they have retreated to the warm cocoon of the left-wing echo chamber. Trump’s appearance this morning as well as the Inspector General’s report on the Clinton email investigation are integrity tests. I’d like to think the otherwise intelligent and analytical progressives here would pass them. Ducking the challenge is not a good sign.

Of course, Trump was Trump. As I wrote long ago, constantly harping on what we all know is wrong with Trump is boring and pointless. (See: The Julie Principle) He exaggerated. He spoke in infuriatingly inexact and colloquial word clouds. He celebrated himself and pronounced himself brilliant. I know, I know: if his very existence in the universe is offensive to you, then this performance would be painful. (When Donald Trump isn’t the elected President of the United States, his existence  will probably be offensive to me once again, just as as it was right up to November 8, 2016.) However, the fact is that President Trump showed mastery of the situation. He managed the chaos and maintained his dignity while a generally angry and adversarial mob was shouting at him and interrupting him. I run interactive seminars with lawyers for a living, and I am qualified to say this: what he did is difficult, and he handled it very, very well. Anyone who watches those 51 minutes and refuses to say, “Well, he’s not senile, demented, unstable, dumb or teetering on the brink of madness, I’ve got to give him that much”  had disqualified themselves as a credible Trump critic. He was in command, quick, calm, and in his own way, masterful.

The response of the anti-Trump news media will be to “factcheck” him. He said, for example, that the IG report “exonerated” him, as the pack screamed, “But the report doesn’t discuss the Russian investigation at all!”  This is the old, dishonest and so boring, “Trump is lying when he expresses his feelings and impressions in the cloudy, semi-inarticulate imprecision that he always speaks in, which we will pretend isn’t what we already know it to be.” Of course the report doesn’t formally or actually exonerate him. It does,  in his view (and mine), show a corrupt and untrustworthy culture in the FBI and the Obama Justice Department that treated the Clinton investigation in exactly the opposite fashion that they have used to investigate him. This means, to Trump, that the Mueller investigation is a political hit job, and he regards that as the equivalent of exoneration. Well, he can regard it as cheesecake, if he chooses. His opinion is not “a lie.” (I am being sued, you may recall, by an Ethics Alarms commenter who maintains in his complaint that opinions are lies, so I am rather sensitive on this point.)

Several of Trump’s responses were succinct and effective, as well as infuriating to the anti-Trump journalists, I’m sure. He said that President Obama lost the Crimea when he refused to enforce his own “red line,” thus destroying his credibility and causing Putin to correctly assume that he could move on the Ukraine without consequences. True. He said that he was not worried that Michael Cohen would cooperate with the Mueller investigation, because he, the President, had done nothing wrong. (Headlines like “Will Cohen flip on Trump?” over the last few days imply that there is something to flip about, because the Left, “the resistance,” the news media and those AWOL Ethics Alarms readers have assumed from the beginning that Trump is guilty of some dire and impeachable conduct. Continue reading