Thanksgiving Week Launch Ethics Warm-Up, 11/19/18: Turkeys

Good Morning.

1. This is weird. The Florida Supreme Court released a long-awaited decision concerning whether a judge’s Facebook friendship with an attorney should be  grounds for disqualification if the attorney is arguing a case before that judge. The 4-3 opinion holds that:

In some circumstances, the relationship between a judge and a litigant, lawyer, or other person involved in a case will be a basis for disqualification of the judge. Particular friendship relationships may present such circumstances requiring disqualification. But our case law clearly establishes that not every relationship characterized as a friendship provides a basis for disqualification. And there is no reason that Facebook “friendships”—which regularly involve strangers—should be singled out and subjected to a per se rule of disqualification. 

I could not disagree more. A friend request from a judge is inherently coercive, and creates pressure on the lawyer to accept. Who wants to tell a judge that he doesn’t want to be his friend? Other bar associations and courts have held that it is improper for judges and lawyers to “friend” each other if there is any chance that the judge will be presiding over the lawyer’s cases, and that is the wiser rule. My own preference would be for judges to stay off social media entirely, except for close friends and family. They can only get in trouble there.

2. And this is much weirder…Apparently an app, ‘Santa Call New 2018,’ briefly available for download at the Amazon Children’s Store, would place a call to “Santa”when kids pressed the ‘call’ button, and Jolly Saint Nick would reply, “Hello there. Can you hear me, children? In five nights, if you’re free, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.”

Amazon is investigating.

Happy Holidays! Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, “June Had Better Be Better Than May” Edition: Wait, CNN Is Condemning Double Standards? [UPDATED]

Good morning…

1. How low can the New York Times go?  Even lower than I thought...In today editorial, the Times editorial board complains about President Trump’s pardon of conservative writer  Dinesh D’Souza, whom it describes as a “right-wing troll.” Okay…and by that kind of measure, the entire Times editorial staff is a collective left-wing troll. The Times notes that D’Souza is “known for, among other things, posting racist tweets about President Barack Obama [ The Times identified a single “racist tweet,” but in any event, such tweets are not illegal]  spreading the lie that George Soros was a Nazi collaborator [ Not a lie, just an unfair characterization that D’Souza may genuinely believe. Lying is also not illegal, and the Times should be grateful for this given its own proclivities] and writing that “the American slave was treated like property, which is to say, pretty well” [ An opinion, if an obnoxious one, and also not illegal.] So what? None of that justifies D’Souza’s prosecution on a technical election law violation that many found to be politically motivated and pushed by those who took offense at, well, exactly what the Times cited about him. Bill Clinton, during the 2016 primaries, openly violated the law by politicking for Hillary at a polling place in Massachusetts without any consequences. That was selective non-prosecution if the offense was usually enforced, and would have been selective, suspicious prosecution if he had been charged when most violators are not. There are good reasons, in other words, to believe that an anti-Obama, anti-Democrat gadfly was targeted vindictively by the Obama administration to chill his political speech. Trump’s pardon is defensible, if provocative. Then the Times writes,

“The tendency of presidents of both parties to reward cronies with clemency — from Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton’s of the financier Marc Rich — is one Washington tradition that we’d welcome Mr. Trump smashing.”

You read that correctly. The New York Times just sunk to a new low, which is quite an achievement, comparing Gerald Ford’s brave, wise, and politically ruinous pardon of Richard Nixon for the good of the nation (and it was good for the nation, while a protracted political show trial of a disgraced President would not have been) to Bill Clinton’s probably criminal pardon of fugitive Marc Rich, whose ex-wife coincidentally followed up Clinton’s  defiantly perverse  act with a huge financial gift to Clinton’s Presidential library.

2. How to invalidate an apology in one, stupid step. Yesterday “Cunt”-Hurler Samantha Bee apologized “sincerely” for her scurrilous attack on Ivanka Trump after it began to appear that her incivility might lose her show some sponsors. Then she almost immediately showed how sincerely ( as in “not one bit”) at last night’s award ceremony, as the Television Academy  honored Bee’s  “Full Frontal”  for “advancing social change” (as in ‘pushing partisan anger and hate to the point where a civil war is no longer unthinkable.’ Yay Samantha!). Her award should have been cancelled, of course, and by awarding it to Bee anyway, the Academy tacitly endorsed the position that Ivanka Trump is a “feckless cunt.” Continue reading

NOW Monica Lewinsky Says She Was Abused And Sexually Harassed

 

I called it!

Remember in December when I had this exchange on NPR during a panel about sexual harassment and political figures in the early states of #MeToo?

ME : A hostile work environment means that the recipient of this has to feel hostility. They don’t like it. So, for example, if somebody – I have a hypothetical that I’m sure has happened, where someone is grabbed by Donald Trump back when he’s a celebrity, and she comes home. And she’s kissed, and she tells her roommate, “That was cool! Donald Trump kissed me.” And then when everybody she knows detests Donald Trump, she suddenly says …”I was harassed.”

BUTLER: COME ON!

HOST MICHEL MARTIN: OK. Yeah, I think we’re going to go to a different…All right. All right, Jack, you’ve had your say on that. And I think there are a lot of people who would want to argue with – I’m going to let Paul speak his piece on this. What do you say to that?

But the professor didn’t go beyond his interjected cheap shot, and went on to his own agenda, leaving the impression that my exposition on the strangeness of sexual harassment law was off-the-wall. It wasn’t, though. I was 100% correct, and NPR listeners, thanks to a grandstanding law professor whom I suspect wasn’t up on sexual harassment (he’s a criminal law professor who concentrates on race issues), were left less-informed than when they tuned in.

My point was and is valid: nothing stops an object of sexual attention in questionable propriety and taste from treating it as welcome at the time, then choosing, months, years or decades later, when there are non-ethical motivations to vilify or harm her one-time suitor, to withdraw her consent and “welcome,” and claim, retroactively, that she was harassed and abused.

This is exactly what Monica Lewinsky has done. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/17/18: Have You Heard About The Adulterous Governor?

Good Morning!

Just one issue to warm-up with today, but a juicy one, with sex, lies, and tape! Two kinds of tape, in fact…

I find it peculiar that the travails of Missouri Governor Eric Greitens have received such light coverage in the news media; after all, this is great chance to embarrass a Republican. If you missed the story, it goes like this:

During his campaign later during his first year in office as Missouri’s Governor (he began his term a year ago), Eric Greitens proclaimed himself a family values guy. During his campaign announcement, he stated: “I’m Eric Greitens, I’m a Navy SEAL, native Missourian and most importantly, a proud husband and father.” Rumors of past extra-marital dalliances surfaced, and the Governor denied them.

An un-named lover’s ex-husband,however, blew the whistle to the news media, providing an incriminating tape in which the woman said she had a single sexual encouter with Grietens  and that he tried to blackmail her to ensure her silence.  “He took a picture of my wife naked as blackmail. There is no worse person,” the ex-husband told reporters. There are also allegation that Grietens slapped her. The woman  has not made an on-the-record comment about the story.

In a recording released by CBS News, the unnamed woman is heard saying,

“I knew he was being sexual and I still let him. And he used some sort of tape, I don’t know what it was and taped my hands to these rings and then put a blindfold on me. He stepped back and I saw a flash through the blindfold and he said you’re never going to mention my name, otherwise, there will be pictures of me everywhere….He tried kissing my stomach and tried to kiss me down there but didn’t quite get there because I flipped out and I said you need to stop.”

Last week, the Governor and his wife released this statement:

“A few years ago, before Eric was elected Governor, there was a time when he was unfaithful in our marriage. This was a deeply personal mistake. Eric took responsibility, and we dealt with this together honestly and privately. While we never would have wished for this pain in our marriage, or the pain that this has caused others, with God’s mercy Sheena has forgiven and we have emerged stronger. We understand that there will be some people who cannot forgive – but for those who can find it in your heart, Eric asks for your forgiveness, and we are grateful for your love, your compassion, and your prayers.” 

Sheena Greitens added:

“We have a loving marriage and an awesome family; anything beyond that is between us and God. I want the media and those who wish to peddle gossip to stay away from me and my children.” 

The allegations of blackmail and now of battery are being investigated. Some lawmakers from both parties are calling on the Governor to resign.

Last week, an attorney for Governor Greitens released the following statement:

“We have been asked repeatedly by reputable news outlets why we believe this nearly three-year-old news story is coming out now. The latest reporting has finally disclosed that the reporting was being driven by a “source” who is the former Democrat state party chairman and who apparently has not spoken to the person in question. This goes a long way to explaining what is going on – this is a political hit piece.

This is and remains an almost three-year-old private matter with no matter of public interest at stake. Eric and Sheena have worked through those issues long ago and I think that Sheena put it best: ‘We have a loving marriage and an awesome family; anything beyond that is between us and God. I want the media and those who wish to peddle gossip to stay away from me and my children.’ Now we know who has been peddling that gossip.”

Thoughts: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/5/2018: Brrrrrrr!… “Hey!”… Duh!… And “WHAT?”

G-g-g-good M-m-m-morning!

1 Enforcing societal standards in the cold. Today, as we ran errands in 13 degree weather and gusting winds to fetch my sick son some chicken soup and DayQuil, my wife witnessed the following episode at the 7-11. With a long line behind him, a man stood at the register meticulously picking lottery numbers. A woman in line confronted him directly, saying, “You came out in this cold just to waste your money on the lottery? You’re sick. Save your money. Be responsible. Get help”

Brava.

Driving home, we saw many parents walking their children to Alexandria schools (which delayed their opening here two hours.) At an intersection near the school across a parking lot from our home, my wife and I saw a young girl, maybe seven or eight, with her father, about to cross the street. The girl had a winter jacket on and a hat, but only thin leggings and—get this—sneakers with no socks. The wind chill outside here is estimated at -4.

We didn’t say anything to the father. Should we have? I think so.

2. More state lottery ethics. Speaking of unethical state lotteries, which could only become ethical if the states eliminated them, you will recall Item #4 in the 12/28/17 warm-up, about how South Carolina had bollixed up its lottery and is deciding whether to stiff the winners, since there were far too many of them thanks to computer programming error. That state needs to follow the ethical example of Connecticut.

After an error was discovered in how the drawing was handled—involving 100,000 tickets—the lottery posted a notice on its official website saying there was indeed a problem with the drawing, and that “due to an error in the range of tickets eligible for the Super Draw drawing, a second drawing will take place shortly. HOLD ALL TICKETS.” Later it announced,  through this statement from Interim Lottery President & CEO Chelsea Turner: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/24/2017: The Infuriating Clinton Enabler Flip-Flops, And Ominous Messages From The Times

Good Morning After…

1 Damn First Amendment! I’m hoping that everyone was watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and missed it, but yesterady’s New York Time front page had very strange headline above the fold: “Using Freedom To Lead Attack On Gay Rights.” The online version was more descriptive of te tone of the article: “Fighting Gay Rights and Abortion With the First Amendment.” The article seeks to paint the Alliance Defending Freedom, which opposes policies that its members believe infringe on their right to live according to their religious beliefs, as sinister. By emphasizing the fact fact that the guarantees of the First Amendment aid and abet the dastardly objcetives of these horrible people, the Times appears—to me, anyway–to be questioning the First Amendment itself. Don’t all advocacy groups “use freedom” to argue for their positions? Doesn’t the New York Times fight the Republican Party and Donald Trump “with the First Amendment”? Yes, we have free speech in this country, at least until progressives acquire sufficient power to limit it, as their rhetoric increasingly portends. Where is the Times headline, “Progressive Use Freedom to Lead Attack on Liberty”?

From the article:

“We think that in a free society people who believe that marriage is between a man and a woman shouldn’t be coerced by the government to promote a different view of marriage,” said Jeremy Tedesco, a senior counsel and vice president of United States advocacy for the group, which is based in Scottsdale, Ariz. “We have to figure out how to live in a society with pluralistic and diverse views.”

But civil liberties groups and gay rights advocates say that Alliance Defending Freedom’s arguments about religious liberty and free expression mask another motivation: a deep-seated belief that gay people are immoral and that no one should be forced to recognize them as ordinary members of society.

Oh, no doubt, the civil liberty groups are correct about that, but so what? Motives have never been the criteria whereby legitimate use of the First Amendment is measured and limited.  Whether religious groups believe that LGBT individuals should not have the same rights as other citizens because they have been condemned by God, or whether they just think they are inherently icky, or whether they are inherently icky because they have been condemned by God, or whether they have been condemned by God because God thinks thet thinks they are inherently icky, part of the First Amendment states that they have a right to their beliefs, and another part says that they have a right to argue for those beliefs without government interference. Yup: they are dead wrong about gays (though not necessarily about abortion), just as the Times is wrong about many, many things. But implicating the First Amendment while attacking Alliance Defending Freedom’s positions is a dangerous game, and one more bit of evidence that a large swathe of the ideological Left regards the nation’s core principles of freedom or speech and religion as problems rather than blessings. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/17/2017: Groping And Griping [Updated]

GOOOOOOD  Morning!

1 Well THAT took an excruciatingly long time! Ethics Alarms finally reached its high water mark in followers this week, and has held the line for a change. Traffic has been disappointing in 2017; this will be the first year in which visits have fallen from the previous one. I blame the anomalous lack of any viral posts, which usually number two or three a year, (and are completely unpredictable), and the Trump-and-Hillary-driven polarization of the web. I have seen a significant net drop in followers every time Ethics Alarms unequivocally criticizes one “side” over the other, no matter how richly the ethics criticism is deserved.

People really do prefer echo chambers. It’s dispiriting.

Update: Right after I posted this, EA lost a follower.

2. Speaking of echo chambers..It is incredible how quickly the Democrats and progressives on Facebook  started defending Sen. Al Franken in the exact same terms, excuses, rationalizations and fallacies used all week by Roy Moore’s unprincipled defenders. The timing is suspicious…it’s only one time…this is politically motivated…we need his vote regardless…I believe him, not her…it was a long time ago…why did she wait so long?…he wasn’t in politics then…What about Trump?...everybody does it. In many cases they  mocked virtually the exact same statements by Republicans spinning for Moore that they are now making themselves.

Those who aren’t quite so hypocritical nonetheless praise Franken’s deceitful and manipulative apology. I guess Al’s supporters and journalists are exactly as dumb as he’s betting they are. The news media has also swallowed that apology whole. If they would just read Ethics Alarms, they wouldn’t embarrass themselves. Well, not so much and so often anyway.

(I’m sorry. The traffic stuff is getting to me…)

3. Read this, and get a surprise! Here’s an interesting website: Your Morals. Org. It has a list of studies you can participate in online—there’s a registration process that isn’t too time consuming— that gather data while purporting to measure your values, political leanings, tolerance for opposing views, and “morality.” I took the political orientation and attitudes survey.

I scored almost exactly in the center, leaning juuust a smidge…Democrat!

4.  NOW they tell us! I’m sorry, but I don’t care to hear Democratic politicians say  that Bill Clinton should have resigned during the Lewinsky scandal. Senator Gillibrand, who brought “Mattress Girl” to the State of the Union, has the immense gall to say that, 20 years after the  issue became moot. Of course he should have resigned. He lied under oath, lied to the American people, directly, calculatedly and intentionally, and obstructed the investigation, legally and illegally. But Democrats and feminists threw their principles into a big bonfire for political expediency, and it is a cheap, transparent and nauseating tactic to reverse themselves after all the damage Clinton’s pass for his “personal conduct” —I remember all the doges and rationalizations–did to the culture.

Paul Mirengoff,  a prominent Maryland-based lawyer who handles labor and employment-law cases, does an excellent job debunking a current Democratic talking point being used to explain why the party’s disgraceful posturing and enabling for Clinton was the result of sexual harassment “not being taken as seriously as it is today.”  He concludes,

Given the history I’ve just described, the argument that feminists and Democrats shrugged off claims of sexual misconduct against Clinton because of “the times” is unsustainable. The argument that, if Bill Clinton were president today, feminists and Democrats would believe Clinton’s accuser, or even just treat them with a modicum of respect, is unpersuasive.

The claims against Clinton were brought at a time of intense consciousness of the problem of sexual harassment. If anything, that consciousness subsided after Clinton’s presidency, thanks to the unwillingness of feminists and liberals to take his sexual misconduct seriously.

That unwillingness cannot be defended on the theory that times were different.

An aside: I saw that Move-On.Org has called for Franken to resign. Hilarious. The organization was created to argue that the nations should “move on” from the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal and let Bill off the hook. I invoke the Ethics Alarms principle of Ethical Estoppel. This group, of all groups, may not argue that any politician should resign after allegation of sexual misconduct. Ever.
Continue reading