Morning Ethics Warm-Up: The “I Should Be At The Beach” Edition…

Good Morning!

Is everyone vacationing this week but me? I can detect such things from blog traffic—this week has been sparse. Unfortunately this is the legal ethics CLE busy season, so I have been furious preparing materials for three new three-hour programs: “The Legal Ethics Mine Field,” “Legal Ethics Squeeze,” and a new musical ethics seminar for the New Jersey Bar Association, “Ethics Blues,” with the talented Esther Covington. It features legal issues-stuffed parodies of such songs as “Copacabana,” “Sweet Caroline,” “Piano Man,” “You Made Me Love You,” “Isn’t It Romantic” and “Let it Be,” among others. I’ve been writing parody song lyrics since I was 9, and much as I enjoy it, it is mentally exhausting in a way nothing else is.

1.  The anti-Trump news media is all a twitter because former GOP Congressman Joe Walsh might challenge President Trump for the nomination. Joe Walsh!  He’s the only member of Congress ever designated a fick by Ethics Alarms, in this post, about how Walsh, a Tea Party fiscal responsibility hawk who once lectured Barack Obama about how he was placing a burden on the backs of Walsh’s children, owed  $117,437 in unpaid child support to his ex-wife and those already burdened, kids, three of them. For this and other transgressions he was defeated for re-election, and Joe’s now a talk show host, presumably with the same audience that took guidance from former radio bloviators Ollie North and Gordon Liddy.

2. On the innocent until proven guilty front…there has been a spate of defamation lawsuits lately in which priests accused of sexually molesting boys accuse the Catholic Church of ruining their reputations based on publicizing unsubstantiated accusations of pederasty.

A Fresno, California priest,  Craig Harrison, who is facing multiple allegations of sexual abuse, is suing an established  Catholic watchdog group Roman Catholic Faithful (RCF). seeking “unlimited” damages as a result of RCF President Stephen Brady’s “appearance at a press conference in Bakersfield” that addressed “allegations of sexual misconduct” made against Harrison. The lawsuit and summons were filed this month after the Bakersfield Police Department (BPD) concluded an investigation that it said  exonerated Harrison. Brady says that the lawsuit may be intended to discourage other ongoing RCF investigations. Continue reading

The New York Times Reveals That It Will Move On From Its Three-Year “Trump Stole The Presidency By Colluding With Russia” Strategy For Undermining Him To A “Trump And Republicans Are Racists” Strategy For Defeating Him In 2020

How else can we interpret the opening statement by Times editor Dean Baquet in a recent staff meeting? Someone surreptitiously recorded the 75 minute question and answer session and leaked it to Slate, which put it all online. It begins with this (emphasis mine):

Dean Baquet: If we’re really going to be a transparent newsroom that debates these issues among ourselves and not on Twitter, I figured I should talk to the whole newsroom, and hear from the whole newsroom. We had a couple of significant missteps, and I know you’re concerned about them, and I am, too. But there’s something larger at play here. This is a really hard story, newsrooms haven’t confronted one like this since the 1960s. It got trickier after [inaudible] … went from being a story about whether the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia and obstruction of justice to being a more head-on story about the president’s character. We built our newsroom to cover one story, and we did it truly well. Now we have to regroup, and shift resources and emphasis to take on a different story. I’d love your help with that. As Audra Burch said when I talked to her this weekend, this one is a story about what it means to be an American in 2019. It is a story that requires deep investigation into people who peddle hatred, but it is also a story that requires imaginative use of all our muscles to write about race and class in a deeper way than we have in years. In the coming weeks, we’ll be assigning some new people to politics who can offer different ways of looking at the world. We’ll also ask reporters to write more deeply about the country, race, and other divisions. I really want your help in navigating this story.

But I also want to [inaudible] this as a forum to say something about who we are and what we stand for. We are an independent news organization, one of the few remaining. And that means there will be stories and journalism of all kinds that will upset our readers and even some of you. I’m not talking about true errors. In those cases, we should listen, own up to them, admit them, show some humility—but not wallow in them—and move on. What I’m saying is that our readers and some of our staff cheer us when we take on Donald Trump, but they jeer at us when we take on Joe Biden. They sometimes want us to pretend that he was not elected president, but he was elected president. And our job is to figure out why, and how, and to hold the administration to account. If you’re independent, that’s what you do. The same newspaper that this week will publish the 1619 Project, the most ambitious examination of the legacy of slavery ever undertaken in [inaudible] newspaper, to try to understand the forces that led to the election of Donald Trump. And that means trying to understand the segment of America that probably does not read us. The same newspaper that can publish a major story on Fox News, and how some of its commentators purvey anti-immigrant conspiracies, also has to talk to people who think immigration may cost them jobs and who oppose abortion on religious grounds. Being independent also means not editing the New York Times for Twitter, which can be unforgiving and toxic. And actually, as Amanda Cox reminds me, doesn’t really represent the left or the right. [inaudible] who care deeply about the Times and who want us to do better, we should listen to those people. But it is also filled with people who flat out don’t like us or who, as Jack Shafer put it, want us to be something we are not going to be.

The transcript is long, and while I recommend reading the whole thing,  not everyone has sock drawers they can neglect. The unavoidable take-away is that the Times and its staff, mirroring the American Left of which it is bulwark, is obsessed with race as well enamored of the tactical advantages race-baiting it confers in the ideological struggle for control over the levers of government power.

Later, there is this revealing exchange: Continue reading

No, Your Dog’s Not A Racist

Since the culture is being bombarded with propaganda and indoctrination holding that racism—defined as broadly and inclusively (inclusive racism..HEY! I just made up an oxymoron!) as the totalitarian thought police choose in order to intimidate you—is the single most important malady in existence, and must be rooted out in all its forms, a newspaper editor didn’t laugh himself sick when an op-ed writer offered this insanity, opining not only that dogs could be racists, but that owners have a moral duty—moral duty, mind you—to break them of their racists ways. The author, Ryan Poe, begins,

Dogs are racists. OK, not all dogs. But some of them have been conditioned, usually through either a bad experience or lack of experience, to discriminate based on skin color. It’s horrible but true: man’s best friend isn’t always a best friend to all men. The good news is that your KKK-9 doesn’t have to stay racist: Bad conditioning can (and should be) reversed.

Let’s stop right there. Dogs don’t know what race is, so claiming that dogs can be racist is ridiculous on its face. They do not hold one race inferior to others. They do not hold racial stereotypes or assume negative character traits based on race. Racism is human behavior, not canine. Continue reading

Mark Of The Demagogue: The Ignorant And Dishonest Appeals To Emma Lazarus

Friends and followers: Don’t let anyone get away with this. Using “The New Colossus,” the 1883 poem that appears on the Statue of Liberty as authority in any current debate over national policy is either fatuous, ignorant, dishonest, stupid, or a cynical effort to appeal to the emotions of those who have no grasp of history or logic.

There is are periodic outbreaks of silly Lazerus worship every now and then, and we’re in the middle of another one. Indignant memes showing Lady Liberty and some or all of Emma’s one hit poem are popping up all over social media. Anyone who posts one is either an ignoramus, a liar, or shamelessly trying to suck up to progressive friends who are dishonest and ignorant, hoping that nobody will notice. I notice, and so should you. Call them on it. Appealing to the words of “The New Colussus” is approximately as  valid as extolling the words of “Imagine,” “Jabberwocky,” or “Me So Horny.” Anyone who tries it should be mocked and shamed.

The Trump administration issued a final rule yesterday empowering federal officials to deny green cards to legal immigrants who have received certain public benefits or who are deemed likely to do so in the future. Good. This is sensible and responsible policy, and while polls are inaccurate and the public doesn’t understand what it says it approves or disapproves of much of the time, it is also policy about 3/4 of the public seems to agree with.

Of course, Democrats are calling it “racist,” since anything that the Trump administration does is racist. The negative stereotype of the immigrant who dashes to the welfare office the second he becomes a citizen has been around for decades…

but Americans don’t find the behavior funny, and should not. Expecting new Americans given the privilege of using our individual liberties to succeed to the extent their abilities, creativity and diligence will take them to be self-sufficient is completely reasonable and responsible. It also is 100% consistent with the expectations when Emma Lazarus wrote her poem. There was no welfare, public housing, food stamps or other public assistance waiting for those  tired,  poor,  huddled masses yearning to breathe free. There was just the air to breathe free, and the opportunity to succeed or fail. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz (And Poll): The Cop And The KKK Application

Either our nation is committed to the principles of freedom of thought, speech, expression and association,  or it is not.

With that preface, here is the kind of gray area, bizarre fact pattern controversy that puts ethical analysis to the test.

In the Muskegon County (Michigan) town of Holton, African-American  Rob Mathias, accompanied by his wife and children, was walking through the home of Charles Anderson, a local police officer, with the intent of possibly purchasing it.  Then he saw a framed Klu Klux Klan application hanging on a wall, as well as several Confederate flags. He and his family immediately left the property.

Later he posted a photograph of the KKK application on Facebook, (above) explaining later that he felt it was something the public had a right to know about, especially if the officer had a history of questionable interactions with African Americans.  Mathias wrote that Anderson “was one of the most racist people” in the community and “hiding behind his uniform.” The post was also personal and threatening, concluding with “I know who you are and will be looking for resources to expose your prejudice.”

The Facebook post triggered an internal investigation of Anderson, and he was placed on administrative leave. “We do take this sort of issue, seriously, and we are working hard to understand if/how this may impact his ability to safely and fairly police our community,” Muskegon City Manager Frank Peterson reporters. Muskegon County NAACP President Eric Hood piled on, saying, “We want a thorough investigation to be sure that when he goes out there and puts on that uniform and performs his duties as an officer that he’s being fair and impartial.”

“I’m still disgusted by it. I’m hurt,” said Mathias “You can’t serve your community and be a racist. You can’t. There are people of all different colors, of all different nationalities … out there that you have to serve and protect. You can’t just protect one group of people.”

 Rachel Anderson, the officer’s wife, told reporters that her husband is not and never was a KKK member. She said he was a collector, and called the uproar a misunderstanding.

Mathias’ wife said in rebuttal,

“I like antiques, but I collect things that I represent. You can go in my basement, we have Detroit Lions, Red Wings, Michigan stuff, everything we associate ourselves with.So why would you collect something you don’t associate with yourself?” 

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

Has this situation been handled fairly, responsibly and ethically? Continue reading

Unethical Tweet Of The Month: Actress Rosanna Arquette

Observations, besides the obvious and obligatory, “What an idiot!”…

1. This is signature significance for a stupid woman, desperately virtue- signaling to her peer group. No fair or intelligent person would say or think such a thing.

2. The tweet is declaring that an entire race should be ashamed of itself. This is bigotry; this is racism. Arquette lacks the intellectual skill to figure that out, though it is startlingly straightforward.

3. One of the responses to the tweet, which helps us define the kind of person who would follow the likes of Rosanna Arquette on Twitter, wrote, “Please don’t. I understand the inclination but this is actually more harmful than helpful. POC are not trying to shame decent white people for being white. This feeds into a right wing talking point that this is what we want. I don’t. I want allies who see my humanity. That’s it.”  Continue reading

From The Mouths Of Babes…Cultural Poison

A recent question to Phillip Galanes, the advice columnist whose “Social Q’s” feature for the New York Times has frequently sparked Ethics Alarms essays, was fraught with larger significance.

A mother said that her 12-year-old daughter had a a sticker on her water bottle quoting Dr. Seuss: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” The girl’s friend told her that  systemic racism made that statement false for many Americans, so the sticker was racist. The daughter then peeled off the sticker. “What’s a mother to do?” was the gist of the inquirer’s appeal. Continue reading