Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 5/19/2019: Conflicts, Hypocrisy, Censorship, And Creeping Totalitarianism…Praise The Lord.

1. I love headlines like this. The Times tells us (in its print edition) , “Party Hosted By Drug Company Raises Thorny Issues.” Really? A group of top cosmetic surgeons had all their expenses paid to attend a promotional event in Cancun for a new competing drug for Botox. The doctors were fed, feted, invited to parties and given gifts, then they went on social media and gushed about the product. The “thorny issue”: Should they have informed their followers that they had just received all sorts of benefits and goodies from the drug manufacturer to encourage their good will? (Because none of them did mention this little detail.)

Wow! What a thorny issue! I’m stumped!

Of COURSE it was unethical not to point out that their sudden enthusiasm for the product had been bought and paid for. This is the epitome of the appearance of impropriety, and an obvious conflict of interest. The Times article chronicles the doctors’ facile, self-serving and disingenuous arguments that they didn’t have such an ethical obligation, but the fact that these are unethical professionals in thrall to an infamously unethical industry doesn’t make the ethics issue “thorny.”

2. The Assholes of Taylor University. Vice-President Mike Pence was the commencement speaker at Taylor University, and when he moved  to the podium, thirty or so students rose and walked out on him, in a smug and indefensible demonstration of assholery. The University should withhold the diplomas of every single one of these arrogant slobs until they each author a sincere letter of apology to the Vice-President, who was the school’s invited guest. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Catch-Up, 8/22/18: Manafort, Cohen, and Mollie” (#2)

Kudos to Michael Ejercito for flagging an excellent discussion of how election finance laws and the Cohen case intersect. He selected the key section that constitutes the bulk of his Comment of the Day, but by all means, read the whole piece at the link, including this:

The best interpretation of the law is that it simply is not a campaign expense to pay blackmail for things that happened years before one’s candidacy—and thus nothing Cohen (or, in this case, Trump, too) did is a campaign finance crime. But at a minimum, it is unclear whether paying blackmail to a mistress is “for the purpose of influencing an election,” and so must be paid with campaign funds, or a “personal use,” and so prohibited from being paid with campaign funds.

Normally, given this lack of clarity, we would not expect a prosecutor to charge those involved with a “knowing and willful” violation, which means a criminal charge with possible jail time. Typically, at most a civil fine for an unintentional violation would be the response. But prosecutors may be using a guilty plea from Cohen as a predicate for going after the bigger fish, and our simultaneously vague, sometimes contradictory, and incredibly complex campaign finance laws give them that opening.

Of course, it is unethical for prosecutors to use the law to “go after” any citizen, never mind an elected President.

Here is Michael’s Comment of the Day on the post, Morning Ethics Catch-Up, 8/22/18: Manafort, Cohen, and Mollie:

http://reason.com/archives/2018/08/23/trumps-campaign-finance-catch-22

“In the Cohen case, the prosecutors hung their hat on FECA’s definition of “contributions” and “expenditures” as anything spent or contributed “for the purpose of influencing any election.” That’s a pretty broad definition, and certainly it may have been thought that paying hush money to Trump’s old memories would “influence an election.” Thus, they argue, payment of the hush money was subject to limits on the size of contributions used to pay, could not include corporate funds, and had to be reported to the FEC.

“But there is another provision in the statute that prohibits a candidate from diverting campaign funds to “personal use.” “Personal use,” in turn, is defined as any expenditure “used to fulfill any commitment, obligation, or expense of a person that would exist irrespective of the candidate’s election campaign.” These may not be paid with campaign funds, even if they are intended to influence the election. Continue reading

What Do You Get When You Add Anti-Gun Bias To Constitutional Ignorance To Anti-Trump Bias To Incompetent Journalism? THIS…

Can’t balance that household budget? No gun rights for you!

I enthusiastically  recommend Reason, both the magazine and the website. I am far from being a libertarian, but their reporting and analysis is consistently fair, balanced and perceptive. If I were teaching high school, I’d assign it regularly.

Here is a recent example. Reason’s Scott Shackford correctly flagged the incompetent and misleading media narrative that President Trump eliminated a wise Obama measure that kept guns out of the hands of dangerous mentally ill individuals. The usual media hacks pushed this narrative on the public, like CNN’s Chris Cuomo, who tweeted to Trump,

“Are you aware that one of the regulations you got rid of made it more difficult for mentally ill to get guns?”

ABC News..

“One of the only major actions that Pres. Trump has taken on gun control is to block an Obama-era rule that made it harder for the mentally ill to have access to guns.”

Trump-deranged Washington Post conservative Jennifer Rubin…

“Almost a year ago Trump signed a bill rolling back Obama measure making it harder for mentally ill to get guns”

The Daily Beast:

“A year ago today, the Senate rolled back an Obama regulation that would have prevented 75,000 severely mentally ill people from buying guns and put them “in the hands of people too mentally unstable to manage their own bank accounts”

The degree of ignorance regarding mental illness and Constitutional rights displayed by these and others is horrifying.

Writes Shackford, Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/16/18: Guns, Tweets And Blackberry Slingshots

Good morning everybody!

1. Oh, well if David Hogg says so… I just listened to an earnest, articulate Florida high school student named David Hogg tell a CNN reporter, his head nodding sagely, complete counter-factual garbage, with no correction, for what seemed like an eternity. “David Hogg wants Congress to act.” the screen said said as the 17-year-old was speaking. This is lousy, unethical journalism—well, it’s CNN– and irresponsible. I don’t blame the kid for believing the crap he reads and hears from people who are lying to the public, but I expect the news media to correct, not circulate, dishonest talking points. Well, maybe “expect” isn’t the right word.

No, David, “thousands of students” do not die every year. No, David, that “18 school shootings” fake stat is designed to mislead: it includes every time a gun has been discharged in or near a school, not mass or multiple shootings or even fatalities. [See Item #2]

See, David, when people talk about “mental health reform” they are often talking about pre-crime, and removing the rights of citizens before they have done anything wrong, much less criminal. But CNN’s reporter kept nodding.

These are complex issues involving rights and practical realities, and a high school student is not an authority that CNN or anyone should be presenting as an advocate. Until the anti-gun advocates stop intentionally distorting facts and trying to mislead while relying on emotion to swamp legitimate debate, there will be no serious dialogue about whether any policies could stop tragedies like the latest Valentine’s Day massacre, and bumper sticker chants like “Do something!” and “If it saves just one life…” lead away from responsible policy, not toward it.

I cross-posted this to Facebook, and can’t wait to read the reactions. At this point, posting facts qualifies as trolling. The anti-gun hysterics can’t stand it. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/19/17: The Censorious, The Irresponsible, The Topless, The Panicked, And The Soon To Be Dead

Good Morning!

1 Good-bye Charlie! To get things off to a happy start this Sunday, let’s ponder the news that Charles Manson’s death is imminent. Good. What’s worth pondering is why our society allowed him to live at our expense since 1969. If the justice system has to maintain some ultimate punishment for the worst of the worst crimes  if only to stake out the position that some conduct forfeits the right to exist in a civilized nation—and it does—then Manson should have shuffled off this mortal coil, or rather had it shuffled off for him.

Mark this down as one more area where California has arrived at the wrong answer to an ethics problem.

2. “Knock-knock!” Who’s there? “Child molester!” Child molester who? “Child molester? What child molester? We don’t see any child molesters…” According to internal  documents, the Jehovah’s Witnesses has instructed congregation leaders, called elders, to keep child abuse secret from law enforcement as a matter of policy since at least 1989.

The religious group’s headquarters, known as the Watchtower, sent a letter in 1997 to  local elders across the U.S  instructing them to send to a written report about anyone currently or formerly serving in a position of responsibility known to be have sexually abused a child. A California appeals court last week upheld an order for the Witnesses to pay $4,000 for each day it does not turn over the documents to the court, and the tab currently stands at $2 million. The ruling stems from a case in San Diego, where a man sued the Jehovah’s Witnesses for failing to warn congregants that a child predator was in among them.

Osbaldo Padron was sexually abused as a child by an adult member of his congregation named Gonzalo Campos. Campos confessed to sexually abusing seven children, but although leaders at  the Watchtower knew this,  they continued to promote him to higher positions of responsibility and took no action to protect tne children he came in contact with.

Nice. I guess I’m not going to be polite and chat with those people who knock on my door with copies of the church’s newsletter—you know, “The Watchtower”?—any more.

Is it possible that everyone in the church’s leadership missed the Catholic Church’s scandal in this area? Nobody saw “Spotlight”? Nobody there has a drop of decency or integrity?

Fascinating. Perhaps after he loses his Senate race, maybe Roy Moore will consider a new gig at the Watchtower. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Attorney General Jeff Sessions

There were many good reasons to oppose Jeff Sessions as President Trump’ nominee to be the next Attorney General. One, which I focused on, was that his nomination foolishly fed into the Democratic slur that Trump and the Republicans were racists. Sessions had been successfully tarred decades ago based on some racially-insensitive comments he had made, and even though tangible evidence of any racial bias was thin, it was foolish for Trump to court a controversy when there were plenty of equally or more qualified candidates. Another reason was that Sessions had been an early supporter of Trump’s candidacy for the GOP nomination, which is signature significance for stupidity, poor judgment or recklessness. Take your pick.

Now Sessions has announced, while speaking at a National District Attorneys Association conference, that the Justice Department will issue new directives to increase the federal government’s use of civil asset forfeiture, an unethical, Constitutionally dubious practice that needs to be cut back or eliminated.

“[W]e hope to issue this week a new directive on asset forfeiture—especially for drug traffickers,” Sessions said. “With care and professionalism, we plan to develop policies to increase forfeitures. No criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime. Adoptive forfeitures are appropriate as is sharing with our partners.”

 

Utah’s Republican Senator Mike Lee expressed alarm at Sessions’ announcement yesterday, saying in a statment, “As Justice Thomas has previously said, there are serious constitutional concerns regarding modern civil asset forfeiture practices. The Department has an obligation to consider due process constraints in crafting its civil asset forfeiture policies.” Justice Clarence Thomas’ had written in his dissent in an asset forfeiture case last month that forfeiture operations “frequently target the poor and other groups least able to defend their interests in forfeiture proceedings.” Continue reading

Observations On The Instapundit’s Tweet

reynolds-tweet

Yesterday, conservative law professor, author and blogger Glenn Reynolds learned that Twitter had suspended his account, and he wrote on his iconic website Instapundit...

Can’t imagine why they’d do that, except that it seems to be happening to a lot of people for no obvious reason. It’s as if, despite assurances to the contrary, Twitter is out to silence voices it disagrees with or something.

Then he learned that his offense was the above tweet. Reynolds wrote…

Sorry, blocking the interstate is dangerous, and trapping people in their cars is a threat. Driving on is self-preservation, especially when we’ve had mobs destroying property and injuring and killing people. But if Twitter doesn’t like me, I’m happy to stop providing them with free content.

and..

“Run them down” perhaps didn’t capture this fully, but it’s Twitter, where character limits stand in the way of nuance”

But one of Reynolds’ extra-curricular gigs (he is a University of Tennessee law professor) is monthly columnist for USA Today. After the progressive Furies took to social media and demanded that he be fired from the law school, dropped by the newspaper and forced to wander in the wilderness in sackcloth, Gannett’s paper suspended him for a month.

Reynolds was reinstated by Twitter after purging the offending tweet, and he issued this mea culpa to USA Today:

Wednesday night one of my 580,000 tweets blew up. I didn’t live up to my own standards, and I didn’t meet USA TODAY’s standards. For that I apologize, to USA TODAY readers and to my followers on social media.

I was following the riots in Charlotte, against a background of reports of violence. Joe Bruno of WSOC9 interviewed a driver whose truck had been stopped by a mob. Trapped in her cab, she “feared for her life” as her cargo was looted. Then I retweeted a report of mobs “stopping traffic and surrounding vehicles” with the comment, “Run them down.”

Those words can easily be taken to advocate drivers going out of their way to run down protesters. I meant no such thing, and I’m sorry it seemed I did. What I meant is that drivers who feel their lives are in danger from a violent mob should not stop their vehicles. I remember Reginald Denny, a truck driver who was beaten nearly to death by a mob during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. My tweet should have said, “Keep driving,” or “Don’t stop.”

I have always supported peaceful protests, speaking out against police militarization and excessive police violence in my USA TODAY columns, on my website and on Twitter itself. I understand why people misunderstood my tweet and regret that I was not clearer.

Today, Reynolds wrote on Instapundit:

TWITTER HAS UNBLOCKED MY ACCOUNT ON CONDITION OF DELETING THE OFFENDING TWEET. But lest I be accused of airbrushing, it’s preserved here. Still planning on quitting Twitter, though, after making a few points. Earlier post is here. UPDATE: From Nick Gillespie at Reason: In Defense Of InstaPundit’s Glenn Reynolds. “Whatever you think of the tastefulness of his suggestion regarding the protesters in Charlotte, the idea that he is seriously inciting any sort of actual or real threat is risible.”

Related: “Glenn Reynolds is old enough to remember Reginald Denny. (Look it up, kids.)”

and

SO MY USA TODAY COLUMN is suspended for a month. My statement is here. I don’t apologize for saying that you shouldn’t stop for angry mobs, even if they’re blocking your way. But I could have said it better

Observations:

Continue reading

An Urgent And Probably Futile Call For Empathy And Compassion For The Victims Of Cultural Whiplash

north-carolina-protest-transgenderIt is sobering to read  the hateful and contemptuous comments from so many of my Facebook friends about the legislators of Georgia, Indiana, North Carolina, Mississippi and other states that have either passed or have tried to pass laws allowing citizens to opt out of the cultural freight train that gives them the option of boarding or getting crushed. Whether these are “religious freedom” laws or “bathroom laws,” aimed at transgendered interlopers in the once orderly realm of public bathrooms, or whether they are designed to fight for the definition of marriage as “between a man and a woman,” these laws, every one of them unwise and unethical, and probably unconstitutional too, need to be regarded as the inevitable and predictable result when human beings are forced to absorb cultural shifts in a matter of years or less that properly would evolve over generations

Culture–what any society, country, region, religion, business, organization, club, family, secret society or tree house agrees over time as how they do things, think about things, what is right and what is wrong, what is remembered and what is forgotten–is a constantly evolving process. Efforts to freeze it inevitably fail, because human beings as a species can’t stop themselves from learning. Efforts to rush the installment of major changes, however, can be disastrous, even when there seems like no alternative but to rush.

Laws don’t automatically change culture. They are part of the process, both reflecting and facilitating cultural shifts, as well as institutionalizing them. They do not even mark the end of such shifts. Nobody should be surprised, angry or abusively critical when those who have been raised to believe in certain values and practices feel betrayed and mistreated, and see the need to resist when their sense of what is right is suddenly proclaimed as not only wrong but the sign of a character deficiency and a cause for denigration and disrespect. Continue reading

Emory Update: University President James Wagner Vows To Punish Perpetrators Of “Trump 2016” Grafitti, And Reason Whiffs On Why That’s Wrong

Nice equivocating, Reason.

Nice equivocating, Reason.

To avoid burying the lede, let us understand right off that this is known as “chilling free speech,” and is un-American and wrong.

Following the revelation that Emory chief James Wagner ratified the complaints of ideology-disabled students that the expression of support for a major party political candidate was an unacceptable assault on student “safety,” Reason now informs us that Wagner is reviewing security tapes so the students can be subjected to the “conduct violation process.” Although the University has not demonstrated similar verve when chalk-scrawled messages contained more popular content, it is making the disingenuous argument that the manhunt is only about policies requiring prior approval of such chalk campaigns, and that prohibit chalk graffiti that won’t be washed away by rain like the itsy-bitsy spider.

The problem with swallowing that malarkey is that mere chalking has never prompted security camera footage examinations or presidential concern before. This is about condemning and squelching mainstream political speech that the prevailing majority of the campus doesn’t like.  This wasn’t swastikas or “hate speech.” “Trump 2016” at Emory is no different from “LBJ 1968” at Berkeley.

Being gentle and oh so careful to avoid sounding too much like he doesn’t sympathize with Trump-despisers,  Reason reporter Robby Soave writes, Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Ethics Observations On The San Bernardino Massacre”

suspicion

I’m traveling today with scant access to a computer, so it was gratifying to see a substantive and interesting discussion by commenters on this post. Michael Ejercito wins this round with a Comment of the Day that begins by highlighting a disturbing quote by Nick Kristof, taking the hand-off from President Obama. I don’t know how liberals can read this stuff and not get chills considering where their ideology has led them. Once the heralds of freedom and democracy, their leaders and advocates are now calling for citizens to be robbed of core rights based on suspicion rather than due process. And whose suspicion? The party with members who advocate arresting climate change skeptics and expelling college students if there is a 10% chance that a rape accusation against them is warranted used to be willing to fight for liberty. Now it seems to believe liberty is too dangerous.

Here’ s Michael: Continue reading