Sunday Evening Ethics, 5/31/2020: Riot Disinformation And Ethics Lunacy

Hot enough for ya?

1. Let’s see exactly how much disinformation the pubic will follow and tolerate.

  • Yesterday I and everyone else heard Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter and Minnesota Governor Tim Walz claim that most of the rioters were from out of state,  claiming that “the best estimates” were that “outsiders” comprised about 80% of the people arrested. It was nonsense. The arrest statistics showed the opposite was true. As of 11am CST on Saturday, a sample of data from the Hennepin County Jail’s showed that 86% of those arrested provided a Minnesota address to police. Later in the day, St. Paul released arrest information showing that two-thirds of people arrested since Thursday gave police in-state addresses.
  • CNN reporter Reza Aslan actually tweeted that Trump supporters were doing the rioting. Accountability for this ridiculous, straight up lie? None.
  • Cherry-picking isolated episodes from riot scenes around the country, Slate wrote that “Police Erupt in Violence Nationwide,” and that “law enforcement officers escalated the national unrest.”

2.  Let’s see exactly how much disinformation the pubic will follow and tolerate, (cont.) A typical effort: on Thursday, a New York Times front page story announced “Fury in Minneapolis Over The Latest in a Long Line of Police Killings.” What was that “long line”? It was nowhere to be found, at least not in the article. We are told that the Minneapolis police have received “many excessive force complaints, especially by black residents.” Complaints do not equal misconduct. We are told that “Mr. Floyd’s death — and the recent shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia — has also prompted comparisons to previous killings involving the police and black people, including those of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.” Continue reading

“What’s Good For The Goose Is Good For The Gander” Isn’t “Good” For A Lawyer

New Jersey lawyer Brian LeBon Calpin might still be practicing law instead of serving a suspension for a year if he had only perused the Ethics Alarms Rationalization List. Or if he had followed ABA ethics opinions. Or if he had properly functioning ethics alarms.

A former client, a massage parlor owner, had  given him negative online reviews of legal skills and acumen. In retaliation, Calpin posted a negative review of her business, which he later defended with the “what is good for the goose is good for the gander” line. (It’s “sauce for the goose,”not “good,” you illiterate clod!) Calpin wrote,

“Well, Angee is a convicted felon for fleeing the state with children. A wonderful parent. Additionally, she has been convicted of shoplifting from a supermarket. Hide your wallets well during a massage. Oops, almost forgot about the DWI conviction. Well, maybe a couple of beers during the massage would be nice.”

Unfortunately, as Calpin would have known if he attended my last ethics seminar, the ABA has clarified in a recent ethics opinion what other state bar associations have held, which is that just because information about a former client is published and available to someone looking for it, unless it is is generally known as in “widely recognized by members of the public in the relevant geographic area”or “widely recognized in the former client’s industry, profession or trade,” the information is still protected by attorney-client confidentiality, and cannot be disclosed by the client’s lawyer. That’s the professional ethics prohibition on what Calpin did. The Ethics Alarms list explains what’s unethical about “sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander” in Rationalizations 1, 2, 2A, 7, 11A, 17, 24A, 40A, 53, and 59.

As is usually the case, Calpin’s career shows other evidence of flawed ethics alarms. The disciplinary board noted that he had previously violated ethics rules regarding neglect, diligence, keeping clients informed, delivering client funds or property, and returning client property after representation. He’s lucky that he’ll get his license back after only a year.

Whether New Jersey residents should consider that lucky is another issue.

Unethical Website Of The Month: reddit (ProRevenge)

I often have thought that I ought to research reddit more thoroughly for ethics stories. Then I stumble onto something like this, have to take a shower, and decide that I’ll be happier if  don’t. There is also the persistent reddit problem that one can never be sure when what you are reading isn’t completely made up by some aspiring James Frey wannabe. I have been burned in the past.

One of the reddit sub-site communities is devoted to revenge, and participants send in their alleged experiences. Revenge, as we all know, (I hope), is unethical. It’s also frequently entertaining and fun. Revenge has been a staple of drama since the ancient Greeks, and it’s vibrant still, perhaps because there is nothing unethical about revenge fantasies.

One particularly exhilarating (and disgusting) example is the original “I Spit On Your Grave” (yes, there are sequels), an extremely violent and graphic cult film in which a young writer is gang-raped and left for dead by five locals in “Deliverance” territory. She returns, trained, dead-eyed, determined and remarkably creative in a Marquis de Sade way, to pick them off, one by one.

Women seem to especially enjoy the film. I would not be surprised to learn that Hillary is a fan.

But I digress. The following story recently turned up on the reddit ProRevenge section. The disturbing thing was how few of the many commenters were critical of the writer’s alleged conduct, which is, as you will see, appalling.  Here is his account, redacted a bit for length, with periodic comments from your host. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa)

Ugh.

Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said yesterday, “I think this door of impeachable whatever has been opened. Joe Biden should be very careful what he’s asking for because, you know, we can have a situation where if it should ever be President Biden, that immediately, people, right the day after he would be elected would be saying, ‘Well, we’re going to impeach him.’”

No, no, no. Someone should wash Ernst’s mouth out with soap. That door needs to be slammed shut, and Ernst is a fool for suggesting otherwise, even hypothetically.

What the Democrats did, by deciding from the moment Donald Trump was elected to seek a way to remove him, undermined our democracy and its institutions. It also threatened—threatens-— to institutionalize  a  precedent that would make every  elected President to come a permanent target  of a soft coup by those who lost the contest to decide who was “fit” to be President.  From the beginning, one of the main reasons the Democrats’ undemocratic strategy was so evidently dangerous was the powerful “tit for tat” reflex in politics. Sometimes, the understanding that in politics “what goes around comes around” is a restraining force on irresponsible and unethical partisan warfare. This time it wasn’t, but that does not mean that the Republicans should reciprocate in kind. That is exactly what they must not do. If that is their approach, they will complete the destruction that the Democrats started. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “From ‘The Ethicist’: Revealing The Real Bigots Among Us”

A.M. Golden asks, in his Comment of the Day, “When did Americans start thinking that destroying someone and/or that person’s livelihood is acceptable behavior when it comes to a difference in opinion?” It is an issue also raised in the previous COTD, considering the mall Santa fired after someone complained about his Facebook post showing him as the Jolly Old Elf, but wearing a red MAGA cap. A.M. understands that this is not an idle question, but an important one that raises vital concerns about the erosion of core American values, the public’s belief in our founding documents, and the acceptance of the ethical standard of reciprocity.

Here is A.M.’s Comment of the Day on the post, “From The Ethicist: Revealing The Real Bigots Among Us.”

When did Americans start thinking that destroying someone and/or that person’s livelihood is acceptable behavior when it comes to a difference in opinion?

This goes far beyond boycotts to allow blacks to sit at the front of the bus or at lunch counters. This goes well beyond punishing companies for dangerous or illegal practices that have harmed customers. It goes against the heart of what it means to be an American. Too often, we are told that opinions have consequences. Sure, they do. They always have. Doesn’t it seem, though, that the consequences have become far more ominous than they used to be?

I have never understood ideological boycotts. I remember the Disney boycotts of the ’90s when people with too much time on their hands began seeing obscene Easter Eggs in the new animated films. When gays started congregating at Disney parks on certain days, the company was castigated for not warning people ahead of time that it was Gay Day, despite its protests that Disney had no sponsored days for any groups at its parks.

I thought the whole thing was silly then and it’s still silly.

While in college, I worked at a McDonald’s restaurant. One day, sitting in church, a woman pressed a news article into my hands that reported on health benefits being extended to same-sex partners at McDonald’s corporate offices (I didn’t have health benefits myself at the store where I worked).

I gave her a funny look as if to say, “What am I supposed to do with this?”. She whispered, “Well, you WORK there!” Continue reading

Evening Ethics Nostrum, 9/30/2019: The “Already Sick Of Impeachment Narratives” Edition [Updated And CORRECTED]

Ugh.

That’s all. Just “Ugh.” That’s all I’m saying about the latest attempted coup today

1. What’s going on here? This time, I have no clue.  Last week,  the U.S. website for  Captain Morgan rum was found to be  asking visitors to check a box confirming that they were “non-Muslim.” The question was quickly removed, but a different question lingers: Why? Why does Captain Morgan care what religion, if any, a consumer follows?

It is not illegal for Muslims (or anyone)  to drink alcohol in the United States, so this appeared to have been related to Sharia law, which does forbid alcohol consumption. . The company swears that “far from being a case of discrimination or an attempt to appease religious zealots, it turns out a technical error was behind the puzzling message.”

That’s obviously a lie: what kind of  technical glitch suddenly starts grilling website visitors on whether or not they are Muslim? Someone deliberately added the box.  There is speculation that the Diageo company, which owns the Captain Morgan brand, was reacting to a  threat from Islamic extremists that violent consequences would befall them if they dared to continue to make alcohol available to Muslims.

That seems far-fetched too, but it’s more likely than a “technical error.”

CORRECTION and UPDATE: There was a lie here, all right, and it was the P.J. Media author Robert Spencer who was the villain. In his article he misrepresented the Metro’s summary of what the Captain Morgan spokesperson said caused the box to appear as the statement itself. This advanced the article’s conspiracy narrative about companies being threatened into enforcing Sharia law, but it was also false. What the company really said was,

Over the weekend, a misconfiguration on our age-gating files for our US Captain Morgan website meant that people were shown our United Arab Emirates age gate window in error. ‘In the United Arab Emirates it is commonplace for alcohol brands to request verification of this kind, in addition to age-gating, in line with UAE alcohol licensing requirements. We corrected this as quickly as possible.’

That made sense, and the mystery is solved. Metro didn’t help by burying that statement after a string of tweets, and I compounded the confusion by not reading the Metro article far enough. A botch all around.

 

2. Well, it was good to get it off his chest, I guess… Last week Tamarac City commissioner Mike Gelin felt he had to mar an awards ceremony, interrupting it and verbally attacking Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy Joshua Gallardo as he was being honored as an Officer of the Month.  NBC Miami reported that after Gallardo and others were honored, Gelin  grabbed the microphone and called out to the officer, “It’s good to see you again. You probably don’t remember me. But you’re the police officer who falsely arrested me four years ago. You lied on the police report. I believe you are a rogue police officer, you’re a bad police officer and you don’t deserve to be here!”

Nice.

Gelin was referring to a 2015 incident where he was arrested  resisting and obstructing  police while they responded to an alleged battery incident. He was not a city commissioner at the time of the arrest and charges were eventually dropped.

The city’s mayor said, in response to Gellin’s outburst, Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/7/2019: The Duke’s Revenge, Biden’s Integrity, The VA’s Incompetence, And A Teacher’s Cruelty [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

Last night we managed to watch both “The Longest Day” and “Saving Private Ryan,” which especially amused me as I recalled the places my father shouted at the screen. Especially after “The Longest Day,” the complete absence of any sense of what the D-Day invasion was about or why we were fighting at all is particularly irritating, but then that’s Spielberg all over.

I also recalled the story about John Wayne’s participation in “The Longest Day.” (The Duke is really good in it, though if there is a star of “The Longest Day”, it is Robert Mitchum as  Brigadier General Norman Cota, Assistant Commander, 29th Infantry Division, the man who was also a primary hero of D-Day itself. )

You who else is surprisingly good? Paul Anka, in his small role. He was only in the movie because he wrote the title song, but the singer shows a genuine talent for projecting his character on screen.

[Correction note: I originally wrote, “As far as I can determine, it was Anka’s only film appearance.” Wrong, Ethics Breath!  Reader VinnyMick points out that Anka has several other, less successful, screen appearances. I regret the error.]

This was a passionate,  emotion-and-patriotism- driven project by Darryl F. Zanuck, and he was betting everything on its success: the studio, his personal finances, his love life (Zanuck’s girlfriend at the time had the only female role in the movie), everything.  The producer realized that he had to have Wayne in the film for credibility, as the Duke had been  the Hollywood face of the American fighting man in World War II.  Wayne knew it too, but was angry with Zanuck, who had mocked Wayne’s equivalent project of the heart, “The Alamo.”

He refused to do the film for scale (then $25,000) like the many other Hollywood stars in the film, and insisted on receiving $250,000 as an expensive crow-eating exercise for Zanuck. (That was what Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, Rod Steiger, Red Buttons, Richard Burton, Peter Lawford, Eddie Albert,  Jeffrey Hunter, Robert Wagner and Robert Ryan received combined. ) Even though the producer had Charlton Heston lined up to play Wayne’s role if no deal could be struck, he agreed to the punitive fee, as well as giving Wayne special billing in the credits, an out-of-alphabetical order “and John Wayne” at the end.

Yes, that was revenge…but Zanuck didn’t have to agree to it. The lesson is worth remembering: don’t spite anyone gratuitously, or make an enemy casually. You never know when you might need them.

1. Biden flip-flops, but at least he flipped in an ethical  direction. Joe Biden is not modelling a lot of integrity as he desperately tries to appease the radical Left in his party so they might hold their noses and vote for an old, sexual harassing white guy to run against President Trump. His latest reversal was to repudiate the Hyde Amendment, which he had once supported and indeed voted for in the Senate. That’s the law that forbids any taxpayer funds from being spent to fund abortions.

The Hyde Amendment never made any sense. If abortion is a right, and it has been one for decades, then government support for access to that right ought to be no less a requirement than with any other right. The Hyde amendment stands for the proposition that if enough Americans don’t agree with government policy, they should be able to withhold financial support of it. That, of course, wouldn’t work as a universal principle, so the Hyde Amendment is an ethical and legal anomaly. I doubt Joe’s flip-flop is one of principle rather than expediency, but it’s still the right position to have.

2. Nevertheless, Joe’s not going to make it. The New York Times—it wants someone else to get the nomination, so it is reporting negative things about Biden that it might bury with another candidate—revealed once again that Biden repeatedly lied about participating in 1960s civil rights marches,  despite being warned by aides not to do it. Such straight-out falsehoods are debilitating for a candidate who will be claiming to be the champion  to elevate the Presidency beyond the incessant petty lies of Donald Trump; this was one reason Hillary Clinton was unable to exploit candidate Trump’s mendacity. She’s a habitual liar too.

So is Joe. It happens when you will say anything to get elected. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 11/4/2018 (Part I): Gary Hart’s Prophesy, Media Values, And High School Babylon [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

I’m headed to Boston this afternoon for one of my semi-monthly ethics seminars for new Mass. bar admittees. I have been having bad luck with keeping up on the blog while traveling of late, so I’m going to post a two-part Warm-Up to try to avoid falling too far behind.

1. Maureen Dowd made my head explode with her ridiculous profile of Gary Hart—you know, Donna Rice, “Monkey Business”—so I’m going to rely heavily on Ann Althouse’s analysis which parallels mine. Her head is just more resilient, apparently. [Tangent: I wonder how Ann’s traffic is doing? I have noticed that progressive commenters have virtually disappeared from her blog as well, where a couple of years ago they were equally represented. I don’t consider Althouse a conservative at all: she is relentlessly objective and non-partisan, and mostly serves as the web’s best bullshit detector. She has, however, defended the President against unfair attacks and hypocrisy, and called out the news media for fake news, fake headlines, and bias. That’s asking for a boycott, apparently.) Hart makes this statement:

“If all that stuff had not happened and if I had been elected, there would have been no gulf war. H.W. wouldn’t have been president. W. wouldn’t have been president. Everything would have changed. I don’t say that to aggrandize myself. It’s just, history changed. And that has haunted me for thirty years. I had only one talent and it wasn’t traditional politics — I could see farther ahead than anybody.”

I could write a long essay about this arrogant nonsense with my eyes closed. Ann had the same instant reaction I did: Funny, you weren’t able to foresee that daring reporters to check on your martial virtue would result in your being caught adultery-handed in Clintonesque trysts, you big dummy. (My words, not Ann’s.) And if hindsight is 20-20, hindsight aternate future readings are even better. Gary needs to study Chaos Theory  a bit more closely, and watch that old Star Trek episode. For all he knows, his election would have resulted in the world being taken over by Mole People.

Althouse also flagged the Dowd section where the Queen of Snark writes,

“As we fantasize about a parallel universe, where America is not a joke and our president cares about other human beings, the same questions keep swirling in our heads. What has happened to this country? Can he be stopped? When will it end? How the hell did we get here?”

Wow, Talk about bias making you stupid. To many of us who are at least as smart as Maureen, America is a joke when it embraces open borders and edicts by international organizations, when it warps the Constitution by declaring that men and police can be guilty until proven innocent if a member of a favored group accuses them, and allows a partisan news media to control public opinion. It’s not a very funny joke, though. Some trenchant comments on Ann’s post:

“I don’t know why I’m still surprised by liberals’ inability to do any real soul-searching. You’d think by now, after many hundreds of “how did we get here, why aren’t smart people like me listened to by the stupids?” articles, I’d give up hope that they will ever open their eyes and see what’s right in front of them. But then I remember, I’m a pollyanna. I can’t give up on anybody.”

***

“It would seem obvious to me that Trump does care about human beings, but not the ones Dowd think he should be caring about. And maybe her friends consider America a joke, and maybe that’s why we got were we are..”

***

“Dowd’s perspective is Technocratic. Society needs to be supervised by an educated elite. Democracy is just mob rule that will lead to ruin. But, we have to put on a facade so that the deplorables will accept our edicts. So we do the election thing, but the real rules are set behind the scenes by career bureaucrats. Politicians and the medias’ job is to set the agenda and influence popular opinion towards the “correct” attitudes”

Bingo. Bingo. Bingo. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/10/2018: The Freakout Cometh!

Good morning!

1. Are you freaking out? President Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh for the vacancy on the Supreme Court, a choice which, we had been assured by a succession of shameless hysterics on the Left and in the mainstream news media (but I repeat myself!) would doom women in the United States to living out “The Handmaiden’s Tale,” even before the judge, a case or the legal issues were a twinkle in Lady Justice’s eye. Why are hyper-partisan, irresponsible crazies like this taken seriously by anyone?

Here are some of the media freak-outs that have already arrived: The Daily Beast: Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s Supreme Court Pick, Is Probably the End of Abortion Rights and Same-Sex Marriage. Slate:  How Brett Kavanaugh Will Gut Roe v. Wade.

More to come, of course. At least they waited for the actual name of the judge: ABC tweeted out this before the announcement:

Facts? We don’t need no stinking facts!

(Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias….)

If you are freaking out, it means that you are a Democrat, either ignorant or dishonest about the legal system, and suffering from the late throes of Anti-Trump Mania, in which everything that this President does becomes an evil plot. Get help. It is unethical to spread panic and fury among your friends and associates.

A Facebook Friend, a woman, and a lawyer, was on social media within minutes of Judge Kavanaugh’s name being uttered calling for everyone to “write their Senator.” There is only one way, just one, this reaction can be justified: if you believe that only one political party has a legitimate role to play in American politics, and you deny the right of any citizen who disagrees with you to have a voice in what is supposed to be a pluralistic democracy. Elections have consequences, and are supposed to have consequences. One of them is that the elected President gets to appoint judges. If the judge is qualified—and even the most slobbering wacko talking head on MSNBC cannot deny that he is qualified-–then it is fair, appropriate and right that the President’s nomination should be consented to by the Senate. Continue reading

A Bad Week For Puppies, Students, Human Beings…And Turtles.

“Mmmmm…puppies…”

Robert Crosland, a popular veteran science teacher at Preston Junior High School in Idaho, apparently fed a puppy to a snapping turtle in front of students after school last week. Apparently the puppy was infirm and not expected to live, justifying his conversion into Turtle Chow in the teacher’s view.

Crosland has not been criminally charged or placed on leave—yet—but the school is still investigating and considering its options, as is the Franklin County prosecutor.

Interviewed  students said Crosland is a well-liked, “cool” teacher at the school who kept snakes and other reptiles in tanks in his classroom, and had fed guinea pigs to snakes and snapping turtles in past classes. School officials describe him as a passionate, dedicated, gifted teacher. On the other side, Jill Parrish, an animal activist who filed a police report in connection with the alleged feeding, called Crosland’s actions  “sick” and “disgusting.”

“Allowing children to watch an innocent baby puppy scream because it is being fed to an animal … that is violence,” Parrish said. “That is not okay.”

While trying to sort all this out, officials took action: they killed the snapping turtle. Continue reading