Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 2/17/2019: Best People, Worst Candidates, Noisiest Spectators, Battiest Activists

This where Clarence Darrow and I are headed…

Weekend Greetings from Ethics Alarms!

1. I’m on the way to New Brunswick, New Jersey for a President’s Day legal ethics CLE seminar for the New Jersey Bar. This is my Darrow program, and my long-time Clarence (18 years!), Paul Morella, is unavailable, so taking on the role will be Bruce Rauscher, who received a Helen Hayes nomination (that’s the D.C. Tonys) for playing the prosecutor in my production of “The Andersonville Trial.” Like so many expert prosecutors, Bruce is now moving over to the defense because the money is better.

2. KABOOM! Ann Althouse found this disturbing dead canary in the mine: over 10 thousand people online thought the cartoon below was racist:

Althouse seems to miss the significance of this: she asks if anyone “gets” humor any more. That’s not what’s going on here. A stunning number of people really believe that voting—or hiring, or admitting college applicants—on the basis of merit is racist. This belief itself is racist, as well as destructive, illogical and batty, but that’s what culture will do to you eventually, if you don’t have a strong foundation of ethical values and critical thinking skills.

How can you argue with someone who “thinks” like this? Are they beyond hope?

3.  More Warren The Demagogue. I was going to let this go, because so many Democrats are embarrassing themselves of late and I don’t want to give more ammunition to those who accuse me of right wing bias. But Professor Turley flagged this blatant example of Senator Warren’s demoagoguery and his reaction was identical to mine, so I’ll let him take over:
Continue reading

Closing The Book On An Ethics Villain

Lance Armstrong is the worst sports ethics villain of all time, I believe—cycling’s Barry Bonds, but in a sport far more vulnerable to betrayal than baseball. Like Bonds, he cheated, many times and over a long period, taking victories away from more deserving athletes while enriching himself. While Bonds never had his public “I did not have sex with that woman” moment of brazen denial, Armstrong had many, all the while insulting and condemning his accusers. Bonds also never was a revered hero of children—Barry appeared to care about no one but Barry—while Armstrong deliberately made them part of his scam. When Armstrong’s elaborate schemes, lies and cover-ups were revealed, he made lifetime cynics of hundreds of thousands of young fans, and maybe more.

Armstrong, like Bonds, left his sport in disgrace but took with him great wealth, and, like Bonds, has never shown a smidgen of sincere regret or contrition—sociopaths are like that. Yesterday it was announced that Armstrong will pay $5 million to the federal government in settlement of a fraud lawsuit. The U.S. said that he owed $100 million to taxpayers for accepting sponsorship funds for his cycling team from the U.S. Postal Service while he was doping. Armstrong also agreed to pay $1.65 million to cover the legal costs of Floyd Landis, a former Armstrong teammate and the whistleblower in the case.

Eh, whatever. Lance can afford it. Despite various fines and settlements, he managed to escape his exposure with most of his ill-gotten gains safely salted away, spent or invested. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/5/2017: Train Wrecks, Rationalizations, Donna, Debbie, And More

Goooooood MORNING!

(I’m over-compensating: I feel horrible today)

1  “These alleged actions, which haven’t been denied, are reprehensible, indefensible and unacceptable. Any elected official or state employee who has settled a sexual harassment claim should resign immediately.The people of Kentucky deserve better. We appropriately demand a high level of integrity from our leaders, and will tolerate nothing less in our state,” said Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin  after it was revealed that Kentucky House Speaker Jeff Hoover (R) recently settled a sexual harassment claim made by a female member of his staff.

What an ethically clueless bit of grandstanding from Bevin. The fact that an accusation hasn’t been denied doesn’t make it true. The fact  an out of court settlement was agreed to doesn’t make the accusation true either. Bevin has just painted a target on any official’s back who might have blundered across a line of workplace propriety once, and done so with an employee with an agenda, a grudge, a bill to pay, or the lack of the ethical intelligence to say, “That was wrong, don’t do it again.”

As usual with elected officials, Bevin is playing human pendulum, pronouncing an unfair and unreasonable standard in response to a culture where there previously were few standards at all.

Thought experiment: let’s say the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck revealed itself in the Obama administration, and the uncomfortable woman in this photo…

..goes to Vice President Biden after the shoot and accuses him of sexual harassment, indeed, sexual assault. Uncle Joe apologizes, swears he meant nothing by it, says he always acts like this (because he apparently does), jokes his favorite magician is “David Cop-A-Feel”, just like President George H.W. Bush, but the young woman is adamant. She says she will go to the press and file a lawsuit unless he writes a check. Reluctantly, he does.

Should the Vice-President resign? Or just learn to keep his hands to himself?

2. Sentimentalists and socialists mourning the decline of unions just got a splash of metaphorical ice water in their faces.

After reporters and editors in the combined newsroom of DNAinfo and Gothamist, two of New York City’s leading online news sources, voted to join the Writers Guild of America, the sites’ owner, billionaire Joe Ricketts, announced that both were defunct.

 “DNAinfo is, at the end of the day, a business, and businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure,” he said. Ricketts had lots money in every month of DNAinfo’s existence, while The Village Voice, The Wall Street Journal and The Daily News were also cutting staff and costs. What were his writers and editors thinking? Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/22/2017: My Unfair College Admission, U. Penn’s Bigoted Grad Student, Fox News Imitates The Weinstein Company, And THIS Is An Unethical Lawyer…

Good Morning!

1 Yesterday’s ethics  bombshell was the news that Fox News extended its contract with star bloviator Bill O’Reilly earlier this year, knowing that he had agreed to a $32 million settlement with a woman who accused him of  repeated harassment, a non-consensual sexual relationship, and other offenses. Nonetheless, it decided  it decided to sign him a four-year, $25 million a year, contract extension. The New York Times scoop reported that Rupert Murdoch and his sons,  decided that it was worth it to keep O’Reilly even as Fox News was trying to recover after having to fire Roger Ailes for multiple sexual harassment claims. Fox added to the O’Reilly’s extension a clause that allowed for his dismissal if new allegations of harassment or other relevant information came out regarding the previous accusations.

Boy, am I glad that I didn’t lift my personal Fox New boycott after O’Reilly left.

This is unconscionable conduct by Fox, equal in its slimy ethics void to what the Weinstein Group did when it acknowledged its founders sexual predator proclivities in his contract. Fox News, by keeping O’Reilly knowing that he had harassed its employees (and worse),

  • demonstrated to its staff that it cared more about ratings and profits than principles and the safety of its female employees and guests
  • sent the message that if you were a big enough cheese at Fox you can get away with abusing women
  • proved that the sick and sexist culture nurtured by Roger Ailes from the beginning was still flourishing.

Ugh. But I can’t say I’m surprised. [Mr Kimble (Alvy Moore) on Green Acres: ” I can’t say I’m surprised. Actually, I can say I’m surprised. I’m surprised! But I’m not surprised.”]

How many other companies tolerate sexual harassers in their executive offices outside of Hollywood? A lot.

O’Reilly, demonstrating again that he is a liar as well as as a sexual predator, absolutely denies that he ever harassed anyone. He needs better lawyers, then. Harvey Weinstein paid off an actress he raped for just $100,000, and poor Bill had to fork over 32 million bucks for something he didn’t do!

2. This morning’s “Wait—WHAT?” ethics headline is this one, from the ABA News: “Lawyer who blamed ethics case on mother can’t discharge $500K in student debt, federal judge rules.

Illinois lawyer Donald Rosen argued that his three-year license suspension for misappropriating over $85,000 in client funds made it impossible to find appropriate work and so should be allowed to discharge his $500,000 student debt. (How did he end up with a $500,000 student debt?). ‘Uh, no,’ ruled U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer, perhaps because Rosen had paid only about $11,000 in student debt over the previous 37 years.

Why did Rosen blame Mom? He claims his 82-year-old mother, who worked at his firm, inadvertently used client funds to pay business expenses.  Rosen said his mother was embarrassed by her actions and falsified bank statements to cover it up. Then, Rosen says, he innocently provided those fake bank statements to police and the hearing board considering the ethics case against him.

3. How can this happen? Why is it happening? Who defends this? How long will it continue? Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/30/17

Good Morning!

(I’m starting this post just a few minutes before noon, thank to a WiFi outage. I’m sorry.)

1. I finally saw “Passengers,” which most people and critics seemed to hate. I see no obvious inferiority to the over-praised and honored “The Martian” or “Gravity,” especially the latter, which bored me to tears, but never mind: it’s an ethics movie. It is also a moral luck movie, and that drove me crazy. I’ll bet so many viewers (SPOILER ALERT!) saw the film and came out saying, “She had to forgive him, because if he hadn’t awakened her prematurely to keep him company, everyone would have died!”

No, no, no! His (Chris Pratt’s) conduct toward her (that’s Jennifer Lawrence, and anyone who wrongs Jennifer Lawrence deserves the torments of Hell) was just as bad–and it was horriblewhether it turned out well by chance or not. Subsequent discoveries or unpredictable events cannot make an unethical act retroactively ethical.

2. San Francisco’s Medicaid program sends illegal immigrants this letter:

When the anti-Trump deranged argue that the President is “crazy,” my stock answer is going to be that nothing he has said or done is as “crazy” as the position that it is right and just to officially encourage foreign citizens to breach our borders, defy our sovereignty and break our laws….and the people trying to use the 25th Amendment to execute a coup are exactly the people who think the letter above is compassionate and right. (Believing that a coup is in anyone’s interest is also demonstrably nutsy-cuckoo, but that’s another issue.)

3. I am really going to be disappointed if NPR and PBS don’t get zero-ed out of the budget. I may be stuck with biased and incompetent journalism, but I shouldn’t have to pay for it.

In a segment of NPR’s “All Things Considered” this week (Yes, I generally think the show is excellent, but that’s not the point) about the “restorative justice” approach to campus sexual assault, reporter Tovia Smith quoted Columbia University graduate Emma Sulkowiczs, aka “Mattress Girl,” as a “survivor” of rape.

She’s not a survivor; she was a harasser, and Columbia just paid a financial settlement to her victim for permitting her to proclaim him as a rapist when the evidence didn’t back the claim. Columbia doesn’t believe Sulkowiczs was raped, and her accusation has been thoroughly discredited. Why in the world would NPR choose this cruel and discredited woman to profile while discussing actual campus sexual assault, and how could it be ethical journalism to still refer to her as a rape survivor?

Smith’s tweeted response to criticism was as damning as the choice of “Mattress Girl” itself:

“Sulkowicz considers herself a survivor & we ID her as such. We’ve clarified that their school found the student she accused ‘not responsible.” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/14/17

Good morning!

1. It is a matter of constant fascination to me how all of President Trump’s personal lawyers appear to be flaming jerks, whatever their legal skills may be. Here’s an example from this week: Marc Kasowitz, President Trump’s personal attorney on the Russia conspiracy theory investigation, was contacted by a stranger, a retired public relations professional, who had read ProPublica’s unflattering story on Kasowitz. He sent the lawyer an email with the subject line: “Resign Now.’’

Kasowitz used the 30 minutes between 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. to bombard the man with threats and epithets, writing such dignified  messages as,

“I’m on you now.  You are fucking with me now Let’s see who you are Watch your back , bitch/”

“Call me.  Don’t be afraid, you piece of shit.  Stand up.  If you don’t call, you’re just afraid.” 

“I already know where you live, I’m on you.  You might as well call me. You will see me. I promise.  Bro.”

Nice.

This isn’t a legal ethics violation, though it almost certainly would be if Kasowitz were addressing an opposing counsel in such a manner. It’s just generally unethical as outrageous, inexcusable, gratuitous incivility, reflecting poorly on him, his profession and his client. A client who was minimally concerned about ethics would fire him.

2. Speaking of a minimal concern for ethics, Trump’s defense of his son’s dumb but legal meeting with the Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary included the statement that “most people would have taken that meeting.” Once again, we have evidence that Donald Trump literally doesn’t know what ethics is. Oh, his rationalizations are the same ones the average ethically-retarded citizen uses—this is why he is President. They are still rationalizations. Yes, Mr. President, and most people would accept extra money from an ATM and not tell the bank about it. And most people lie to get out of trouble. And most people do all sorts of unethical things, which doesn’t make them ethical, responsible or appropriate.

He is the President, though, and this is how we will inevitably become a nation of assholes. 

3.  And speaking of assholes, there is Nancy Pelosi. Because a female journalist was blocked from access to the House of Representative by a Sergeant of Arms who properly pointed out that she was wearing a sleeveless dress, always forbidden according to Congress’s dress code, we were suddenly subjected to the false narrative that those mean, sexist Republicans were abusing women again, as well as being typically antediluvian in their ideas about propriety. (Men can’t go sleeveless either, but never mind.) Paul Ryan was the target here, as the Speaker is officially charged with enforcing such rules. The narrative was not really about the dress code, but just part of the over-all “Get Republicans” news media strategy to make the party as unpopular as possible. Yesterday Paul Ryan plausibly said that he wasn’t aware of the rule in question, and was happy to amend it. Then Nancy Pelosi piled on, tweeting, “Glad to see [Speaker Ryan] is updating the dress code for the House Floor. These unwritten rules are in desperate need of updates.”

Pelosi was Speaker for four years, her tenure ending just six years ago. The same rule Ryan is being attacked for was in place during her entire tenure. Why didn’t she fix it herself, dedicated feminist that she is? Her tweet is such obvious hypocrisy that it calls attention to the double standards employed by Democrats, the news media and women. Pelosi could have cheered the change without appearing to duck her own responsibility for their continuation. Instead, she acted as if she was an innocent bystander.

Nancy Pelosi is a major reason the Democratic Party has become a party of assholes. Who but an asshole would tolerate a national leader like this as the face of his or her party in Congress? Are Democrats proud of this woman? Do they endorse her tactics and rhetoric? We have to assume so, don’t we? Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/27/17 [Updated]

1. Since I don’t want to have too many posts at once showing how untrustworthy CNN has become, let’s put this one in the short form: on Sunday, CNN’s alleged show about journalism ethics, “Reliable Sources,” hosted by “watchdog” (stifling a guffaw here) Brian Stelter, conveniently skipped the single biggest broadcast journalism scandal in years.

Thomas Frank, a reporter for “CNN Investigates, announced that “the Senate Intelligence Committee  was investigating a Russian investment fund”, the Direct Investment Fund — “whose chief executive met with a member of President Donald Trump’s transition team four days before Trump’s inauguration.” The CNN “exclusive ” was based on a single  unnamed source, and quickly attacked as fake news—which it appears to have been. CNN, of course, has pushed the Trump-Russia collusion hypothesis as if it were a missing Malaysian airplane. The network pulled the story, retracted it, and three reporters involved in the fiasco “resigned.”

If one were depending on Stelter to get a weekly briefing on how reliable and ethical news media sources were in the week past, one would have been thoroughly deceived. “Reliable Sources,” under the oversight of Stelter, itself isn’t reliable or ethical. It is a house mouthpiece, masquerading as an ethics show. This is res ipsa loquitur, an episode that speaks so loudly by itself that no further evidence is required. If the host of a broadcast ethics watchdog cannot and will not report on serious ethics breaches by his own employer, which is also one of the most visible and significant broadcast news outlets in the journalism, then the show isn’t really dedicated to journalism ethics. It is a biased tool of competition and propaganda, with conflicts of interest that it neither admits nor tries to avoid.

Stelter devoted most of his show to attacking President Trump for not according proper respect to the news media. The President has labelled CNN as “fake news.” This episode vividly demonstrated why.

2. Watching HLN’s Robin Meade this morning to avoid “Fox and Friends” (the CNN outgrowth also has thus far  neglected to mention the network’s fake news episode,) the Cheerful Earful began, “The minimum wage might actually hurt workers????” while making a shocked face that would be appropriate if she was saying that the moon was made of cheese. Thus do those constantly marinated in progressive/ Bernie-style fantasies set themselves up for amazement by the obvious.

Yes, Robin, it has been well-known for about a century that raising the minimum wages causes unemployment for workers whose negligible skills just are not worth the new mandated wage, eliminates whole job categories (summer jobs for teens being the most harmful to society), and puts many small businesses out of business. But never mind! “Living wage” sounds so kind and  good, and the rising minimum wage is always a tool to help unions  argue for increases in their much more than minimum wages, which is why the Democratic Party keeps promoting the lie that raising the minimum wage ever higher makes sense.

Robin was shocked at a new study of the results of Seattle’s huge minimum wage increase, enacted in the heat of mindless progressive faith. Conducted by a group of economists at the University of Washington who were commissioned by the city, the study indicates that far from benefiting low-wage employees, the costs to low-wage workers in Seattle outweighed the benefits by a ratio of three to one. This is the study found that  some employers have not been able to afford the mandated minimums, so they are cutting payrolls, delaying new hiring, reducing hours or firing workers. Gee, who could have predicted that?  The news media is reporting this as if it is a surprise. It’s not. I oversaw a study at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce decades ago that indicted this would happen, because it has happened before. Frankly, it’s obvious; so obvious that I have long believed that Democratic Party advocates for the minimum wage are lying to their gullible supporters.  Both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton made raising the minimum wage a rallying cry, which is one of many reasons why I found it impossible to trust Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton.

In the meantime, having seen the writing on the wall, restaurants are increasingly moving to replace waiters, waitresses, and cashiers with automated systems, because they are cheaper…thanks to the minimum wage. If humans were cheaper, humans would keep those jobs, and restaurants would be more pleasant, unless you prefer dealing with computers than human beings. I don’t.

Lies have consequences. Or as Robin would say, “Lies have consequences???” Continue reading