Now Don’t Sue Me, SmileDirectClub, Because This Only This Ethicist’s Opinion, But…

“Hey! That’s a GREAT Idea! I LOVE it! Sure I’ll accept a refund in exchange for never telling anyone how lousy your product is!”

…no one should trust or do business with a company that engages in this unethical practice. Just an opinion, now.

What SmileDirectClub does, as documented in a New York Times Business Section story, is force customers to sign a non-disclosure (or confidentiality) agreement before they can receive refunds for unsatisfactory products. That way, other customer can’t find out about what the SmileDirectClub  can turn out to be, and in ignorance are more unwitting customers.

Here’s an excerpt from the Times piece: Continue reading

The Tipping Point Nears…

You know, Vince, in Iran they’d cut your hand off for this. Maybe in Hollywood too, now that I think about it…

Two episodes in recent days have pushed me closer to the tipping point at which I am forced to conclude that even as an ethicist who has held fast to the principle that no one who both reveres the office of the President of the United States and who believes that the office must be held by a man (or a woman, Bernie!) of outstanding ethical character with strong supporting ethical values can ever vote for Donald Trump or want to see someone like him, if there is such a creature, leading this nation.

I am not there yet, but I would have never dreamed at any time in 2012 through most of 2019 that I could get this close. It is true that President Trump has been far more successful than I expected in the narrow category of policy, domestic and foreign. It is true that he has displayed some admirable character traits, though they have all been in the category I call “enabling virtues,” meaning that they are traits that can serve both good and bad motives and objectives. It is also true that this President has never been given a fair chance to do his job, as he has been undermined, harassed and obstructed since the moment he took office in unethical ways never experienced by any of his predecessors with similar intensity and duration.

Nonetheless, voting for someone like Donald Trump to lead the United States of America is ethics antimatter to me, and professionally impossible—right now. However, the behavior of the “resistance” and  Democrats increasingly indicates that they must be decisively defeated so their current approach to American culture, society, rights and political conduct is sufficient ruinous that they begin a period of urgent reform.

Relatively small events often are tipping points with me, and both of these are small as well. However, when conduct is undeniably signature significance, proving that a group or individual is corrupt and untrustworthy because only the corrupt and untrustworthy would behave in such a way even once, my mind’s made up. I consider these two episodes frightening and if not quite constituting tipping points for me, coming too close for comfort.

I. The Vince Vaughn Affair Continue reading

Is This The Most Unethical Book Review Ever?

It has to be close, because I don’t know how a book review can be more unethical.

The book in question is Ruth Marcus’s unconscionable hit piece on Justice Brett Kavanaugh, “Supreme Ambition.” The forum is the book review section of the New York Times, which has been trying to smear Kavanaugh since he was nominated for the Supreme Court, and even since the contrived attempt to defeat him by ancient and uncorroborated accusations of misconduct when he was a teenagerwhen he was a teenagerwhen he was a teenager (no three times is not enough repitition to emphasize how despicable this was) failed, as it should have. The objective, trustworthy reviewer the Times chose to assess the book was Adam Cohen. He writes speeches for and advises New York’s socialist mayor Bill de Blasio, and authored “Supreme Inequality: The Supreme Court’s Fifty-Year Battle for a More Unjust America,” coming out next month.

Yup, the perfect guy to provide an objective review of an anti-Kavanaugh book.

It is clear by now that progressives and the mainstream media have added the Brett Kavanugh confirmation hearing to the shooting of Mike Brown, the death of Trayvon Martin, and the fake Russian Collusion theory as narratives they will falsely characterize until the stars turn cold. Incredibly,  Cohen writes at the end of his review,

“As important as the Kavanaugh battle was for the court, however, there was something even more profound at stake: whether, on the most important questions, our nation is capable of putting the public interest ahead of partisanship, and whether the truth matters. The forces aligned for partisanship and against truth are stronger than ever.”

Cohen’s review is a prime example of the condition he claims to be condemning. What “truth”? Not a single fact was produced during the hearing that had any relevance to Brett Kavanaugh’s fitness to be a Supreme Court Justice. His record as a judge was impeccable and beyond reproach. Ah, BUT…Marcus and Cohen point to this: Continue reading

It Is With Great Reluctance That Ethics Alarms Concludes That As Generally Repugnant And Vulgar The Term “Asshole” Is, Mayor Pete Buttigieg Is One.

If this was just disgraceful pandering, grandstanding, and shameless virtue-signaling, he would only  have proven himself to be a jerk—a big jerk, to be sure,  but still just a jerk. But it is far more.

The new fad contender for the Democratic Presidential nomination is returning thousands of dollars in donations because they came from two lawyers who had the audacity to represent Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as he attempted to defend himself against the contrived  ambush accusation of a sex crime, made in a Congressional hearing  on national television, a ploy designed to destroy his reputation. Buttigieg’s campaign said that it will not accept funds from people who helped secure the justice’s seat on the Supreme Court. You know. Dirty money.

Buttigieg’s campaign had received $7,200 from Alexandra Walsh, and $2,800 from Beth Wilkinson, Walsh’s law partner. Both represented Kavanaugh during his Senate confirmation ordeal. As I have vowed to point out every time some ignoramus asserts that lawyesr must be punished for the character, conduct or beliefs of the clients they represent and are responsible or culpable in any way for what those clients have said or done (or NOT done), it is a core and essential principle of our legal system that such an assumption is not only wrong but dangerous. It threatens the right of every citizen to receive competent legal representation and access to our laws and other rights.

Here, once again, is my favorite ethics rule, from the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct:

(b) A lawyer’s representation of a client, including representation by appointment, does not constitute an endorsement of the client’s political, economic, social or moral views or activities.

Whether the target is Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Elizabeth Warren, Harvey Weinstein’s defense attorneys (also here), Larry Tribe, Gitmo defense lawyers, or Clarence Darrow, Johnny Cochran, Leslie Abramson and other defense lawyers who defend murderers and worse, the false claim that lawyers who take on unpopular, repulsive or guilty clients have done anything less than protected  the Bill of Rights and the rule of law is either rank ignorance or a deliberate effort to reduce the civic literacy of the public.

Buttigieg isn’t a lawyer, but he is very well educated and has a reasonable claim to brilliance.  Thus he knows and understands what lawyers do, but is acting as if he does not, intentionally making the public stupid (or keeping it conveniently as stupid as it already is ) for his own benefit.

Despicable.

But that’s not all. Continue reading

Headed Straight Into The Ethics Alarms Massive “Nah, There’s No Mainstream Media Bias!” File: Bloomberg News Provides A Smoking Cannon

Let’s give credit to Bloomberg News for this at least: it isn’t trying to hide its capitulation to a conflict of interest and its abandonment of journalism ethics.

2,700 journalists working at Bloomberg L.P., the financial data company primarily owned by newly minted Democratic Presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg, were thus instructed  in a memo sent by John Micklethwait, Bloomberg Editorial and Research’s editor in chief:

“We will write about virtually all aspects of this presidential contest in much the same way as we have done so far. We will describe who is winning and who is losing,. We will look at policies and their consequences. We will carry polls, we will interview candidates and we will track their campaigns, including [Michael Bloomberg’s] We have already assigned a reporter to follow his campaign (just as we did when Mike was in City Hall). And in the stories we write on the presidential contest, we will make clear that our owner is now a candidate.”

However, the memo went on to say, Bloomberg’s outlets, including Bloomberg Businessweek and several industry-specific sites, will not perform in-depth investigations of  Bloomberg or any of his Democratic rivals.

Let’s be clear about what this policy means by looking at it from another angle. Bloomberg media outlets will only be seeking damaging news and creating critical “in-depth” analysis on one party’s candidate, that being the Republican party and its candidate, President Trump.. They will operate during the next year like Charles Foster Kane’s newspaper, the New York Daily Inquirer operated when the corrupt Orson Welles character was running for governor in “Citizen Kane.” Continue reading

Ethics Dunce And Revealed Jerk: Former Houston Astros Pitcher Gerrit Cole

Incredible.

I’ve never seen anything like it.

Gerrit Cole’s team, the Houston Astros, had just suffered a shocking defeat in the 2019 World Series at the hands of the underdog ( and significantly inferior) Washington Nationals. Cole had won the last Astros victory in Game 5 in impressive fashion, but his team returned home to Houston—where they had the best home record in baseball— to lose their third and fourth consecutive games in their  own stadium (they had never lost more than three straight all year) and  become the only team in World Series history to lose in seven games without winning a single home game.

The script for players on losing World Series teams is old and well-established. They say that they are proud of their team and team mates. They say that they wish the team could have won a championship for its fans, the best fans in the world. They say they are heartbroken, but that they salute the victors.  This isn’t hard.

But Gerrit Cole, after the final game of the 2019 World Series, appeared on TV wearing the cap of his agent’s company, and said, “I’m not an employee of the team.”  Continue reading

The Attacks On Free Speech From The Left Are More Dangerous Than Any Speech Progressives Want Banned

Another day, another progressive effort to erode pubic support and understanding for the First Amendment. This is at the root of America’s current ethics conflict: a perverse and puckish God has made one of the most unethical and least reflective of public figures  the crucial bulwark against a massed and relentless assault against core national values.

The New York Times, taking a hand-off from its ideological twin the New Yorker, has published an attack on free speech from New Yorker writer Andrew Marantz. Even though he is a professional writer, he has managed to complete an elite education (Brown, NYU School of Journalism) without managing to grasp the essence of freedom of speech, and why it is the structural load-bearing beam that allows our democracy to exist.

Marantz simply doesn’t get it, or he does get it, but would love to see less liberty and more enforced line-toeing by those lesser intellects and deplorables who cannot accept the inherent rightness of the progressive view of the universe. He writes, for example,

Using “free speech” as a cop-out is just as intellectually dishonest and just as morally bankrupt. For one thing, the First Amendment doesn’t apply to private companies. Even the most creative reader of the Constitution will not find a provision guaranteeing Richard Spencer a Twitter account. But even if you see social media platforms as something more akin to a public utility, not all speech is protected under the First Amendment anyway. Libel, incitement of violence and child pornography are all forms of speech. Yet we censor all of them, and no one calls it the death knell of the Enlightenment.

I guess Brown has no mandatory course in government theory.  The Constitution is the enabling document of the U.S. mission statement—you know, the one that begins by announcing that there are inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That such a governing document that could only limit government restrictions on free speech also stood for a cultural, societal and ethical norm that freedom of speech was central to the Declaration’s summary of human rights would normally be clear to anyone who bothered to study the two documents as well as research the relationship between law, morality and ethics. It’s true that Richard Spencer can’t be assured of a Twitter account, but a society that denies him one is chopping at that load-bearing beam. Continue reading