Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/8/17: Featuring The Most Depressing Question You Have Heard In A Long Time. I Hope.

Good Morning!

1 Yesterday there was a fascinating article on how the famous opening chord of “A Hard Day’s Night” was (perhaps) made. I have been meaning to make a comment about the new Sirius-XM Beatles Channel, which I had occasion to listen to for many hours while being trapped in traffic jams and construction driving back and forth to Virginia Beach and Richmond, and this is a good time to post it.

I have been getting lousy, dishonest, bait-and-switch service and products with such regularity lately, ranging from an investment firm that couldn’t send the proper forms to give me access to my own money, to Verizon, which has been giving me a six-month runaround while its slooooow WiFi breaks down for days, to Progresso soup, which either decided to put what looks and feels like ground up chicken bones in its vegetable soup, or just the can I bought, that I  had despaired of again seeing anything approaching excellence for the sake of excellence  from a U.S. business until I returned to Disneyland or Fenway Park. The Beatles Channel makes the grade. It isn’t just the songs, which would have made the channel a hit all by themselves. Sirius-XM includes scholarship, history, musicology, rare recordings, interviews, celebrity and non-celebrity disc jockeys and cultural analysis, around the clock, with new programming every day. I’ve sat through college courses that were less thorough, and too many courses to count, in both college and graduate school, that were less informative and valuable. There are some things worth paying for, and products that are better than you expected!

2. The New York Times  headline after a hard day’s night for the GOP in Virginia and New Jersey: DEMOCRATS SCORE TWO BIG VICTORIES IN TRUMP REBUKE.

I’m sure it was the koi.

This is flagrant spin and distortion, and unethical journalism. The New York Times should just put “You hate the President, you know you do” on the banner. The Times didn’t call last November’s across the board rejection of Democrats in state house races and Congress an “Obama rebuke,” though it was, and the results in Virginia and New Jersey cannot be fairly pinned on Trump. The two state governors races went pretty much as everyone assumed they would months ago. New Jersey’s result, from a very Democratic state, was a predictable rejection of its spectacularly failed and detested Republican governor, and Virginia’s election of a moderate Democrat over a Republican who tried to both reject Trump while trying to hitch-hike on some of his better positions was predictable as well.

I would also guess that the Donna Brazile revelations about the Democratic Party’s corruption is not on  typical voter’s radar, so the wave of self-hating Democrats staying home that some predicted did not materialize. The Texas shooting, however, probably activated the always vigorous “The Constitution be damned, think of the children!” knee-jerk progressive block to go to the polls.

By now the Times’ routine propaganda tricks are no surprise, but the practice of attaching editorial comments connoting negative implications for the President is neither fair nor objective. But then, the news media knows this: it is attempting a coup by poisoning public opinion. This is the major ethics story—and ethics crisis—in the nation today, and has been so for a year.

3. Now a compliment to the New York Times. Finally, someone wrote an relatively honest article regarding the causes of mass shootings in the U.S. “What Explains U.S. Mass Shootings? International Comparisons Suggest an Answer” is the online version; the print edition headline is “Only One Thing Explains Mass Shootings In The United States.” Both headlines are misleading—the Times has a headline problem—but the article’s main point is correct: “The only variable that can explain the high rate of mass shootings in America is its astronomical number of guns.”

Not inadequate laws. Not enforcement. Not crazy people. Not crime. Not the NRA.

Just lots of guns.

Thank you.

The Times also correctly hints at—it could have and should have done more than hint—why we have more guns than any other country:

In the process of making a comparison between the US and Switzerland, which as the country with second highest gun ownership rate has far fewer shootings (Fun Facts! Switzerland, like Australia, isn’t the United States, and the Swiss, like Australians, are not like Americans), the Times notes,

“Swiss gun laws are more stringent, setting a higher bar for securing and keeping a license, for selling guns and for the types of guns that can be owned. Such laws reflect more than just tighter restrictions. They imply a different way of thinking about guns, as something that citizens must affirmatively earn the right to own.”

Translation: The United States protects and guarantees the inherent human right to self-defense and autonomy, and Switzerland doesn’t. In the U.S., the wise Founders, government doesn’t have to grant you the right to own a gun; you already have it. Or in other words, Switzerland isn’t the United States. (See above.) God bless America.

The Times continues under the heading “The Difference is Culture”:

“The United States is one of only three countries, along with Mexico and Guatemala, that begin with the opposite assumption: that people have an inherent right to own guns.The main reason American regulation of gun ownership is so weak may be the fact that the trade-offs are simply given a different weight in the United States than they are anywhere else.”

May be”? That’s exactly why Swiss-style “regulation”—as in “We tell you if you can own a gun and what kind of gun you ‘need., Citizen!”—isn’t an option in the U.S. The Constitution also gives the right to speech a different “weight” than other cultures do, and the amount of certainty required to send someone to prison, and when the police can search your home, and many other examples where this nation and this culture insists that individuals and individual rights come first, not government power. The fact that the United States accepts the costs of individual liberty is what makes it the United States.

There are so many guns in the U.S. because Americans like guns, and in this country, people generally can make and get what they like. They should like guns: the United States,more than others, owes its existence to guns. Our most popular entertainment involves guns. Most of all, the #2 mandate in the Bill of Rights guarantees that every citizen begins life with the right to own guns.

Mass shootings are a side effect of the Second Amendment and the core individual right to be armed. The only way to reduce such shootings is to eliminate that right and confiscate guns. Either the currently vocal anti-gun zealots understand this and are lying, or they don’t, and are ignorant.

[The National Review has some legitimate criticism of the Times data analysis, but it doesn’t affect the validity of the Times general conclusion.]

4. Here’s the depressing ethics note of the day, or perhaps the year. On the first day of jury deliberations at the bribery trial of Senator Robert Menendez, a juror asked the judge a basic question: “What is a Senator?”

I guess a necessary voir dire question or two was omitted by the lawyers .

The judge should disqualify that juror.

The Unforgivable Conflict of Interest: Sports Agents, Robbing Their Ignorant Clients

The ethical course is to choose.

The ethical course is to choose.

Sports agents are rich, powerful, and ethically handicapped by inherent conflicts of interest. The first two qualities so far have insulated them from dealing fairly and openly with the second. This is wrong, and has got to stop. For it to stop, it would help if the players, their unions, the sports leagues and the sports media didn’t either intentionally pretend not to see the obvious, or weren’t too biased and ignorant to realize what’s going on.

Four years ago, I wrote about this problem in a long piece for Hardball Times, a baseball wonk blog of consistent high quality.  The specific agent I was writing about was Scott Boras, the king of baseball player agents, but the egregious conflict I flagged isn’t confined to that professional sport; it’s present in all of them. In the article, I argued that Boras, a lawyer, is engaged in the practice of law when serving as an agent and was therefore violating the legal ethics rules, which prohibits having clients whose interests are directly adverse to each other, specifically in the so-called “Zero-Sum Conflict” situation.

A lawyer can’t assist two clients bidding for the same contract, because the better job he does for one, the worse his other client fares. A lawyer can’t sue a defendant for every penny that defendant has on behalf of one client when he or she has another client or two that have grievances against that same defendant—if the lawyer is successful with the first client, he’s just ruined his other clients’ chances of recovery. There is some controversy over whether the legal ethics rules automatically apply to a lawyer-agent like Boras, but never mind—whether he is subject to the legal ethics rules or not when serving as an agent, the conflict of interest he is blithely ignoring still applies, still harms his clients, still puts money in his pockets, and still should not be permitted. Continue reading