Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/11/2019: Triplets, Tongues, Feet, And Screeches

 

Good Morning!

1.It’s time to play… Champerty! I’m beginning my morning by explaining to an outside litigation funding entity that they really don’t have to worry about champerty laws as long as their loans are handled property. Champerty is an ancient common law crime that made it illegal for a third party to buy into litigation and to profit from the transaction if the litigation succeeded. Some states still have anti-champerty laws, but they are 1) pretty much dead letters and 2) don’t apply to legitimate litigation financing, where a loan is repaid whether the litigation succeeds or not, and the amounts repaid do not change if it does. In legal ethics, champerty becomes an issue when a lawyer or law firm “sells” a share of the legal fee to a third party. That’s fee-splitting with a non-lawyer, and strictly forbidden.

Champerty is often mentioned as a set with two other common law crimes, Maintenance and Barratry. Maintenance, Champerty and Barratry are among my favorite potential triplets names, along with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar; Clotho, Lachesis, and Atroposand (The Fates);  Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, and, of course, Moe, Larry, and Curly.

2. The Good Illegal Immigrant, again. In the wake of the wall dispute and the shutdown, the New York Times is ramping up its frequency of heartstrings-tugging tales of  illegal immigrants so lovable, industrious and virtuous that only a monster would oppose their permanent enjoyment of the fruits of illegally obtained citizenship. One such article this week began,

“Tomas Guevara fell in love with Ruth Ayala years before they met. Her brothers — like Mr. Guevara, Salvadoran immigrants living outside Washington — talked about her at church. She was hardworking and kind, they said, devoted to her family and her faith. Then Mr. Guevara saw Ms. Ayala’s photo; her big brown eyes, her warm smile. He decided to give her a call.”

Awww!

Later in the article, we have this sentence: “In 2001, he swam across the Rio Grande.”

The article raises many questions for me. Why was someone like Tomas eligible for “temporary protected status”? If the claim was that El Salvador was so dangerous that he could not be sent back there, why did he keep visiting that country, meet his wife there, and have his child there? Naturally, there was a program, the Central American Minors program begun in 2014, that allows the children of parents with temporary protected status to apply for permanent residency as refugees. Tomas’s wife was somehow eligible too.

This is what “chain migration” means, in case you wondered. Continue reading

Cold Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/10/18: You’ve Got Ethics To Keep You Warm!

Brrrrr!

Maybe this will help...

1. Starting with the important stuff: Baseball’s badly-named Today’s Game Era Committee announced that long-time right-fielder/designated hitter Harold Baines and towering closer Lee Smith had been voted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Smith, who retired as the all-time saves leader and is now third behind two Hall of Famers, was a defensible pick, but not Baines. The Committee’s job is to look back on players who were rejected in the regular Hall of Fame voting process and see if some of them fell through the cracks who were Hall caliber. There are only 16 members of the committee, and an ex-player needs 12 votes to enter Cooperstown. The sixteen members included at least four with strong ties to Baines, and they  presumably argued eight more members into letting him squeak by.  Bias made them stupid. Those four, which included Baines’ former manager and the owner of the Chicago White Sox, which retired his number, should have had to recuse themselves because of conflicts of interest.

Baines led the league in an offensive category, once, when he had the best slugging percentage in the American League. He never finished high in the Most Valuable Player voting. Most of the players who compare most closely to him are not in the Hall. The big thing Baines had going for his candidacy as a very good but not great player was that everybody liked him. He’s sort of the opposite of Curt Schilling, who is clearly Hall-worthy but whom most sportswriters hate—too religious, too conservative, too mouthy.

Now the argument for admitting other good but not great players will be, “But he was better than Harold Baines!” This is how conflicts of interest undermine the integrity of institutions.

2. When Naked Teachers have no excuses.  The Naked Teacher Principle holds that when a teacher allows a nude photo of herself or himself to circulate on the web where it can be seen by students, that teacher cannot complain when and if it leads to their dismissal.  A teacher really can’t complain if she sends the photo to a student intentionally, which is what Ramsey Bearse, 28, a former Miss Kentucky now teaching at Andrew Jackson Middle School in Cross Lanes, West Virginia, did with a 15-year-old former student , according to the sheriff’s office. She faces four felony counts of distributing or displaying obscene matter to a minor.

3. Pondering whether to include an open Ethics Alarms forum as a regular feature. Many of the blogs I frequent for story ideas do this late at night. Ethics Alarms has done it once when I was forced to be away from a keyboard for most of the day, and I was impressed with the results. Those forums on the other blogs often devolve into silliness, bad jokes, memes and worse, and I would insist that an “open forum” on Ethics Alarms be restricted to raising and discussing ethics and ethical topics. Continue reading

Harvard’s Female Students: ‘Wait, That Ban OnThe Freedom Of Association Off Campus Wasn’t Just For Men? Outrageous!’

Back in 2016, Harvard University President Drew Faust sent an email to undergraduate students and the Harvard community,  announcing that beginning with the 2017 entering class, undergraduate members of unrecognized single-gender social organizations (called “fraternities and sororities” at normal colleges)  would  be banned from holding athletic team captaincies and leadership positions in all recognized student groups. They would also be ineligible for College endorsement for top fellowships like the Rhodes and Marshall scholarships. I wrote in part,

Let us be clear what Harvard is trying to do here. It is seeking to punish students for their associations and activities unrelated to the school itself, and using its power within the limits of the campus to indoctrinate ideological values and require conduct that is unrelated to education. This is a rejection of the principle of freedom of association, one of those enumerated rights protected by the Ninth Amendment of the Bill of Rights, and a cornerstone of American principles. If the college can, in effect, create a blacklist withholding institutional honors from those who choose to belong to an all male or all female club completely distinct from the university, what clearly delineated line prevents the same institution from declaring that membership in the Republican Party, Occupy Wall Street, Americans For Trump or the NAACP are similarly undermining its values?

There is no such line.

But the policy went forward. Then, last July, a Harvard University task force advised banning students from joining any “fraternities, sororities, and similar organizations” as part of a process to phase out the social groups entirely by 2022. The recommendation was not adopted. Now, three sororities (remember, these are off-campus organizations not officially affiliated with Harvard) announced that they will still  recruit freshman women next semester.

“This is the spirit in which Alpha Phi, Delta Gamma, and Kappa Alpha Theta were established during the early 1870s,” the sororities said in their joint statement, titled, “We Believe Women Should Make Their Own Choices.”

Ah! The magic word “choice”!

Your move, President Faust! Continue reading

“U.S. Race Relations Have Finally Reached The Point Where They Make No Sense Whatsoever” Sunday #2: The Ol’ Miss Banana Peel Saga

Honestly, I thought this was a hoax story. I still hope it might be, and if it isn’t, it should be. If it is true, the episode all by itself is signature significance proving that the U.S. race problem has turned into cultural insanity.

Last weekend, leaders from the University of Mississippi’s Greek Life group held  a three-day at Camp Hopewell in Lafayette County, designed to “build leaders and bring the campus closer together.” It went spectacular wrong as a result of a banana peel. It really did.

The group included student members of the Panhellenic Council, the National Pan-Hellenic Council and the Interfraternity Council. The retreat was organized by Fraternity and Sorority Life and the national group IMPACT,  a campus-based leadership institute designed to foster improved relationships among campus leaders through such events. Saturday morning, the participants ate breakfast together, and the breakfast options included various fruit, including bananas. Breakfast was followed by a discussion session on race relations at Ole Miss.

Shortly thereafter, three students noticed a banana peel in a tree. This was taken as intentional racist symbolism. and the rest of the day was occupied by heated debate regarded racist symbols. Senior accounting major Ryan Swanson eventually stood up and admitted that he put the banana peel in the tree when he could not find a trash receptacle nearby.

[Aside: I once did exactly the same thing on a Boy Scout hike.]

Never mind. It didn’t matter that this was not a racist act. The banana peel continued to be the focus of intense debate.  Like a good social justice patsy, Swanson fell on his sword. “I want to sincerely apologize for the events that took place this past weekend,” Swanson told the college paper afterwards. “Although unintentional, there is no excuse for the pain that was caused to members of our community.” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/16/2017

 Isn’t it a lovely morning?

1. This isn’t the first post of the day: I woke up around 4 AM and couldn’t get back to sleep (“As My Guitar Gently Weeps” was playing over and over in my head, don’t ask me why, and images from the Red Sox 16 inning loss to the Yankees was giving me the night terrors), so I went to the office and wrote this post. Charlie Green, critic and friend, properly pointed out that my comment in passing that incorrectly alluded to rumors about Joseph P. Kennedy being a bootlegger was exactly what my  post was criticizing David Brooks for doing in his attack on the entire Trump family, going back generations, a truly ugly op-ed.

What I was sorely tempted to say was that I’m just an ethics blogger, trying to focus attention on ethics standards in a daily blog from which I receive no income and intangible professional benefits if any. I mange to get 2000-4000 words published every 24 hours, working in short bursts while I try to earn a living, run a business, do research and be as good a father and husband as I can be. I have no editors, no researchers (except generous volunteers) and my blog is not a “paper of record” for journalists, seen by millions and paid for by subscribers. Is it really fair to hold Ethics Alarms to the same standards as David Brooks and the New York Times?

Make no mistake: my own standards are that no typo, no misstated fact, no misleading argument, are acceptable on an ethics blog, or any blog, or anything published on the web. Charles was right: using an unproven accusation of long-standing (Until Charles flagged it, I thought the bootlegging charge was a matter of public record) undermines my case against Brooks. Nonetheless, Brooks has absolutely no excuse. This is all he does, he has all week to produce a column or two, and he has a staff.

I’ve also corrected my error within hours of making it. What are the chances that Brooks and the Times will ever admit that they intentionally impugned the character of Fred Trump using rumors and innuendo as part of their ongoing effort to demonize the President of the United States?

My guess: Zero.

2. The big story this morning appears to be O.J. Simpson’s parole hearing. Will he be paroled and released after serving just nine years of the three-decade sentence he received for his participation in a burglary? Assuming that it is true that O.J., now 70 and unlikely to stab any more ex-wives and innocent bystanders to death, has been a model prisoner, yes, that would be the ethical result. O.J. got away with a double murder—he will not be asked at the hearing, “Once you’re out, can we assume that you’ll renew your relentless hunt for the real killer?”—but he wasn’t put in prison for that crime. Officially, he’s innocent. His fellow burglars were all put on probation, while the judge threw the book at the former football star, presumably to exact a measure of societal revenge for Nicole and Ron. The sentence was unethical. I don’t feel sorry for O.J. at all; I’m glad he had to serve hard time, just as I would have been happy if he had been squashed by a meteor. Justice, however, demands that he go free.

The bastard. Continue reading

Dear Harvard: Fire President Drew Faust And Dean Rakesh Khurana

If these idiots are off-campus, 1) GOOD and 2) it's none of the college's business.

If these idiots do this off-campus, 1) GOOD and 2) it’s none of the college’s business.

In an e-mail to undergraduate students and the Harvard community, University President Drew Faust announced that beginning with next year’s entering class, undergraduate members of unrecognized single-gender social organizations will be banned from holding athletic team captaincies and leadership positions in all recognized student groups. They will also be ineligible for College endorsement for top fellowships like the Rhodes and Marshall scholarships.

The unrecognized single-gender social organizations are what is left of the old fraternities and sororities. When the Greek system was banned many decades ago (and Harvard was an all-male college), the frats reorganized as exclusive college clubs located in houses around Harvard Square in Cambridge. After Harvard merged with all-female neighbor Radcliffe College in the Seventies, sorority-like clubs emulated their male counterparts. In 1984, Harvard issued an ultimatum to the clubs to go co-ed, and the clubs responded by disaffiliating with the University.

Wrote Faust in part:

“Although the fraternities, sororities, and final clubs are not formally recognized by the College, they play an unmistakable and growing role in student life, in many cases enacting forms of privilege and exclusion at odds with our deepest values. The College cannot ignore these organizations if it is to advance our shared commitment to broadening opportunity and making Harvard a campus for all of its students….Captains of intercollegiate sports teams and leaders of organizations funded, sponsored, or recognized by Harvard College in a very real sense represent the College.They benefit from its resources. They operate under its name. Especially as it seeks to break down structural barriers to an effectively inclusive campus, the College is right to ensure that the areas in which it provides resources and endorsement advance and reinforce its values of non-discrimination.”

Faust was following the recommendation of Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana’s recommendations, who wrote in his report on the results of a “study”,

“[T]he discriminatory membership policies of these organizations have led to the perpetuation of spaces that are rife with power imbalances. The most entrenched of these spaces send an unambiguous message that they are the exclusive preserves of men. In their recruitment practices and through their extensive resources and access to networks of power, these organizations propagate exclusionary values that undermine those of the larger Harvard College community…Ultimately, all of these unrecognized single-gender social organizations are at odds with Harvard College’s educational philosophy and its commitment to a diverse living and learning experience.”

Let us be clear what Harvard is trying to do here. It is seeking to punish students for their associations and activities unrelated to the school itself, and using its power within the limits of the campus to indoctrinate ideological values and require conduct that is unrelated to education. This is a rejection of the principle of freedom of association, one of those enumerated rights protected by the Ninth Amendment of the Bill of Rights, and a cornerstone of American principles. If the college can, in effect, create a blacklist withholding institutional honors from those who choose to belong to an all male or all female club completely distinct from the university, what clearly delineated line prevents the same institution from declaring that membership in the Republican Party, Occupy Wall Street, Americans For Trump or the NAACP are similarly undermining its values?

There is no such line. Continue reading

Observations On The ‘Ole Miss’ Sigma Chi Derby Days Controversy

Derby DaysNews Item:

The University of Mississippi’s Title IX office has launched an investigation after allegations surfaced on social media that men of the Sigma Chi fraternity asked sorority members questions tainted with sexual innuendo on a loud speaker system in front of hundreds of students at the closing festivities of Derby Days, the fraternity’s annual philanthropic initiative.

Those “allegations” came in the form of an emotional Facebook post by student Abby Bruce, who began,

“Tonight, my eyes watered up as I watched women be humiliated in the name of “philanthropy.” After a week long process of all the sororities on campus competing to raise money for Sigma Chi’s philanthropy, the guys proceeded to ask the contestants for their Derby Days queen over the mic at the dance competition where hundreds of women were gathered “which sigma chi they would go down on,” “what type of sausage would they prefer: linked or sigma chi,” and other questions of the like.”

Observations:

1. I’m sure Ole Miss administrators are shocked, shocked (I know this “Casablanca” reference is an over-used cliché, but it perfectly fits this episode) that fraternity members would use sexual innuendo at an event like this. In truth, this is undoubtedly been going on for decades, but the combination of the sexual assault posse culture that the Education Department’s “Dear Colleague” letter inflicted on campuses combined with social media shaming prompted the college to act as if it had no idea such vulgarity was going on.

The University of Mississippi has allowed and by its passivity endorsed such piggish conduct in its fraternities, and it is now grandstanding.

2. A Title IX investigation, in this case to see if frat boys making sexual innuendos about sorority girls during an extra-curricular event, is an abuse of the law and free speech intimidation, and is unwarranted, except, I suppose, to make Old Miss  immune from government harassment. The test in Title IX is whether conduct with sexual content and intent rises to the level of non-consensual and unwelcome sexual harassment in which students are “deprived of equal and free access to an education.”  Being subjected to rude comments on Derby Day when in all likelihood the women participating knew what was coming isn’t going to deprive anyone of anything. Continue reading