Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/2/2019: Dark Thoughts And Good Reasons For Them

Looking forward to the ethical week ahead, certain that I’ll be disappointed, and bitterly, based on last week…

<Sigh>

1. The Ethicist’s Dilemma. I’m preparing for a couple of legal ethics CLE seminars for government lawyers, and raised  an ethical dilemma facing me to my sister. The last time I included government lawyer ethics issues related to the multiple controversies in the Mueller investigation, the FISA process, and the Michael Cohen clown act, I received several critical evaluations that were entirely partisan and political. And, in the session itself, there were a couple of participants obviously set at “hair-trigger” to register accusations and objections that any criticism–based on pure legal ethics analysis on my part—that found fault with the lawyers involved revealed me as a dreaded “Trump supporter.” I asked my sister, who is a retired government lawyer with extensive Justice Department experience, if I should nonetheless cover such issues as Robert Mueller flagrantly violating Rule 3.8 of the D.C, Rules with his public statement last week,  or what a White House Counsel’s ethical obligations are regarding communications from the President (since the “who is the client?” complexities of that role continue to confound legal ethics experts, my position is that the WHC has an ethical obligation to make it crystal clear to any President when he is covered by attorney-client privilege and when he is not, to cite one example.)

Her depressing advice: Don’t touch any of it. People, even lawyers, are not capable of keeping their emotions and political passions under control these days, she said. No matter how accurate and fair your analysis is, she emphasized, you risk allowing these hot-button issues to derail the seminar and even harm your professional reputation.

Yet I believe that I have an obligation to cover these issues. I also have a lifetime bias for doing what people tell me will be disastrous when I am convinced that it is the right thing to do. Then my father’s voice comes out of the mists of time, reciting his favorite fake obituary, a ditty about sailing:

This is a story of John O’Day
Who died maintaining his right of way
He was right, dead right, as he sailed along
But he’s just as dead as if he were wrong.
I’m thinking.

Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 10/7/18, Part II: Fake Satire, Fake Racism, Fake Harvard

Good Morning AGAIN!

My OTHER favorite hymn when I’m feeling blue..

3. If I were the producer of Saturday Night Live…I would strongly push the show to do what satirical shows are supposed to do: make fun of everyone. It is just good business, as well as comedic integrity: make everyone watch to see who gets skewered.  But no: despite the over-abundance of potential and indeed near mandatory targets of parody and mockery, SNL took sides—the same one it has been taking now, virtually exclusively, for years. There was no Spartacus sketch, despite the preening of the absurd Cory Booker, and a skit that virtually writes itself. Lindsay Graham was cruelly mocked, but not Kirsten Gillibrand, nor Diane Feinstein. Ah, but Senator Susan Collins, who made a brave, clear, invaluable speech about her choice–women get choices, I hear—to buck the #MeToo bullies and lynch mobs and confirm Brett Kavanaugh, was mocked for THAT last night, aan portrayed as weak dupe. Yet despite the mannered, baby-talking, confused presentation by Blasey-Ford, whom I would deem a satirist’s dream, the show’s writers didn’t have the guts to touch her.

4. Speaking of jokes…Georgetown prof C. Christine Fair, who the college thinks can be trusted to be neutral and fair to white men in her classroom despite her racist and violent tweets, had an explanation after her Twitter account was suspended. She had written, you will recall,

“Look at [this] chorus of entitled white men. All of them deserve miserable deaths while feminists laugh as they take their last gasps. Bonus: we castrate their corpses and feed them to swine? Yes.”

Come on! Don’t you get the joke? She was kidding! Fair told the Washington Post, whose reporter didn’t have the integrity to respond, “How stupid do you think I am?”…

“Maybe this was not my most eloquent attempt,” Fair said. “And I will certainly concede I was attempting to make people feel uncomfortable,” but  “this idea I’m somehow calling for actual violence is preposterous.”

Gee, why can’t white supremacists and racists excuse their “jokes” the same way?

The Post’s writer, however, completely accepts Fair’s alibi, and impugns anyone who took offense at it as “extreme right wing.”  Read the article.

Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias! Continue reading

And The Witch Hunters Come Calling At Al Franken’s Door…Desperately, He Tries To Explain Away The Pointy Hat, The Black Cat, And The Broom He’s Been Riding

Al Franken!

Of course! Why didn’t I see that coming?

Homely guy, gets involved in the theater club as the class clown to meet girls, moves through the sex and party culture of Harvard theater, on to the hedonist crisis culture of Saturday Night Live and Hollywood, where anything goes, where Harvey and Woody are gods, where sexual harassment and assault are a tradition and everybody does it…after all, it’s just sex…

Leeann Tweeden, a Los Angeles radio news anchor and former Playboy model,  accused Senator Al Franken (D-Minn) of sexual assault and harassment when they were both on a USO tour in 2006. Her story was accompanied by the photograph above, which takes it out of the “he said-she said” category immediately. Within hours, a second woman, a conservative who argued with Franken on an edition of  Bill Maher’s old Comedy Central show, Politically Incorrect, reported that he had harassed her as well, though not sexually, in 2000.

Franken immediately issued a non-apology apology, saying, “I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann. As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it.”

In other words, ‘I don’t believe you about my pushing myself on you when you were awake, and feeling you up while you were asleep was obviously a joke, but I apologize anyway, because you obviously can’t take a joke, and my apolologing  the easiest way to get out of this.” On the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale, this is a hybrid bad apology with elements of Level #7…

“A forced or compelled version of [a legitimate apology] in which the individual (or organization) apologizing may not sincerely believe that an apology is appropriate, but chooses to show the victim or victims of the act inspiring it that the individual responsible is humbling himself and being forced to admit wrongdoing by the society, the culture, legal authority, or an organization or group that the individual’s actions reflect upon or represent .”

and the even worse #9…

“Deceitful apologies, in which the wording of the apology is crafted to appear apologetic when it is not (“if my words offended, I am sorry”). Another variation: apologizing for a tangential matter other than the act or words that warranted an apology.”

This was lousy, and the reviews were immediate and negative. So Franken came back with a second version, this time in a formal statement:

If you examine it closely, the second apology was more unethical than the first one, but a lot more sneaky about it. Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Month: President Donald J. Trump

“And when you see these towns and when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon—you just see them thrown in, rough—I said, please don’t be too nice. Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over? Like, don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody—don’t hit their head. I said, you can take the hand away, okay?”

The President of the United States of America, land of the free, home of the brave, and where no citizen is presumed guilty and is protected by the Bill of Rights, in a speech to Long Island law enforcement officials.

Ugh. What an idiot. Here we are in a societal racial schism with alleged police brutality at its core, and President Trump decides it’s the perfect time to publicly endorse beating up suspects on their way to jail.

Naturally, being professionals and having functioning ethics alarms, the International Association of Chiefs of Police as well as various police departments and chiefs released statements stressing the need for police to treat all people with respect.  Darrel Stephens, the executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, said that the President’s words were harmful to police departments that are trying to rebuild trust.  He also added that the laughter and applause of those officers in attendance ” reinforces that there’s sort of a wink and a nod about these things, when that’s simply not the case,.”

Blue Lives Matter then tweeted that “Trump didn’t tell police to go out and brutalize people as the media would have you believe. It was a joke.”

Of course it was a joke—an irresponsible, reckless, inappropriate, harmful, stupid, stupid, stupid joke. That’s a rationalization, not an excuse.

I wonder if the new Chief of Staff could talk the Secret Service into allowing him to post an Amazonian blow-gun sniper with a tranquilizer dart at all Presidential speeches, with instructions to puff hard any time the President starts to go off script?

Probably not…

__________________________

Source: ABA Journal

This Is Why It’s Time For Political Cartoons To Go

 

Here (and above) is a sample of the bumper crop of political cartoons inspired by the Donald Trump, Jr. aborted meeting to acquire damaging information on Hillary that never materialized.

They are all, to various degrees, unfair, misleading, or simply untrue. Why is this acceptable? If presenting a false representation of the truth is required to make a joke, and the intended audience accepts what is false as fact, how is that justifiable?

The cartoon above, one of the most unethical, is typical of the work of Tom Toles, the Washington Post’s relentlessly biased cartoonist.

The others are presented below, in approximate order of unfairness and dishonesty.

They collectively state that there has been treason, a crime, corruption, collusion and conspiracy, and that there is actual, as opposed to speculated, “news” that the Trump campaign worked with Russia to interfere with the election. This is old fashioned yellow journalism-style political cartooning, throwing red meat to members of the public who want to believe that the President of the United States is a traitor so they can undo the election. That isn’t funny. That’s disgusting.

As I wrote in 2012, focusing on another dishonest and partisan Toles cartoon:

” Political cartooning peaked as a form of commentary about half a century ago, and has been declining ever since. Now it is dominated by hateful, unfunny and witless culture warriors who have as much in common with Jules Feiffer and Bill Mauldin as Mario Mendoza had in common with Hank Aaron. Are there exceptions? There are always exceptions. Pat Oliphant, Exhibit A, is brilliant, nuanced and clever; he’s also 77 years old, the last of the greats. If there are Oliphants out there, legitimate commentators who can make fair and honest observations with humor and a pen, great: what a wonderful alternative to the typical pundit rants. Put them on the editorial pages. The standard, however, should be content, not form. Political cartoons were once an efficient means of aiming a thousand words at non-readers and members of the public without the skills or education to grasp complex issues. They have become a vehicle for the unqualified and trivial-minded to acquire a platform they don’t deserve, to the detriment of the public and journalism.”

Now the evidence: Continue reading

The Attorney General’s “Island In The Pacific” Gaffe

I guess we’re going to have to get used to this sequence over the next 4-8 years (yes, 8: at the rate the Democrats are disgracing themselves, President Trump may stick around):

1) President Trump and/or one of his surrogates, spokespersons or appointees make a carelessly worded statement

2) Democrats, activists and the news media intentionally, wilfully and maliciously interpret it in the worst way possible under the convetions of the English language

3) They widely represent the statement to the public as expressing malign thoughts intent and principles

4) The Trump-related speaker, being rhetorically-challenged to begin with, fails to clarify the confusion and makes himself or herself look worse the more he tries.

5) Nobody, almost literally nobody, bothers to examine the statement from an objective point of view.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said last week, referring to the Hawaii -chambered federal judge Derrick K. Watson, who last month blocked Trump’s revised temporary halt on travel from sslected terrorist-rich Muslim countries just before it was to go into effect,

“I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and Constitutional power.”

It was an off-hand remark on conservative talk show host Mark Levin’s radio program, but it immediately provoked ridicule and attack. Sessions didn’t know Hawaii was a state. Sessions doesn’t respect Hawaii.  President Trump doesn’t like Hawaii. Just a few minutes ago, I watched ABC’s George Stephanopoulos confront Sessions about the remark. Sessions’ humina humina reply: “Nobody has a sense of humor any more.”

I understood the meaning of Sessions’ statement to Levin the minute I heard it, because I thought the same thing at the time of the judge’s ruling: Hawaii is the weirdest place for Trump’s order to be litigated, since the state  is uniquely insulated from the illegal immigration problems facing the other 49 states, has never had anything close to a terrorism attack, and has a negligible Muslim population. The particular problems that the President’s order purports to address is an abstract one for Hawaiians, more than any other state. Sessions’ comment was rueful, intended as irony (to a friendly interviewer), and none of the vile things it was subsequently accused of being. Continue reading

The Sudden Fall Of Milo Yiannopoulos: An Ethics Cautionary Tale

milo-y

Wow.

Frank Sinatra would have recognized this tale…

That’s life (that’s life) that’s what people say
You’re riding high in April
Shot down in May

But will Milo Yiannopoulos, the deliberately offensive Breitbart editor,  alt-right cheer-leader, misogynist and professional  troll be able to emulate Ol’ Blue Eyes and be back on top, back on top in June?

Uh, no.

Good.

In case you missed it, Milo had this very month soared higher than any vile, bigoted, uncivil loudmouth without any talent other than being vile, bigoted, and uncivil—are those really talents?—had soared before. Thanks to the fact that his threatened presence as an invited campus speaker had exposed the deep, anti-speech, totalitarian strain in U.S. higher education, and that the currently super-charged Leftist hypocrites who were already playing Brown shirts in response to the Presidential election smoothly transitioned to rioting at Berkeley because of the alleged threat posed by this silly, self-important jerk, Milo had become a genuine celebrity, thus ruining the name of Milo, maybe forever, which had previously evoked…

milo-oshea

…late Irish character actor Milo O’Shea

milo-m

…”Catch 22″ con man Milo Minderbinder (Jon Voight played him in the film), and…

milo-and-otis

…nauseating Japanese puppy and kitten-pal flick “Milo and Otis” (that’s Milo on the right).

But I digress.

Milo’s infamy  had snagged a book deal that would guarantee him millions. He scored a high profile interview on HBO with fellow troll, misogynist and jerk-in-arms Bill Maher, who is as much of an asshole as Milo but never gets shouted down when he appears on college campuses because he aims his vile words at conservative values, icons and figures, and most conservatives believe in free speech. Best of all, CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, debased itself by inviting him to speak, on the theory that the enemy of their enemies is their friend, or something like that.

Milo had hit the celebrity jackpot! Rich! Famous! Influential!

…Shunned. Continue reading