Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/11/17…”Alan Brady” Shows His Ignorance, And The New York Times Shows Its Bias.

Good Morning!

[By the time I finished #1 on today’s list, there was no room for the rest, except for the shortest item. Oops. But it’s Carl Reiner’s fault: he ticked me off.]

1. Carl Reiner, comedy legend and still kicking in his 90s, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times urging Supreme Court Justice Kennedy not to retire, as some believe he is preparing to do. Kennedy is a relative  whippersnapper at 8o. That Reiner’s argument is unethical in multiple ways should be obvious, but then expecting the editors of the New York Times to spot an ethics problem is naive.

Reiner tells Kennedy that he shouldn’t retire because ” the best part of your career has just begun. As a nonagenarian who has just completed the most prolific, productive five years of my life, I feel it incumbent upon me to urge a hearty octogenarian such as yourself not to put your feet up on the ottoman just yet. You have important and fulfilling work ahead of you.” The problem is that the decision shouldn’t be based on what Kennedy wants or will enjoy. He’s supposed to act in the best interests of the nation, not to maximize the rewards of his golden years. Reiner uses a comparison to his own career—he still acts periodically, but even Reiner can’t possible think that his last five years were objectively more productive than when he was writing and performing in “Your Show of Shows,” or playing Rob Petrie’s hilariously nasty boss on “The Dick Van Dyke Show”—which shows a narrow perspective. If Carl can’t perform the way he used to but movie-goers still like watching him, there’s no harm done. A SCOTUS justice who no longer is in top mental fettle, however, can do substantial harm.

How many screenplays has Reiner had produced since he turned 80? How many studios have hired him to direct? The last movie he wrote was in 1989, when Carl was 67.  His last directing assignment was 20 years ago. So Carl has retired from those jobs that are too demanding for him, just not acting. His argument to Kennedy is disingenuous. Gee, maybe the Justice should try acting, like Carl.

Reiner’s entire piece is a sham: it isn’t about retirement, it’s about liberal politics. He writes,

“The country needs justices like you who decide each case with fairness and humanity, and whose allegiance is to the Constitution of the United States of America, not to a party line. You have always voted your conscience, and defended the rights and liberties of all our citizens.”

Is  Reiner seriously arguing that there are no younger qualified judges “whose allegiance is to the Constitution of the United States of America, not to a party line” ? That’s what all SCOTUS justices are pledged to do.  Does anyone think that Reiner would like Justice Ginsberg, also in her 80’s, to step down because she reliably hews to Democratic Party positions in virtual lockstep? No, of course not. What he is really saying is that when Republican-appointed justices consider cases, they violate their duty to be objective, but when Democrat-appointed justices decide in favor of progressive positions, they are just being wise and fair. This also the position of the New York Times, which is using an old man as its mouthpiece. Nice. Continue reading

Are No Professions Safe From The 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck? Now Even Restaurant Critics Have Gotten On Board!

circus-train-wreck

As a professional ethics specialist, I find the enthusiasm with which alleged professionals have used the election of Donald Trump to excuse their abandonment of such ethical values as fairness, responsibility, respect and citizenship deeply discouraging, and I am seriously considering becoming a beachcomber. I already knew that the journalism profession no longer could distinguish ethics from a hairy crab, so this wasn’t too surprising, nor was it too much of a shock that the New York Times has become a non-stop anti-Trump fear-fest and rant machine. Let’s see, in today’s edition alone  there is a hit piece on Trump advisor Steve Bannon called “Bannon’s Coriolanus Rewrite,” then  “Donald Trump’s Racial Ignorance,” “Where the Right Went Wrong,” (an amazing title, given the current balance of political power after Hillary’s botched campaign), “How the Truth Got Hacked,” “Is Democracy in Danger?” “Trump, the Russian Poodle,” and “Is This Collective Trauma?” The  last, I guess,  explains why mass trauma is inevitable for progressives, moderates and “Never Trump” Republicans when “the political order they long took for granted — defined by polarization, yes, but also by a commitment to basic principles of democracy and decency — is suddenly gone.”  One would almost wonder from that sentence which side of the political spectrum is calling for armed insurrection, pre-inaugural impeachment, and the overturning of the election results. The Times is also a showcase for columnists whose minds have snapped like dry branches in the wind,  causing them to leap manically onto the Trump Hysteria Express. Economist Paul Krugman has long been a hyper-partisan scold for whom fairness is alien territory, but this tweet was spectacularly vicious even for him:

“Thought: There was (rightly) a cloud of illegitimacy over Bush, dispelled (wrongly) by 9/11. Creates some interesting incentives for Trump.”

An ethical newspaper wouldn’t want someone capable of such a comment working for it.

Many broadcast journalists were stunningly unprofessional, indeed amateurish, on election night. Martha Raddatz choked up with emotion reporting Clinton’s loss; now there’s an objective reporter. Rachel Maddow described the evening as a “nightmare.”

Education has been racing journalism to the ethics barrel bottom for years, but I did not expect universities to send such intimidating messages to their students that they were expected to either be in mourning or on the verge of emotional breakdowns because the Democrats lost. Once, higher institutions of learning aimed to teach students critical thinking skills so they could make up their own minds regarding civic affairs. High school administrators and teachers also forgot their duties, and allowed students to skip school because, you know, TRUMP!!!!, and “ARRRGHHHHH!!!!”

Lawyers have lost their ethical bearings, of course, as have law professors, with perhaps the best example of the latter being the Georgetown Law Center adjunct who claims that the Constitution is unconstitutional, because following it will elect Donald Trump. My law alma mater isn’t faring too well in the train wreck: another professor, Paul Butler, argued that Supreme Court justices shouldn’t normally attack a President Elect, except when it’s Donald Trump.

Other academics have disgraced themselves. A prominent historian, for example, even resorted to making up history to provide an excuse for Democrats losing to such a horrible creature. Professor Larry Lessig of Harvard Law, who heads an ethics institute there, is encouraging electors to be “faithless,” as in “double-cross the voters who elected them.” Some ethics institute you have there, Harvard!

Artist, actors and show business professionals have debased themselves even more than usual, beginning with the Broadway cast of “Hamilton’s” breach of the Performer’s First Commandment: DON’T ABUSE THE AUDIENCE. They have even started turning on each other: Jon Voight, whose sin was that he expressed support for the man elected President, was booed at recent awards show by his fellow actors. Nice.

But as bad as this has been, I didn’t expect food critics to be corrupted. Continue reading

Spectacularly Incompetent Candidate Of The Month: Paul Ryan Challenger Paul Nehlen

"This is Paul. Won't you help him? Paul, like millions of other victims across the land, suffers from Constitution Ignorance Syndrome. This dread malady causes its victims to advocate fascist  policies and to sound like idiots in their public statements. But there is hope for Paul, and those like him. Please give, and give generously, To "Educate Paul." a non-profit charity. Your gift is tax-deductible, and you will have made the United States a little less stupid with every penny you contribute to this vital cause."

“This is Paul. Won’t you help him? Paul, like millions of other victims across the land, suffers from Constitution Ignorance Syndrome. This dread malady causes its victims to advocate fascist policies and to sound like idiots in their public statements. But there is hope for Paul, and those like him. Please give, and give generously, To Educate Paul a non-profit charity. Your gift is tax-deductible, and you will have made the United States a little less stupid with every penny you contribute to this vital cause.”

This was the guy that Donald Trump was supposedly going to endorse as retribution for Speaker Ryan’s negative comments? It’s comforting, isn’t it, that Trump isn’t that irrational? Ann Coulter is, but Trump isn’t. (At least in this case.)

Paul Nehlen is the arch conservative and certifiable ignoramus who is challenging House Speaker Paul Ryan in Wisconsin’s First Congressional District’s Republican primary. Interviewed last week on “Chicago’s Morning Answer,” Nehlen said that he wonders why we have any Muslims in the country, and suggested that there should be a public debate about tossing Muslims out of the U.S.

Here’s a partial transcript of the relevant comments Nehlen made to hosts Amy Jacobson and Dan Croft: Continue reading

Donald Trump Candidacy Ethics Train Wreck Passenger List Update: Georgetown Law Prof. Paul Butler Scores A Perfect Rationalization #28

We're real sorry about this, but these are not ordinary times...

We’re really sorry about this, but these are not ordinary times…

The human ethics train wreck named Donald Trump is now in the process of exposing how thin the veneer of professionalism is for many alleged intellectuals, scholars and lawyers. On an e-mail list of most of the legal ethicists in the country, one of them posted this in reaction to Justice Ginsberg’s unethical and unjudicial shots at Donald Trump:

“I love RBG way too much to be critical of her in any way . Long may she live!”

This opne expression of willful denial, from not merely a lawyer, but an ethics specialist! It is the epitome of one of my father’s favorite quotes, “My mind’s made up, don’t confuse me with facts.” I responded to the list that it was the most depressing statement I had ever read from any of the list’s participants.

Paul Butler’s op-ed in the New York Times isn’t much better. The Georgetown Law Center professor defended Ginsberg’s indefensible comments by arguing that these times are special, and thus suspend the ethics principles that must govern judges if the judiciary is to engender any respect or trust at all. He writes:

“Normally Supreme Court justices should refrain from commenting on partisan politics. But these are not normal times. The question is whether a Supreme Court justice – in this case, the second woman on the court, a civil rights icon and pioneering feminist — has an obligation to remain silent when the country is at risk of being ruled by a man who has repeatedly demonstrated that he is a sexist and racist demagogue. The answer must be no.”

No, Professor, the answer must be “yes.” Continue reading

Romney’s “Worst Weeks” and the 27th Rationalization

Yeah, yeah, but did you hear what Mitt said to raise money?

Normally I would consider the surreptitious taping and then publicizing of a quasi-private meeting unethical, writes a lawyer colleague, “but these are not normal times.”

I thanked him profusely for alerting me that I had inexplicably allowed a hoary, classic rationalization for unethical conduct with a distinguished pedigree to escape the Ethics Alarms list, though this was not, I gather, his original intent. I just remedied the embarrassing omission, dubbing this The Revolutionary’s Excuse.” Here is the entry:

27. The Revolutionary’s Excuse:

“These are not ordinary times.” Continue reading