Category Archives: Daily Life

Possible Tools Of Ethical Analysis: Strange Emotions


I’m always on the lookout for concepts and tools that can help us negotiate the difficulties humans have determining right from wrong without pollution from emotions, non-ethical considerations, logical fallacies and rationalizations. Somewhere in this list of strange emotions there may be some.

I’m thinking about them while I recuperate from my last week of exhausting travel and daily seminars—I feel like I’ve been run over by water buffalo—and invite you to think about them along with me. I’m interested in your reactions.

Strange emotions

UPDATE: I was just schooled that the origin of this list, not mentioned where I say it, is “The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows,” the invention of artist and blogger John Koenig.


Filed under Daily Life

Welcome To My World

Suicide jokes, however, are fine...

Suicide jokes, however, are fine

In the ethics CLE (Continuing Legal Education) world, seminar attendees rank presenters. Ethics is a much-detested topic; if you can crack 3 (out of 5, the best), you are doing well. My scores are usually between 4.6 and 4.9.

Attendees are also invited to write comments. I recently received the survey summaries from an out-of-state seminar I taught to a section of that state’s bar. The response during an immediately after the seminar was terrific, so I expected my usual ratings. The coordinator sent me an e-mail stating that my scores were “very good overall” (4.7, in fact) but that there were “concerns about a rape joke in my presentation.”

There was no rape joke in the session. I don’t make rape jokes.

I had been talking about Donald Trump’s lawyer, in an incident I posted about here, incompetently saying that “you can’t rape your spouse.” “You can rape your spouse,” I said. “I have this image of hopeful spousal abusers reading this idiot’s comments and saying, “This is great!”

I wrote back to the coordinator and said that I wanted my objection to this characterization in my files and on the record. I know how it works. All that is remembered later is the complaint, and groups, even bars, are controversy averse. Next year, when they are deciding whether to have me speak, all that has to happen is for someone to say, “Wasn’t there some rape joke he made that we got flack for?” That would be enough; nobody would check, nobody would investigate. I would be eliminated as a potential speaker, probably for all time. They might even tell another bar association about the episode when they are called about whether to use me. “Well, his seminar was popular, but there was some problem about a rape joke he told.”

I asked to see all the surveys. The “concern” about my “rape joke” consisted of exactly one anonymous comment out of a hundred attendees.

I would estimate political correctness hyper-sensitivity by single attendees cost me about a client a year. The other members of their groups have to be saddled with boring ethics seminars because one lawyer had to prove how vigilant he or she was in being properly offended.

(Now THIS is a rape joke...and I would never tell it.)


Filed under Daily Life, Education, Gender and Sex, Law & Law Enforcement

The “Now I’ll Make You Feel Bad For Insisting On Getting What You Paid For” Ploy

My hotel room TV, post Fred.

My hotel room TV, post Fred.

I’m in the midst of a legal ethics tour of Virginia, moving from one hotel to another. Last night I arrived at a Richmond Hilton at 11 pm, after fighting the usual traffic jams from late night construction on Rt.95 in my two hour car trip to get there. Oh, I had all the usual fun: the room that I had been told was pre-paid by my hosts wasn’t; later, the Wi-Fi in the room didn’t work. First, however, I immediately noticed that room 527 featured a TV that was hanging limply from its pedestal, forward and to the left. I guess I could have watched it sort of comfortably if I sat cross-legged on the floor with my head tilted to one side like President Buchanan.

I decided to call the desk instead.

The chirpy clerk answered my call brightly. “Yes, Mr. Marshall, what can I do for you?” she said.

“Well, my TV is broken. The screen is crooked, and it’s tipping off its pedestal.” Continue reading


Filed under Business & Commercial, Daily Life, Etiquette and manners

Look! “An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments”!

bad arguments

As various thought fallacies and flawed arguments are constantly being exposed, used, debunked or otherwise referenced during our ethics discussions and debates—the Ethics Alarms compendium is here–this looked like something readers would enjoy. I probably should dedicate this post to former blog Commenter of the Year tgt, in appreciation for his ending—maybe just briefly, we shall see—his latest sabbatical with a flurry of 70 comments while I was lecturing in Newport last week. I didn’t have time to properly engage him or even read all the comments, but he seemed in characteristic form.

Tgt loves the fallacies and delights in slapping them down whenever they occur. His favorite is “No True Scotsman.” I immediately thought of him when I  stumbled upon “An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments” by the multi-talented Ali Almossawi. Tgt’s  pet fallacy is here, as well as ad hominem, appeals to authority, the straw man, equivocation and others, some under different names than those I am used to. I haven’t read it carefully: there may be one or two that needs to be added to the Ethics Alarms list.

This is a well-researched and written exposition of some major fallacies with lovely illustrations, presented like a vintage children’s book. Someone should actually publish a children’s book like this: I would have been grateful for one when my son was a boy, or when I was a boy.  I’m grateful for this now.

You can find this amazing work of art, ethics, rhetoric and logic here. I’ve already sent the link around to many friends, young and old, and you may want to do the same.



Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Daily Life, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Journalism & Media, Religion and Philosophy, Research and Scholarship

The Duty To Confront, Part One: A Starbucks Encounter


A friend on Facebook just posted this tale…

“Lady at Starbucks yelled at employee for serving old sandwiches marked 8/11. She was irate and insisted on seeing the manager. The manager told her that today was 8/11. Lady said “oh” and no apology for employee who was now in tears.”

And, apparently, nobody, including my friend, stepped in an demanded that the customer apologize.


We have a shared duty to keep up basic standards of ethics and decency. In this situation, and apology is mandatory, and if the woman, who had a valid reason to complain if she was right, didn’t have the sense, character or decency to do the right thing, she needed to be told, and even embarrassed.

Three incidents in my experiences come to mind…. Continue reading


Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Daily Life, Etiquette and manners, Workplace

Anti-Gun Zealots Must Reconcile Their Rhetoric With This, Or Concede That Their Adversaries, And All Citizens, Have A Right To Protect Themselves

In Macon, Georgia, a coordinated mob of teens attacked a Walmart like a scene out of “Dawn of the Dead.” Surveillance cameras revealed this:

The Macon Telegraph reports that a group of about 50 teens swarmed the store and began destroying property, apparently for the fun of it. A customer in a motorized scooter was pulled from his seat and dragged on the floor, police say.  17-year-old Kharron Nathan Green entered the store at about 2 a.m. last Sunday morning and flashed “gang signs.” At his signal, a group of about 50 people, apparently teens or a bit older, charged into the store. They departed when police arrived. Green, was the only one arrested, not because he was the ringleader, but because he is an idiot. He returned to the scene of the crime to fetch a dropped phone.

That nobody was seriously hurt or killed is moral luck, nothing more.

Is it relevant that all of the teens appear to be black? Sure it is, though many news outlets—like the Macon Telegraph, in fact— didn’t think so, because that creates inconvenient implications. For one thing, it was very relevant to any police officer trying to deal with the onslaught, as having to shoot one of the mob if he was aggressive would have the cop branded as a racist killer  and possibly railroaded into a murder trial by the Georgia equivalent of Marilyn Mosby. Continue reading


Filed under Citizenship, Daily Life, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Facebook, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, U.S. Society

Warning: The Companion Rule To “Bias Makes You Stupid” Is “Immunity To Bias Makes You Dead”


The picture above shows Denis Cuspert, a German rapper and the enterprising creator of the T-shirt he is holding in the shot on the left. The photo on the right shows Denis in his current incarnation, Abu Talha Al-Almani. He formally joined the Islamic State sometime in April 2014. It is believed that he has become the Islamic State’s chief propagandist in the German language, inspiring disillusioned young Germans to become jihadists. In November 2014, he appeared in an Islamic State video holding a severed head.

I saw the photo above online this morning, and it reminded me that I have never made an important point about bias explicit here. Bias causes a lot of problems, in society and in the life of individuals, but those who furiously condemn bias  and demand that we should eradicate it from human nature are reckless and ignorant, and often dishonest as well. Bias is a crucial evolutionary feature that allows human beings to avoid making the same mistake twice, or a hundred times. It is linked to trust, and leads to wariness. Without the ability to form biases, every one of us would be fatally naive, and a victim waiting to be harmed. Continue reading


Filed under Character, Daily Life, Ethics Scoreboard classics, Ethics Train Wrecks, Law & Law Enforcement, Race