Tag Archives: conspiracy theories

A Puzzlement! Non-Lawyers Desperately Need A Legal Education, And Unemployed Lawyers Think Theirs Is Worthless

 

Quick, get a non-lawyer to pay you to teach him about the law, then you will have  rent money, and he'll be unemployable!

Quick, get a non-lawyer to pay you to teach him about the law, then you will have rent money, and he’ll be unemployable!

From the Fordham Law Review comes an article making an important point about American life: it is so intertwined with laws, regulations and procedures that citizens are overwhelmed, and at risk of serious adverse consequences. This provides a function for lawyers, indeed an essential one: allowing citizens of a democracy to be protected and served by laws rather than victimized by them. That is a function lawyers often serve, however, after legal ignorance has raised the specter of harm. From the abstract of Bridget Dunlap’s “Anyone Can Think Like a Lawyer,” which argues for “legal empowerment” for non-lawyers, and the duty of  lawyers to provide it: Continue reading

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Grassy Knoll Ethics: How Deception Breeds Distrust

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We once again must squarely face the hoary  quote from Walter Scott’s epic poem Marmion: “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” It is hoary because it is true, and this month’s Smithsonian Magazine reminds us of how true it is, recounting how well-intentioned deceptions by the news media regarding evidence in the assassination of President Kennedy helped create a conspiracy theory that will not die, and that may have begun the slow, relentless deterioration of America’s trust in its own government that has reached dangerous proportions today.

Frame 313 of Abraham Zapruder’s accidental record of one of the pivotal moments in U.S. history gave him nightmares, and when he sold the rights to his amateur movie to Life Magazine, he insisted that frame be withheld from the public, and not published. “We like to feel that the world is safe,” documentary maker Errol Morris explains in the article.“Safe at least in the sense that we can know about it. The Kennedy assassination is very much an essay on the unsafety of the world. If a man that powerful, that young, that rich, that successful, can just be wiped off the face of the earth in an instant, what does it say about the rest of us?” I understand, but withholding the truth is not the way to make the world seem safer. As the story of the conspiracy shows, it is how we end up trusting no one. Continue reading

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What An Untrustworthy National Media Has Brought Us To: The Sandy Hook Truthers

One big wedge is missing.

One big wedge is missing.

Until recently, I was happily unaware that an active conspiracy theory has metastasized around the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, what can be thought of as the soot and sludge of the still-rolling ethics train wreck created by that tragedy, except that this is unfair to soot and sludge. The internet is abound with theorists, including at least one professor, who believe that the shooting was an elaborate hoax, possibly engineered by the Obama administration to facilitate gun confiscation and the repeal of the Second Amendment.

In a recent incident reported by Salon, a Newtown man who sheltered some students from the school after the shooting has been relentlessly harassed by Sandy Hook Truthers who have accused him of being part of the government plot. Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: Conspiracy Theories and the Disrespect Follies

One of the problems with the hateful, vicious, hyper-partisan politics that now grips the nation is that its most severe sufferers, inevitably the so-called “bases” of the two political parties and their most vocal advocates, end up making themselves look like fools because of it. Their fervor drives out rationality, and by refusing to assign decent and reasonable levels of  respect to their political opponents, they devalue their own credibility, sometimes to the vanishing point. They may not really be fools (though some of them are), but in a real sense, they have been driven insane…by hate, by lack of proportion, and a respect deficit that banishes both fairness and responsible conduct.

Crazy Accusation A: Republicans/Conservatives… Continue reading

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The Difference Between Unemployed Scientists and Unemployed Lawyers

A front page story in today’s Washington Post casts interesting perspective on an Ethics Alarms rumble that broke out here a couple of weeks ago. One of the many websites where underemployed, over-indebted law grads hang out to commiserate—sites with pathetic names like “butidideverythingrightorsoithought”—discovered a post from the days when people were taking Occupy Wall Street seriously, in which I chided a protester whose sign blamed his law school  for his failure to  find a job, without giving due weight to the fact that sitting in a park whining about his plight wasn’t doing him any good either. Suddenly Ethics Alarms experienced an avalanche of indignant and often personally insulting comments introducing me to the strange world of the JD conspiracy theorists, who maintain that law schools engaged in an intentional conspiracy or “scam” to gull naive college grads into believing that a law degree was a sure-thing ticket to Easy Street and six-figure starting salaries.

In the Post’s report, we learn that other advanced degree-holders, namely PhDs in scientific fields, are also unable to find work or toiling in fields unrelated to their degrees. The Post says:

“Traditional academic jobs are scarcer than ever. Once a primary career path, only 14 percent of those with a PhD in biology and the life sciences now land a coveted academic position within five years, according to a 2009 NSF survey. That figure has been steadily declining since the 1970s, said Paula Stephan, an economist at Georgia State University who studies the scientific workforce. The reason: The supply of scientists has grown far faster than the number of academic positions.”

Sounds a lot like the legal market to me! Continue reading

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Jerk of the Year: Donald Trump

Where Donald Trump is King

I know it’s only May, and I know that Rev. Jones is still out there somewhere, planning on burning a picture of Mohammad or making confetti out of the Quran or some other offensive stunt designed to attract the attention of Fox News and sell some tee shirts. I know Allan Grayson can surface at any time, and that Michael Moore is joining forces with Keith Olbermann, which is a good bet to make both of them more obnoxious. And I know Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Michele Bachman and some other GOP candidates for president can be counted on to say or tweet outrageous things in the coming weeks and months. Yes, and Harry Reid is still running amuck, and there are plenty of athletes, singers and actors who will be embarrassing themselves, their profession and their species before the year is out.

Never mind all that. I’m ready to declare Donald Trump the Jerk of the Year.

I’ll admit my bias up front: I think Trump has been a contender for Jerk of the Year every year for at least two decades. Even I, however, never thought he was a big enough jerk to use the developing 2012 campaign for President of the United States—at a critical juncture in the nation’s history, with literally life-and death crises in the nation’s economy, housing market, and job markets, with the Middle East erupting and America involved in three armed conflicts, with a leadership vacuum at the highest levels of the government and with American trust and hope for the future at a record low—for personal ego gratification and to promote his cheesy, freak-show reality program “The Celebrity Apprentice.” But that’s what he did, soiling the news and  political discourse along the way by giving aid and support to the assortment of paranoids, wackos and racists who had been denying that Obama was a natural born citizen. Continue reading

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Comment of the Day: “The Jaundiced Eye of Noam Chomsky”

You can find the original post here, and under it, my response to this comment by reader Trafford Gazsik. I’d say that Christopher Hitchens’ rebuttal to Chomsky, linked in the post, and my post about the ethics of bin Laden’s execution address the issues raised, make up your own mind.

“I like Chomsky and as a non-American, I can assure you that rather than filling my head with anti-American sentiments, his writings have reassured me that America remains a country populated with mostly decent people and that the world at large should not give up on the place just yet.

“I’m interested to know which part of Chomsky’s analysis you do not agree with:

- Do you disagree with the assertion that the Bin Laden ‘takedown’ was an assassination?

- Do you reject the assertion that the assassination took place within the territory of another sovereign state without the knowledge or permission of the government of that state, in clear contravention of international law and customs?

- Do you deny that Bin Laden had not been tried in any court, and was for legal purposes, an innocent civilian of Non-US nationality residing in Non-US territory? Continue reading

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