Here’s A “War On Christmas” Angle I Was Not Aware Of….The War On Hannukah

In Portsmith, New Hampshire,  the UNH & Seacoast Chabad Jewish Center requested that a 9-foot  menorah be placed in Portsmouth’s Market Square during the eight days of Hanukkah this December (22nd-30th). Blogger Jeff Dunitz, whose platform is the excellent blog, The Lid, darkly predicts that Portsmith will soon be headed to “Fesivus” like neighboring Durham, which has banned the tree-lighting ceremony (yes, it’s a “holiday tree”) as well as the wreaths thatthe town had previously displayed on town light poles.  The town council appareently feared that they were too much of a Christmas reference. Town manager Todd Selig said the town might agree to hang something from the poles, “non-descript star,” to “add light and festivus” to the season.

Dunitz is offended by something else. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 11/16/2019: Plan T?

Great. I’m sick again.

It’s psychological, I’m sure of it. I dread the Whitewaters of Life period from November 17 through New Years, encompassing the anxiety of Thanksgiving, the anniversary of my father’s perverse decision to kick-off on my birthday, the annual 10-hour prickle-fest of decorating an eight-foot live tree to meet family traditions, maneuvering around the Christmas season while trying to make it special and feeling deep inside that those days are long gone, struggling with the rotten timing of wanting to spend without penny-pinching on thrilling loved ones while one’s own small ethics business is at its cash-flow nadir, and fighting off the ghosts of more carefree times with the missing, including my dad and especially my mother, who was a Christmas fanatic, and now Rugby, whose trick of sniffing out his presents and unwrapping them, and only them, with typical elan was always a Christmas morning highlight. This year, I have the extra burden of not one but two multi-day ethics road trips, one to carry musical ethics down the metaphorical chimney in Las Vegas, and to by car to New Jersey, where Paul Morella, alias Clarence Darrow, and I have two dates. Both trips are guaranteed to leave me feeling like I have been run over by a reindeer.

Ho-ho-ho.

Shut up, Perry.

1. Plan T watch. Note that the ethics Alarms home page finally has a link directly to the growing list of 19 attempted removal plans that have been launched to various degrees by the Democratic Party/ “resistance”/mainstream media soft coup alliance against President Trump. This version is slightly revised, including a reference to a consist statement of what is going on that echoes what I have written, but is nicely turned: “Donald Trump daring to serve as President is itself impeachable.”

Bingo.

Meanwhile, Plan T might be imminent. The tortured logic of Plan S, the basis of the current inquiry, is convincing no one, in part because the average American doesn’t know impeachment from a pear tree, and mostly because Plan S is dishonest and bats. To their shame if they had any, the impeachment mob has been  polling and using focus groups to determine which accusation will stick.

The Washington Post reports  that Democrats are easing out the term ‘quid pro quo,’ instead using “bribery” as the favored term to describe Trump’s alleged impeachable conduct: Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: “Ohio Student Religious Liberties Act of 2019”

What new fresh Hell is this?

Perhaps not quite what it appears to be. The mainstream media, hostile as ever to religion, and of course to Republicans, making this a happy twofer, widely described the bill recently passed in the Ohio House as “Under the law, students can’t be penalized if their work is scientifically wrong as long as the reasoning is because of their religious beliefs. Instead, students are graded on substance and relevance.”

Well, that would be crazy. Such a bone-headed law would allow a religious student to state a non-fact as fact (no, the Earth just isn’t 6,000 years old no matter what Williams Jennings Bryan said) but a non-religious student repeating the same error would be graded down. But is this really what the “Ohio Student Religious Liberties Act of 2019” requires?

Here’s what it says:

Sec. 3320.03. No school district board of education, governing authority of a community school established under Chapter 3314. of the Revised Code, governing body of a Sec. STEM school established under Chapter 3326. of the Revised Code, or board of trustees of a college-preparatory boarding school established under Chapter 3328. of the Revised Code shall prohibit a student from engaging in religious expression in the completion of homework, artwork, or other written or oral assignments. Assignment grades and scores shall be calculated using ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance, including any legitimate pedagogical concerns, and shall not penalize or reward a student based on the religious content of a student’s work.

Continue reading

Comment Of The Day #2 On “Comment Of The Day: ‘High Noon Ethics Warm-Up, 11/12/2019: Laser Eyes And Science Trees’”

The Wisconsin Governor’s endorsement of holiday trees with science ornaments continues to pay dividends here at Ethics Alarms. Here is Ethics Alarms veteran commenter luckyesteeyoreman‘s Comment of the Day on Michael West’s concise COTD, “Comment Of The Day: “High Noon Ethics Warm-Up, 11/12/2019: Laser Eyes And Science Trees.”

Lucky begins with a quote from my intro, but here is Michael’s full post:

What part of Christmas do they hate? The individual and spontaneous demonstrations of generosity, spawned entirely from personal choice free from central coordination and bestowed as private individuals see fit free from oversight? Or Christ?

Now heeeeere’s Lucky!

But really, why would anyone in their right mind object to Christmas…?

Because many are in their right mind who object. Most of us here at EA might not understand such people – even more likely do not even think like such people – but, that isn’t because the objectors aren’t in their right mind.

I assert the foregoing, coming from a history as a sibling who was the youngest of the brood. Much younger than all of my siblings. As a result, I had “multiple parents.” Also, as a consequence of that “virtual only child” status, I quickly deluded myself into thinking I was the center of the universe, the sole reason why any and all of the others existed. Any circumstance or appearance of a reality that in my perception was in conflict with that delusion, became a “trigger” for me to remind everyone, by any means necessary, that, “HEY!: THIS IS ALL ABOUT ME, here.”

Despite how my comments here might suggest otherwise, I really did out-grow that delusion. I thank the humbling influence of baseball for that, at least in part. In my case, learning about the example of Christ helped greatly, too. Continue reading

Ethics Warm-Up, 11/15/2019: Idiots, “Friends,” Rationalizations And Doing Things The Hard Way

The Korean War memorial on the Washington Mall….moving and ghostly.

Greetings!

1. The media, doing its best to make the public stupid. Yesterday the collected dolts  of “The View” managed to mangle the concept of hearsay, following a Democrat rep’s absurd contention that hearsay evidence cold be “better” than  direct testimony.  The panel show also misrepresented how the Clinton impeachment proceeded.

Sunny Hostin, the alleged conservative on the panel,  said that  President Clinton’s impeachment  was the result of Linda Tripp’s  testimony, saying , “Clinton was impeached because of Linda Tripp’s testimony, which was complete hearsay!”

How wrong can a statement be? Clinton was impeached because he lied under oath in a hearing involving the civil law suit against him by Paula Jones (as well as for lying to a grand jury and obstruction of justice.) Tripp had made an illegal tape recording of Lewinsky, which was not hearsay. Tripp’s tape was used to get Lewinsky to admit the affair, which was clearly not hearsay. Then there was that stained dress. Had not direct testimony and physical evidence backed up Tripp’s account, Clinton almost certainly   not have been impeached

2. This is why we can’t have nice things. It was inevitable, with all the recent resurgence in interest in the 90s sitcom “Friends,” that the long-running and still-popular show would finally be subjected to one of those depressing reunion specials. This was especially likely because the aging cast isn’t much in demand these days, and mots of them could use a boost.

But Beware, “Friends,” the woke posse is watching. The show about six white hetero singles living in New York was not diverse, and has been criticized in the 15 years since it ended for being implicitly racist, sexist, and anti-LGBTQ. Thus the Righteous have decreed, “Friends’ reunion is all we have wanted for years, but HBO Max version better have more racial diversity and LGBTQ representation.”

Thus we get this,

[T]he iconic NBC show is not without its problems, and yet it entertained us in real-time for ten years and for years after that, making us laugh on the days we are feeling low and making us believe that they will be there for us. It is only natural that we want to relive those feelings again, but even those of us who grew up on ‘Friends’ have outgrown those insensitive jabs about Chandler’s (Mathew Perry) drag queen father, unwarranted fat-shaming of Monica (Courtney Cox), repeated complicity of Joey’s (Matt LeBlanc) sexism and so on.

When the show does return in – hopefully – 2020 for an HBO Max audience, we should hope that it is rich in diversity without it being about tokenism. It is unfathomable that this group of friends who live in New York, the melting pot of America, hasn’t made friends with more diverse backgrounds. Even more so, it is difficult to believe that they haven’t even interacted with people of different sexualities, sexual identities, and races for them to know better than to make jokes about them. It may have flown in the 90s and 2000s, but it definitely isn’t going to in the current day and age.

No, we should hope that it is funny, but if awkward virtue signalling and making sure that all the EEOC boxes are checked while making up for ten years of insensitively showing a group of friends who hung out primarily with people like themselves (like most of us), are going to be the priorities, and you know they will be, it would be kinder and more responsible to leave Ross, Chandler, Joey, Phoebe, Rachel and Monica where they belong—in the past, on re-runs.

Incidentally, one of the two funniest jokes I ever heard on “Friends” involved “fat-shaming.” The groups was watching an old home movie taken when Monica was a grossly over-weight teen. The now svelte woman, embarrassed, said, “They say that the camera makes you look 15 pounds heavier,” to which Chandler replied, “Just how many cameras were on you?”

3. Upon reflection, I don’t think I need to add this new rationalization. The Rationalization List is stuck at 99, and I have been wondering what #100 would be. When I was writing about the now-fired Canadian hockey pundit Don Cherry bringing himself down with his big mouth, I was annoyed by how many of his defenders argued that Don was just being Don, and since he was always Don, and “didn’t mean anything” by being Don, and was popular because he was Don, being Don shouldn’t be held against him. I suspect this bothered me so much because it appears to be the only thing keeping Joe Biden from being ripped to pieces by #MeToo Furies, as he richly deserves to be. So briefly I considered the need for a “It’s just who he is” rationalization.

Upon reflection, I demurred. This is cutting the rationalizations too thin. We already have Rationalization 41 A. Popeye’s Excuse, or “I am what I am”:

Sure, let’s stipulate that the jerk is exactly who and what he presents himself as being. This doesn’t excuse his conduct in any way. He is what he is, and what he is is an irresponsible, narcissistic, rude, boorish, uncivil, nasty, destructive, ignorant, impulsive untrustworthy and despicable creep. Being a real  irresponsible, narcissistic, rude, boorish, uncivil, nasty, destructive, ignorant, impulsive untrustworthy and despicable creep is no more ethical than being a phony one. In this case, transparency is not a virtue.

..and Joe Biden even has his own rationalization springing from Cherry-like excuses, Rationalization 38B, Joe Biden’s Inoculation or “I don’t deny that I do this!”

A sub-rationalization to #38. The Miscreant’s Mulligan or “Give him/her/them/me a break!,” Joe Biden’s Inoculation argues that habitual bad conduct is mitigated by one’s open admission and acknowledgment that one’s engaging in it is an ongoing problem.

I think this base is well covered. The search for #100 goes on…

4. Why didn’t she just take the bar exam one more time?  I don’t understand this story at all.

Roberta Guedes graduated from Stetson University College of Law in 2014, but she  failed to pass the Florida Bar exam twice. The traditional remedy for this is boning up and taking the exam again, and again if necessary, but noooooo. 

Instead, federal prosecutors say, she used the name of a classmate  to register two new law firms with the state Division of Corporations. Agnieszka Piasecka attended law school with Roberta, and the friends  talked about starting a law firm together, When Guedes flunked the bar exam, Piasecka who did not flunk,   opened her own firm in Clearwater,  specializing in wills and trusts, immigration, and divorce cases.

The plot began when Guedes offered Piasecka the free use of her  office in downtown Tampa to meet with clients a few times.

In September 2014, Guedes incorporated a firm she called Ferguson and McKenzie LLC, listing Piasecka as its registered agent. In November, she started a second legal services business called Immigration and Litigation Law Office, Inc., listing another woman, Arlete Chouinard, as a vice president and manager.  Neither Piasecka nor Chouinard knew about this. She created websites for both companies, including claims of  national and international offices that didn’t exist, and faked partners and associates using stock photos. She also represented clients, accepting fees while never telling them that she had no license.

Now Guedes, 40, faces prison time after pleading guilty to federal charges of mail fraud and aggravated identity theft. It is fair to say that it is now too late to pass the bar exam.

No Way Out? The Rodney Reed Affair [UPDATED!]

Rodney Reed was convicted by a Texas jury in 1998 and sentenced to die for the rape and murder of 19-year-old Stacey Stites two years earlier. On April 23, 1996, Stites’s body had been found on the side of a country road outside of Bastrop, Texas. Marks on the woman’s  neck led investigators to conclude that she had been strangled, and she had had sexual relations with someone before she was killed.

Police tested the recovered DNA against that of Reed, then 29 years old.  There was no other evidence tying Reed to the murder, other than the fact that he initially lied to police, claiming that he didn’t know the victim. Finally, Reed said that he was having a sexual affair with her, and that the two had sex a couple of days before Stites was found dead. The witnesses Reed’s defense called to confirm the relationship between the two were not convincing, for varying reasons. It didn’t help Reed’s cause that he was regarded as a serial sex offender, with many arrests on his record.

As The Intercept explains in detail, the case against Reed has deteriorated over time, and was never strong to begin with. Many forensic pathologists have concluded that the verdict lacked scientific support. The medical examiner who conducted Stites’s autopsy has recanted his testimony. In 2018, both a state crime lab and a private DNA lab undercut the testimony of their own employees who had testified at Reed’s trial.  Nonethless, Reed is scheduled to be executed in five days, on the 20th of November.

The new evidence indicating that he was wrongly convicted has not been reviewed by a court and apparently will not be because of the judicial principle of finality, the very old concept that hold that legal disputes at some point achieve a resolution that cannot be appealed and must be regarded as final. The principle is deemed necessary because without it, the public could not trust in the meaning of any law, or the result of any legal process. It is a utilitarian principle: individual cases may have unjust results occasionally, but the system as a whole benefits from the certainty of finality.

When the finality principle will result in the execution of a someone who appears to have been wrongly convicted, however, the gap between law, justice and ethics is difficult to accept.  The Supreme Court will consider Reed’s case today. There is also a plea to Abbott and to the Board of Pardons and Paroles to intervene.

The ABA has also made an appeal to the Board, via a letter from American Bar Association President Judy Perry Martinez.  Continue reading

Fairness to Elizabeth Warren

Yes, even the 2020 Presidential race’s worst panderer and #1 demagogue deserves the same leave as any other lawyer, which is not to be held responsible for her client’s views and deeds. Every lawyer who ever runs for office or who comes within the cross-hairs of unethical pundits faces these attacks, which I have written about here repeatedly and pledged to address any time they come to my attention.Elizabeth Warren’s Days Defending Big Corporations” warns the Times, hinting at hypocrisy by noting,

“Ms. Warren has ascended toward the head of the Democratic presidential pack on the strength of her populist appeal and progressive plans, which include breaking up big technology companies, free public college and a wealth tax on the richest Americans…Against that backdrop, some of Ms. Warren’s critics have seized upon her bankruptcy work for LTV and other big corporations to question the depth of her progressive bona fides. How, they wonder, could someone whose reputation is built on consumer advocacy have represented a company seeking to avoid paying for retired miners’ health care?

Here’s how: a lawyer’s personal convictions, values and beliefs are completely irrelevant to her clients or choice of clients. Those who think otherwise don’t understand legal ethics, or lawyers, or their function in society. For the heaven-knows-how many-teenth time, here is critical Rule 1.2 b of the ABA Rules of Professional Conduct: Continue reading