Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/2/18: Dictators, Wizards, Liars and Abusers [Updated]

Good morning!

1 Housekeeping matters. For some reason, I know not what, there was an outbreak of contentious discussion regarding Ethics Alarms administration in a couple of threads yesterday. I think everything covered or complained about is covered in the Comment Policies above, but just for the record:

  • I handle the moderation here. Only me.
  • Though it might appear otherwise to some, I do not spend my day glued to Ethics Alarms. Thus on days like yesterday, when I had an early morning CLE session to teach in D.C., followed by one  law firm client emergency after another, I did not see any comments at all from 1am to 6 pm. Thus the hysterical and indignant “Why did you delete my comment?” outbursts and the “How dare you allow that rude comment to stay on the site?” and the ultimata springing therefrom were especially silly, unfair, and ill-informed.
  • I am not your Moderation Monkey. Don’t command me on how to police my own site. Thank you.
  • As I have written many times, occasionally a comment from an approved participant gets spammed for no good reason. Sometimes WordPress, for no apparent provocation, starts spamming the comments of visitors here who have been commenting for years. Sometimes such commenters have had to change their screen names as a result. None of this has anything to do with me: I can’t control it, or predict it. The calm, reasonable commenters faced with this crisis generally e-mail me, then I search the spam archives, find the lost post, send it to moderation, and approve it.
  • I do not delete posts from approved commenters. The exception is when I ban a commenter permanently, or give one a time out, which is a temporary ban or suspension, in which case the commenter is always warned in advance.
  • I expect discourse here to be civil, but will excuse momentary and periodic lapses and outbursts from veteran commenters (and me, of course), in direct proportion to their time here, level of participation and constructive value to the mission. Individual quirks will also be taken into consideration.

2. Remembering the David Manning Liar of the Month: A commenter who hails from the old Ethics Scoreboard days recently referenced the feature there called the David Manning Liar of the Month. A David Manning-style lie is a statement that the speaker or writer can’t possibly expect anyone to  believe, thus raising the question of whether it is a lie at all. (Sony spawned the award by excusing its use of a fake film reviewer it named David Manning to rave about terrible movies in ads,  claiming that nobody believed such excerpts anyway.) If Ethics Alarms had the same feature, President Trump would obviously dominate it, as I was reminded this morning. The President’s ex-physician, Dr. Harold Bornstein. bitter over his ejection from the Trump Court, revealed that Trump himself had dictated the absurd letter in which the doctor attested,

“If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”

Anyone so dim that they could not figure out that neither the President, nor his doctor nor anyone else can compare his health “unequivocally” to men they never even saw alive, much less examined, really needs a full-time keeper. (As an aside, Dr. Bornstein, by admitting this, is confessing that he is untrustworthy and unprofessional…and apparent dim-witted himself, if he thought the revelation would accomplish anything else.) This is a classic David Manning Lie. However, Kim Jong-Un and his doctor lapped Bornstein and Trump with this hilarious tweet:

“Personal doctor of Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un attests that Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un has the strength of 100 men.”

UPDATE and CORRECTION: This was a hoax tweet, from a hoax site. I will spare everyone another screed about why hoax sites are unethical. I was especially vulnerable to this particular tweet, because I am old enough to remember Red China news sources telling us that Chairman Mao was a marathon swimmer, using bad fake photos of the seventy-year olds head protruding from a river.

And because is is no more ridiculous than the claim that Trump is the healthiest President ever…

3.  From the non-traditional casting files: The Tony nominations are out, and I could not care less, but they do raisee some ethics related. As expected, the Harry Potter play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child received many nominations, including one for the actress playing grown-up Hermione, Noma Dumezweni, who looks like this:

I think this is a bold non-traditional casting choice, but not an indefensible one. Race is an issue in the Harry Potter books, but not that race. There is no reason why Hermione couldn’t be black, or Asian. The fact that she is white in the novels and movies shouldn’t dictate her race in other versions of the stories. However, I will be shocked if Hermione isn’t white again when the inevitable movie version of the play is made.

4. And speaking of Broadway: Some progressive critics were surprised that the two big revivals of old Broadway musicals, “My Fair Lady” and “Carousel,” were not punished by the Tony nominators for their insufficiently “woke” sensibilities, for both musicals depict women in abusive relationships. The songs in “My Fair Lady” and the music in “Carousel” are among the best musical theater have ever produced, but these shows were always about men bullying and abusing women. A lot of classic plays and musicals simply cannot be enjoyed as much now, no matter how well they are produced and performed. because they set off ethics alarms that were absent in their original audiences. The line in “Carousel” when thug-hero Billy Bigelow slaps his teenage daughter and she says it “felt like a kiss” game me the fantods the first time I saw the show when I was 11.


44 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/2/18: Dictators, Wizards, Liars and Abusers [Updated]

  1. I have to admit, re: #3, that I do not recall J.K. ever stating categorically that Hermione was white. It may have been implied, but the skin-color of the character is amazingly irrelevant to story-line.

    • Bushy brown hair, brown eyes, and large front teeth are the only descriptors ever given. I did meet Emma Watson many years ago in the UK – she and Rupert Grint (Ron) and their families attended a show a friend of mine was involved in, not sure if her eyes are likewise brown. My friend was able to get me to say hi to them, but the families said no pictures, please.

    • She presumably envisioned the character as white, if for no other reason than she approved casting a white actress in the movies rather than saying “you know, I always thought of her as black.” I believe when asked about the stage play point-blank she gave a neutral response along the lines of “well I never SAID it one way or another.”

      Much like Dumbledore being gay, though, this seems to be another character element where her own personal vision didn’t come through in any meaningful story-affecting way.

  2. So, as you might have guessed, we watch a TON of musicals in our house, and every Friday is “family movie night.” Last week, I chose My Fair Lady, which, if I recall correctly, is set in 1912. While watching, my brainiac 9 year-old daughter objected to a ton of the lines in the songs. It led to interesting discussions about women’s place in history, how far we have come, jobs, class (if anything — My Fair Lady is more about class than gender), voting, etc. Even after these discussions, the movie still received two enthusiastic thumbs up from my girls. We will watch it again — and I was reminded just how amazing the male supporting actors are in that show. I also took the opportunity to do a little research on Rex Harrison (a favorite old actor of mine). I didn’t realize that he was involved in a scandal a la Ted Kennedy when he failed to report immediately a woman who committed suicide in his apartment (they were having an extra-marital affair), plus another ex-wife of his (he had six wives!) committed suicide following a failed reconciliation attempt. He sounds like a real charmer — but boy he was a phenomenal actor/singer.

    • I’ll also add that my biggest beef with “My Fair Lady” is the ambiguous ending. I am convinced that Eliza must marry Professor Higgins (it is 1912 after all), but the playwright insisted that his intent was that she marry Freddie. That makes no sense to me — is she going to marry Freddie and become Professor Higgins’s paid assistant? That’s novel.

      • “Eliza…where the devil are my slippers?”

        Sounds like she’s getting back together with the professor.

          • That was a major topic at my high school when we did Pygmalion. The argument I found most convincing for Freddie is that Higgins would never treat her as an equal, always as his creation. She would never come first. Freddy may not have had any lifeskills, but she would be far more important to him. They would be equal, even if it left her to scramble more for a living than play maid and exhibit for Higgins’ genius.

            I very much agree, I would not take up with Higgins as spouse/partner for all the tea in China. I would be less important than his slippers (and a serious indication of her lack of self worth if chosen)

        • Oh, the idea is that Higgins can’t bring himself and apologize, and that he is comfortable in their old relationship, and that in its way this acknowledges that he needs her. He hides his eyes with his hat, because he can’t disguise his emotions.

          If I directed that show, I would have him deliver the line, then have Eliza cave in his head with a shovel, as the audience cheered…

          • Jack Marshall wrote, “If I directed that show, I would have him deliver the line, then have Eliza cave in his head with a shovel, as the audience cheered…”

            That would be hilarious!!!!!!!!!!!! I just spit my coffee out my nose when I read that. You owe me a new keyboard.

            Well done!

      • Still Spartan wrote, “I’ll also add that my biggest beef with “My Fair Lady” is the ambiguous ending. I am convinced that Eliza must marry Professor Higgins (it is 1912 after all), but the playwright insisted that his intent was that she marry Freddie.”

        I think the playwright was pulling everyone’s leg.

        I think the not so subtle part that is largely ignored in this is the enormous change that also happens in Higgins. The conflict is revealed in the song “I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face”; Higgins has fallen in love with Eliza and it’s largely “ignored” by many directors and instead all the focus is on the changed in Eliza. Of course Eliza is in love with Higgins too. By the last scene of the show, both Eliza and Higgins know full well that they are in love with each other and the last scene is where Eliza and Higgins fully succumb to their feelings, the playwright chose not to show you the loving embrace that follows the last line of the show.

        There is absolutely no way that Eliza would marry Freddie, he’s a twit.

        • I did a performance of My Fair Lady several years ago. I can barely remember the Freddy character. I’ll have to finally watch the DVD of my performance!

            • Jack Marshall wrote, “Yet he gets what was arguably the biggest popular hit in the show!”

              I guess that one depends on your musical social group, in mine it’s clearly “Get Me to the Church on Time” with “On the Street Where You Live” as a distant second.

              • I didn’t say it was MY favorite MFL song.

                From Wiki:The song has been recorded by a wide variety of other performers, including Ray Conniff, Andy Williams, Bing Crosby recorded the song in 1956[8] for use on his radio show and it was subsequently included in the box set The Bing Crosby CBS Radio Recordings (1954-56) issued by Mosaic Records (catalog MD7-245) in 2009,Lawrence Welk (whose band also performed it on his weekly TV series numerous times , Shirley Horn, Doris Day, George Shearing, Frank Chacksfield, Alfie Boe, Bobby Darin, Dean Martin, Mario Lanza, Nat King Cole, Holly Cole, Marvin Gaye, Perry Como, Ray Reach, Harry Connick Jr., Gene Pitney, The Miracles (on their I’ll Try Something New album), Earl Grant, Dennis DeYoung, Quincy Jones, David Whitfield, Nancy Wilson, Billy Porter, Ilse Huizinga, Matt Dusk, Richard Clayderman, Ricki Lee Jones, Mr Hudson & The Library, Peggy Lee, Vocal Spectrum, Steve Hogarth from Marillion, Bill Frisell, André Previn & Shelly Manne, Ed Townsend and Jason Manford.

                But it looks like “Street” is only second in cultural popularity. The winner, by far, is “I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face.”

                • Jack wrote, “…it looks like “Street” is only second in cultural popularity. The winner, by far, is “I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face.”

                  That’s my favorite, I always got “outvoted”.

                  When you’ve hung out with a bunch of musical loving “rednecks” like I have over he years you end up with “Get Me to the Church on Time”. 😉

    • Movie night (and TV watching in general) are teachable moments, whereby a discerning parent can coach a young skull full of mush to learn to think.

      We use it all the time, on our teens. Sometimes they surprise me.

      Recent EA influences in their conversation: Ethics Estoppel (they knew the concept but not the term itself), 4 different rationalizations from Jack’s list, and the term ‘virtue signalling’ in relation to the renaming of Yawkey street (we watched the Ranger-Indian game last night, extra innings)

      My next lesson to work into a conversation? The apology scale! This one will be hard to make teens care about.

      Maybe I just run for cognitive dissonance…

  3. It has been a long time since I had to look up a word, thanks Jack.

    fantods-a state or attack of uneasiness or unreasonableness.

  4. Jack,

    Again I apologize for derailing one of your blog posts with demands and recriminations. Hopefully you can understand why Steve’s comment about my fiance’s inability to have children set me off. But I should have ignored it—I gave him exactly the reaction he wanted.

    On 2, hasn’t this doctor committed some type of fraud? Signing his name to a document about a patient’s health that he did not write should be enough to get someone’s medical license taken away, right? I also heard him say there was nothing wrong with him previously disclosing that Trump took a medication for hair regrowth without Trump’s permission—while I hate Trump, that’s a violation of patient confidentiality, no?

    3. The black Hermione issue reminds me of one of my all-time favorite Tumblr exchanges:

    • On 2, what I don’t understand is how what he said can possibly be true. He said:

      ‘He dictated that whole letter. I didn’t write that letter. I just made it up as I went along.’

      How can he simultaneously have had the letter dictated to him, not written it, and made it up as he went along?

      • It seems he speaks like Trump, which means separating his lies from his stream-of-consciousness rambling is very difficult.

  5. I hate to call you on this, but DPRK_news is a parody account run by one of the Popehat guys (I think it’s Patrick). You’re in good company though, CNN, the NY Times, Fox and others have fallen for it.

  6. Some of your younger readers may never had heard this period piece, which was disturbing even more than 50 years ago when it was first released.

  7. My first thought if they do a movie version of “Cursed Child” would be to try to get the original actors back.

    Makeup can do a lot, and older versions DID appear at the end of the last of the original movies.

    • Nice idea. Though they’re all gainfully employed (well, as gainfully as actors can be when they’re not major stars), and getting them all together would be difficult. Especially when there would be an uproar about three of the four needing to be traded out for . . . oh, I guess one Hispanic, one Asian and one (a different One) black. You can imagine the mess that could be made by an angry swarm of SJWs buzzing around a movie set.

  8. So… I follow Talcum X on Twitter, because sometimes I need a laugh, and sometimes he actually flags real issues. You have to see this:

    In February of 2010, police raided a house in the Carrollton neighborhood or New Orleans. They found several baggies of cocaine locked in a safe on the premise, and they arrested Kevin Smith on related drug charges, despite him not actually living at the residence. That seems like an interesting story, one that I would like to have read the trial notes for… But that’s going to be hard, because there was no trial. Kevin Smith is in jail, still, eight years later awaiting trial.

    Well, no, that’s not really right. He was awaiting trial until 2015, when the prosecution offered to let him go with time served if he pled guilty. Smith refused, asserting the cocaine wasn’t his, which put him back in awaiting trial purgatory until November of 2017, where the judge in his case granted a motion to quash the indictment.

    From The Advocate:

    “Smith’s trial on a single charge of felony possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine was set for Aug. 9, 2011. The state halted the trial after seven jurors were picked. Prosecutors said they had just discovered new information against Smith that should have been handed over to his defense team. The District Attorney’s Office dismissed the original charge against Smith and brought a new one the next day, restarting the statutory two-year deadline to try the case.

    Smith’s next time before a jury was set for Aug. 29, 2012. Hurricane Isaac hit the Louisiana coastline on Aug. 28 and shuttered the New Orleans courthouse. Court was closed for only a few days. However, prosecutors claimed their two-year deadline to bring Smith to trial was again reset under a state law passed after Hurricane Katrina.

    In November 2012, the case — which had been assigned to Judge Robin Pittman — was transferred to a different section of court. But for reasons that remain unclear, it did not land on the desk of newly elected Judge Flemings-Davillier until May 2013.


    Finally, in December 2016, Smith filed another motion on his own behalf seeking to quash his charges. He argued that his constitutional right to a speedy trial had been denied.


    Flemings-Davillier ruled the next month that Hurricane Isaac and Smith’s mental competency hearing had justifiably pushed his deadline for trial back by four years. She denied the motion to quash the case. Smith’s lawyers took the case to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal. In a June ruling, a three-judge panel ruled in Smith’s favor and said he should go free. The court found that Flemings-Davillier was wrong in adopting prosecutors’ argument that the sanity hearing rolled back the deadline for trial by another two years.

    Prosecutors appealed the decision, but the Louisiana Supreme Court declined to hear the case”

    Great victory, even if bitter, right? Eight years of incarceration without a trial almost certainly violated Smith’s 6th amendment rights, so regardless of the actual facts of the case, this is a decision I can get behind. So he’s free right? Well, no. He’s still behind bars.

    One might ask, reasonably, if the Sloths from the DMV in Zootopia have second jobs in the criminal justice system in Louisiana, and the paperwork is being shuffled ridiculously slowly. The sad answer to that is no:

    Apparently, and I can’t make this up, state officials have claimed that Smith violated his parole by not changing his mailing address ten years ago. The parole board… I’m not making this up…. accepted that claim and are forcing Smith, who I will remind you was never convicted of a crime, to serve the remainder of his parole, which… and I can’t make this up…. ends in 2022, in a private penitentiary.

    • Yipes! So where are the “warriors” when they’re needed? Invading pizza parlors. Seriously, someone must be working on this. If the information came from The Advocate, that’s news for the LGBT community and something to rally round for. I’ll see if I can find some more about it. Thanks for posting it, Shaun.

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