Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/5/2018: “Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” Edition

Good Morning!

(I’m happy to report that my Clarence Darrow ethics program for a lawyer group yesterday in Annapolis was received wonderfully, in no small part due to actor Paul Morella’s moving and powerful recreations of Darrow’s courtroom oratory. As is often the case, attendees said that they didn’t realize a legal ethics presentation could be so interesting. If fact, there is no excuse for any kind of ethics NOT being interesting…)

1. I call this “cultural defacing.” At 10:30 last night, I watched the end of “The Princess Bride,” and was thrilled to arrive just as the final showdown between Ingo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) and Count Rugen (Christopher Guest). Here is the scene, a classic one, which begins with the Count apparently fatally wounding Inigo with a dagger:

Inigo Montoya: Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

[Inigo advances on Rugen, but stumbles into the table with sudden pain. Rugen attacks, but Inigo parries and rises to his feet again]

Inigo Montoya: Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

[Rugen attacks again, Inigo parries more fiercely, gaining strength]

Inigo Montoya: Hello! My name is Inigo Montoya! You killed my father! Prepare to die!

Count Rugen: Stop saying that!

[Rugen attacks, twice. Inigo avoids and wounds Rugen in both shoulders. Inigo attacks, bellowing:]


[Inigo corners Count Rugen, knocks his sword aside, and slashes his cheek, giving him a scar just like Inigo’s]

Inigo Montoya: Offer me money.

Count Rugen: Yes!

Inigo Montoya: Power, too, promise me that.

[He slashes his other cheek]

Count Rugen: All that I have and more. Please…

Inigo Montoya: Offer me anything I ask for.

Count Rugen: Anything you want…

[Rugen knocks Inigo’s sword aside and lunges. But Inigo traps his arm and aims his sword at Rugen’s stomach]

Inigo Montoya: I want my father back, you son of a bitch!

[He runs Count Rugen through and shoves him back against the table. Rugen falls to the floor, dead]

Except “you son of a bitch” was cut!

We settled this when the TV showing of “Gone With The Wind” let Clark Gable’s iconic exit line, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” remain uncensored, and later,when John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn uttered the words, “Fill your hand, you son of a bitch!” before charging Ned Pepper and his gang. It is unfair and disrespectful to wreck the best work of writers and actors for the few remaining people on earth who take to their fainting couches when rude language meets their ears. You don’t edit Rhett, or Rooster, or Inigo, or even John McLane when he says, “Yippee ki yay, mother fucker!” Show the movie, or don’t show the movie, but don’t ruin the movie for the most easily offended in the audience.

2. No-hitter ethics. Last night, the Los Angeles Dodgers made history  in Monterrey, Mexico with the first combined no-hitter in franchise history, a 4-0 victory over the San Diego Padres. It was a combined no-hitter because rookie Walker Buehler, in just his third career start, had allowed no hits after six innings, but manager Dave Roberts, who has done this before, pulled his young starter  after 6 innings. His pitch count had reached 93, near his career high as a professional.

For a rookie to throw a no hit, no run game is one of the rarest feats in baseball, only accomplished 22 times. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for the kid, and Roberts took it away because of the metastasizing corporate mentality in baseball, where players are treated more as investments than athletes, and fans are incidental to what the crunched numbers demand.

Roberts wasn’t willing to take the heat if later in the season Bueller’s arm broke down and Roberts was accused of endangering it by allowing the pitcher to exceed the ideal “pitch count.” The manager had an ethical obligation to let the young pitcher try to get the no-hitter. If he gave up a hit: fine, take him out then. If the pitch count started soaring—130 is considered a danger zone even for veteran pitchers—that would justify ending the bid too. Roberts knew that the closer his rookie got to a no-hitter, the more criticism the manager would get for cutting the outing short, so he ended it before he needed to.  Roberts cheated fans, his pitcher, and baseball history.

3. Wait, what about the Logan Act? Many pundits and journalists as well as the more anti-Trump obsessed legal experts have insisted that various members of the Trump campaign had breached the Logan Act, which says that negotiation by unauthorized persons with foreign governments having a dispute with the United States is a crime. The law was passed and signed in 1799. No one has ever been convicted of it. Now we learn that Obama’s former Secretary of State, John Kerry, has been engaged in “stealth diplomacy” with foreign leaders to try to save Obama’s Iran deal. “Stealth diplomacy” is exactly what the Logan Act was passed to stop. It is what Richard Nixon, in perhaps the worst example, was doing when he sabotaged President Johnson’s Vietnam War peace talks. Jimmy Carter has breached the Logan Act, but at least he did it openly.

The United States must speak with one voice internationally, so the kind of conduct the Logan Act addresses is unethical. As Nixon’s example shows, for private citizens, members of past administrations and lone rangers (Jesse Jackson is in this category) to presume to work around and over U.S. diplomatic channels can be dangerous, and is always embarrassing. The Logan Act is a dead letter, and probably should be: Americans are free to talk to whoever they want to.Nonetheless,  the Logan Act was part of the original excuse for putting the Trump campaign under surveillance. The double standards being applied by Democrats and progressives here are stunning, even for them.

4. Kathy Griffin Charter School?  For some strange reason, after considerable debate, a charter school in California decided to cover up this mural, which it had commissioned:

Gee, I wonder why?

Artist Sasha Andrade has grudgingly agreed to change the painting “to better align with the school’s philosophy,” MAAC Community Charter School director Tommy Ramirez said in a statement, the paper reported. Oh? What philosophy was it that allowed the painting to make it onto a wall in the school at all? How many schools lack enough mature, responsible teachers and administrators for a mural like that, depicting the United States President’s head on a pike, not to elicit the instant response, “What? We can’t have that in a school! Are you crazy?”

Yes, in fact, they are crazy. The “resistance” is crazy, and has left all reason, proportion, civility and decency far, far behind. An investigation is underway to determine whether the artist’s concept was communicated before officials saw the mural.  This is California. I think I know what the investigation will find.

5. Poll results: on the question of whether hotels were engaging in discriminatory conduct by only providing generic hair care products to their guests, about 75% of Ethics Alarms responders chose either  the “hotels should keep doing what they are doing” answer, or the “minorities have t0 accept that certain inconveniences are unavoidable.”

I want to hear more from the 7% who answered that if everyone can’t be accommodated, then nobody should get any shampoo. This is, as one commenter wrote, the “Let the perfect be the enemy of the good” theory. I would call it, “If everyone can’t be equally satisfied, everyone should be equally unhappy” theory. That’s Communism, in essence: destructive fairness.


31 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/5/2018: “Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” Edition

  1. The AXS network runs an edited version of PULP FICTION that only edits out one word. Can anybody guess which one? No, not that one… let’s put it like this, Tarantino’s monologue that begins “When you came pullin’ in here, did you see a sign on the front of my house…”, that whole scene is gone. Meanwhile the Tim Roth dialogue concerning “gooks” and “wetbacks”, unaltered.

  2. Even without the gratuitous inclusion of the president’s severed head, why is a mural for an American public school centered around images of Mexican nationalism?

  3. Screwing with Inigo Montoya’s vengeance is a firing offense, in my view; even worse than screwing with John McClane and the Duke, and on par with Clark Gable’s iconic line.

    There is a special, excruciating place in Hell for people who abuse our classic films in this way. May a bull afflicted with mad cow French-kiss the jerks responsible.

    • Second try…

      With the #MeToo bowel movement momentum going like it is, I expect another Rhett Butler line to disappear from GWTW very soon. “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” ought to be heard forever, though.

      This other line is my favorite line of Rhett’s in the movie. Favorite, because it makes me laugh every time I hear it. I laugh because of the quaintness of it, the absolutely timeless absurdity of it – combined with an equally timeless linkage of it to what I will call a “quasi-erotic practice” that for some people, is equally, timelessly “fun.” (NOT for me, nor for any erotic partner of mine) But, the line alludes to men being violent to women; I don’t think there is any way to sugar-coat it. I DO think it’s an allusion to violence. Whether it was meant to reflect that, or to reflect some erotic innuendo, or both, I suppose we will never know or be free of doubt.

      But, I am somewhat surprised that the line was not excised, dubbed-over or silenced somehow, LONG before Mr. Weinstein’s crimes ignited the #MeToo fad. Tsk-tsk, censorious feminists; you let this one slide; could that be because so many of you LIKE what it alludes to, in an erotic sense?

      The line? Spoken by Rhett, to Scarlett:

      “I’ve always thought a good lashing with a buggy-whip would benefit you immensely.”

  4. I realize that this is not directly responsive to your (valid) point about the concerns surrounding the Logan Act.

    Still, if you’ll permit me to offer up something hopefully in the interest of the general knowledge of the readership here, let me offer this:

    Here is the third clause from the preamble to the Iran Nuclear Deal:

    “iii. Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or
    acquire any nuclear weapons.”

    The rest of the agreement largely consists of ways to ensure compliance with that promise.

    This is the agreement that Trump would like to tear up.

    What do you think will be the result of letting Iran free of that promise? Not to mention what Kim Jong Un might say when asked to sign something similar.

    Original text of the agreement can be found here:

    • In 2015, the State Department issued a letter which apparently said in part, “The success of the JCPOA will depend not on whether it is legally binding or signed, but rather on the extensive verification measures we have put in place, as well as Iran’s understanding that we have the capacity to re-impose – and ramp up – our sanctions if Iran does not meet its commitments.”
      Do we (the public) really know how well the verification measures are being implemented?
      Aren’t Iranian military sites still off limits to the IAEA?
      Problems with inspections and verification (yes, a different agreement with a different country) in the 90s was one of the things that led to a war there.
      Some, maybe, will put trust in what Iran said. But, verify, is a better course of action.
      If Kerry is interacting with the Iranian foreign minister  without the authority of the U.S. government, then he sure appears to be in violation of the Logan Act, but regardless, he should butt out.

      • I urge you to read the agreement, and listen to the people who negotiated it. It is 95% about verification; even Trump has to admit it hasn’t yet been breached, in large part because of the stringent verification clauses built into that agreement.

        I completely agree you can’t trust the promise itself; that’s why the agreement is so exhaustive about verification.

        Trust but verify? Absolutely, and I agree with you about the emphasis on verification. That’s what Kerry says too, and that’s what the agreement is about.

        Read it.

        • “In October 2017, The Hill reported: “The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last week admitted an inconvenient truth. “The U.N. watchdog,” said Yukiya Amano, “has proven unable to verify Iran’s compliance with Section T of the 2015 nuclear deal, which prohibits activities that could contribute to the development of a nuclear explosive device.”

          Iran. Cannot. Be. Trusted.

          However, I can cheerfully say the same for ANY national (and most state or local) politicians, so we have that going for us.

          Still luv ya like a brother, charles.

    • I think it is obvious, or should be, that Iran’s promises are meaningless, since it regards the United States as Satan. You don’t have to keep deals with Satan—we have quite a bit of literature ourselves on that concept. Ergo, what they do under that deal will vary little from what they do without it, except that the U.S. will be operating under a misconception and a dangerous one with the deal—and that’s the idea.

      From the beginning, the parallels with the Munich pact have been striking.

      • “the parallels with the Munich pact have been striking.”

        The differences are more striking.

        The Munich pact involved four countries; the JCPOA 6, plus the EU.

        The Munich pact was one page; the JCPOA runs to 153 pages.

        The Munich pact was, in the most generous of interpretations, hammered out over three meetings in one month – September, 1938, and between Hitler and Chamberlain. The Iran deal was negotiated among multiple parties, including the UN, over a period of nearly 3 years.

        I’d say there’s no comparison.

        • Both are Hail Mary agreements with untrustworthy and unethical partners that lull the world into complacency while a vicious predator nation continues its nefarious plans under cover of naivete… with both having undeniable genocidal intent against the Jewish people. I’d say that is a much more significant parallel than any of the technical distinctions you note.

          • The point of diplomacy is not to talk just with your friends, but with your enemies. I think it was Mattis who said, “if you don’t want to spend on diplomats, then I’m gonna need more money for bullets.”

            • Talking is fine. Listening is fine. Believing the leadership of sick cultures like the Third Reich and today’s Iran is lazy, cowardly, naive and dangerous. Even the advocates of Obama’s desperate effort to justify his Peace Prize admit that at the end of the deal, even if Iran was true to it, the nation would be nuclearized in a few years, and nothing could be done about it at that point, by anyone. But Obama would have his library by then and millions in book deals and speaking fees, and it would be someone else’s problem. “Kicking the can down the road” was Obama’s specialty.

    • Iran is busily breaking that agreement, which means it is meaningless. Not only that, the continuing existence of an agreement that one of the parties a)knowingly signed in bad faith and b) began breaking even before the ink was dry is an offense against reason and a travesty of diplomacy.

      Even if I were willing to agree that the motives of Kerry and Obama are ethically peerless and had nothing to do with legacies or appearances, it is an insult to those motives to allow Iran to ignore the agreement while having it in place to threaten the United States with. They duped us, or at least the argument can be made that they did, and having that hanging around the neck of our country is, in itself, wrong and unjust.

      Better to be honest about it, admit we failed, cancel the agreement and start thinking about military solutions. That sucks, but diplomacy with such an outlaw regime is futile unless we can find some kind of lever that will move them to honest diplomacy. The fact that I can’t think of anything that will at this point is just one more good reason to get ready to do something permanent, and pointed.

      • “Iran is busily breaking that agreement…”


        They are doing all kinds of nasty things, to be sure, but they are NOT breaking the agreement. That’s why Trump has been forced to re-certify it already, twice if I recall, though he’s dearly love to claim otherwise. So far, they are complying with all the checkpoints that the agreement required.

        Check your data before making such an outrageous falsehood in your opening sentence. You are simply wrong.

        • One other point. Iran has not broken the agreement, as every statesperson and foreign head of state is trying to get Trump to recognize.

          Nonetheless, the smart money believes him when he says he is going to “withdraw” from the agreement (because it was the worst, awful, etc etc.).

          Let’s be clear: If he does “withdraw” from the agreement, it will be the United States, not Iran, that has broken the agreement.

          This is not a very smart thing to do. For example, just think for a minute how that is going to play when he tries to get Kim Jong Un to sign anything.

  5. “what they do under that deal will vary little from what they do without it”

    As Trump might say, “Many people disagree with that…” Though in this case, they’re serious people.

    “In responding to developments in Iran, now and in the future, the U.S. should be careful not to take any steps that might undermine the JCPOA (nuclear agreement) which remains vital to U.S. national security,”
    –Letter signed by, among others, Richard Lugar, Paul O’Neill, Admiral Eric Olsen.

    “Iran is further away from a weapon with this deal than they would be without it,” ex-CIA Chief Michael Hayden told Quijano. “And we know more about the Iranian nuclear program with this deal than we would know without it.” As a result, the former CIA director says he would be “quite concerned” if in early May, “we rip up the deal and walk away from it.”

    Or this exchange in the Senate Armed Services Committee:
    Sen. Angus King, I-Maine: “Do you believe it is in our national security interest at the present time to remain in the JCPOA? That is a yes or no question.”
    General James Mattis: “Yes, senator, I do.”

    Or CIA Director John Brennan, last November:
    “The director of the C.I.A. has issued a stark warning to President-elect Donald J. Trump: Tearing up the Iran nuclear deal would be “the height of folly” and “disastrous.”

    My guess is every single living Secretary of State is against tearing up the JCPOA. Not to mention all of our allies who were co-signers of the deal. Leaders in the military, intelligence and foreign policy arenas are pretty broadly in favor of the agreement, while remaining unblinkered about Iran’s aggressive policy outside it.

    I have yet to hear a reasoned, fact-based argument in favor of getting out of it. It’s all emotion, angst, and go-it-alone sentiments, laced with dark hints of Chamberlain at Munich. But metaphors aren’t facts.

  6. Sometimes, that censorship can be funny though. My favorite example is the movie “Casino” where Sharon Stone storms off after an argument with Robert DeNiro saying, “Freak you, Sam Rothstein! Freak you!”

  7. It’s always the same with the Left…believe America’s enemies. Don’t trust what you know about them and the dangers they pose to us and the world.

    Intentional blindness. That’s how you get an agreement like this.

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