Time for a Good Morning song!
1. Life on Facebook. A lawyer friend who should know better posted a comment that began, “You wouldn’t think that posting something like ‘Taking children away from their parents and sticking them in cages is wrong’ would be controversial, but in almost every case where one of my friends has said something like this, at least one of his/her friends feels the need to argue about it…” Later he compared the statement “Taking children away from their parents and sticking them in cages is wrong” to “Torturing kittens is wrong.” I told him that as a lawyer, he should be objecting to and explaining the transparent deceit of “Taking children away from their parents and sticking them in cages is wrong”—a half-truth designed to stifle argument, not attacking those who are correctly pointing out the emotionalism and dishonesty of that tactic.
I should count up the number of lawyers whose comments on Facebook on this issue are pure “Think of the children!” with no substantive legal and policy analysis whatsoever. My friend also made the typical suggestion that only Trump voters—you know: morons—would argue with “Taking children away from their parents and sticking them in cages is wrong” as a fair and conclusive verdict on the current policy.
2. Theranos. Elizabeth Holmes, founder and CEO of Theranos, as well as Ramesh Balwani, the company’s former president ( and Holme’s love interest, were indicted yesterday on charges of conspiracy and wire fraud. The Theranos debacle is a classic corporate fraud story on par with Enron, if not as wide-reaching.
I missed it. This is embarrassing for an ethics blog, and for someone who thinks he scours various news sources thoroughly enough to catch the major ethics stories. I blame Donald Trump, but I also blame the various news sources in 2015 that chose to report fake news, trivial news, future news and theoretical news rather than give a major corporate scandal the attention it deserved. If I missed the story, and I’m looking for it, what chance do normal people with sensible occupations have?
The civil fraud charges in the case were filed in March by the Securities and Exchange Commission, though the scandal had broken earlier, when the Wall Street Journal published its 2015 exposé. Holmes and Balwani allegedly raised millions of dollars using false statements about how well the company’s blood-testing device worked, while using a contract with the Department of Defense and a partnership between Theranos and the pharmacy chain Walgreens to con pharmacies, doctors and the public. The apparent scam created a Business of Cards that, at its peak, had more than 800 employees and a paper valuation of $9 billion.
There is a book out about the Theranos scandal by the reporter who broke the story…
..and based on reviews and excerpts, it sounds fascinating. Here are some tidbits from the Times Review Of Books article..
- In 2015, Vice President Joe Biden visited the Newark, Calif., laboratory of a hot new start-up making medical devices: Theranos. Biden saw rows of impressive-looking equipment — the company’s supposedly game-changing device for testing blood — and offered glowing praise for “the laboratory of the future.” The lab was a fake. The devices Biden saw weren’t close to being workable; they had been staged for the visit.
Admittedly, being able to con Joe Biden is not a high bar, but apparently Holmes conned almost everybody…
- In Theranos’s brief, Icarus-like existence as a Silicon Valley darling, marquee investors including Robert Kraft, Betsy DeVos and Carlos Slim shelled out $900 million. The company was the subject of adoring media profiles; it attracted a who’s who of retired politicos to its board, among them George Shultz and Henry Kissinger. It wowed an associate dean at Stanford; it persuaded Safeway and Walgreens to spend millions of dollars to set up clinics to showcase Theranos’s vaunted revolutionary technology.
Was the con more effective because Holmes was a woman and an attractive one, with a rising company in the midst of Hillary Clinton’s coronation?
Because, as we all know, women are so much more trustworthy than men…
- [I]ts founder, Elizabeth Holmes, was feted as a biomedical version of Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, a wunderkind college dropout who would make blood testing as convenient as the iPhone.
I’ll say it: I think her con was made easier because the Hillary-obsessed media and culture were looking for a female Jobs or Gates. Hillary was pulling a similar con.
- Carreyrou’s…recounting of his efforts to track down sources — many of whom were being intimidated by Theranos’s bullying lawyer, David Boies — reads like a West Coast version of “All the President’s Men.” In the end, Carreyrou got the Boies treatment — angry (but ultimately hollow) threats of a lawsuit.
Wait…Boies again? The same progressive lawyer hero of Bush v. Gore who also hired a black ops group to intimidate New York Times reporters out of exposing Harvey Weinstein? You know, I’m beginning to suspect that this guy isn’t as ethical a lawyer as I was led to believe!
- Holmes also pleaded with Rupert Murdoch — the power behind The Wall Street Journal and, as it happened, her biggest investor — to kill the story. It’s a good moment in American journalism when Murdoch says he’ll leave it to the editors.
Wait…Murdoch was ethical? Boies was bullying news sources? EVERYTHING IS SPINNING OUT OF CONTROL!!!!
3. When greed not only isn’t good, but stupid…From reader Pennagain comes this jaw-dropping story:
Warner Bros is cracking down on local Harry Potter fan festivals around the US, saying it is necessary to halt unauthorized commercial activity. Fans liken the move to Dementors sucking the joy out of homegrown fun. Festival directors say they will change the events into generic celebrations of magic.
“It’s almost as if Warner Bros has been taken over by Voldemort, trying to use dark magic to destroy the light of a little town,” said Sarah Jo Tucker, a 21-year-old junior at Chestnut Hill College, which hosts a Quidditch tournament that coincides with an annual festival in suburban Philadelphia.
Philip Dawson, Chestnut Hill’s business district director, said Warner Bros contacted his group in May, letting it know new guidelines prohibit the use of any names, places or objects from the Harry Potter books and films. That ruled out everything from a meet-and-greet with Dumbledore and Harry to classes in Defense Against the Dark Arts.
Warner Bros can do this, of course, even when their claims are dubious or weak. What small festival or gathering has the resources to challenge a mega-conglomerate like Warner Bros.? This is an example of a corporation acting exactly like the greedy, cruel stereotypes Occupy Wall Street and Bernie Sanders use to raise money and attack capitalism. That’s one reason it’s incompetent conduct; the other is that such fan events make the Harry Potter property more valuable. The article says that Warner Bros. has hinted at this kind of oppressive attitude for some time: in 2003, a British woman was sent a cease-and-desist letter over a Hogwarts-themed dinner party with a guest list of around 30. That is nuts.
We also learn that the oppressed fans appealed to J.K. Rowling, who remained silent, because, presumably she knows which side of the bread her butter is on, as my dad used to say.
But to be fair, she still needs more money, so she can’t afford to be ethical.
Diabolical Pennagain suggests that opposition focus on a “Think of the Children!”-themed guilt trip: “Do you want all these people to go back to playing with GUNS, huh?”
4. Who didn’t see this coming? A Trump supporter interrupted a performance of the Robert De Niro-co-directed “A Bronx Tale: The Musical” over the weekend by standing up during the curtain call and displaying a “Keep America Great!” flag to the audience.
—As with the similar protest against the “killing Donald Trump in Central Park” version of “Julius Caesar” last summer, this protest was pointless, unfair to the audience and the actors, and wrong.
—Wrong as it was, De Niro knew or should have known that he was opening up his show, his audience and his cast to this kind of disruption when he said “Fuck Trump!” on national broadcast TV. An ethical director does not endanger the success or integrity of his show, especially just to throw a petulant and gratuitous public tantrum.
—Joe Del Vicario, an audience member, told reporters that “It’s sad that people can’t enjoy a beautiful show and embrace its unifying message without politicizing it.” Brian Strumwasser, a hair department supervisor on “A Bronx Tale” and several other productions, added, “Whoever the low life scum bag who thinks it’s ok to post their political views at a Broadway show and disrespect everyone there who paid to watch a show that is ALL ABOUT INCLUSION was thankfully removed from the theater Saturday night.”
Gee, I wonder if Joe and Brian were among the Broadway fans cheering on the cast of Hamilton after they decided to turn their curtain call into a political attack on Vice President Pence. The Broadway community shattered the compact between its audiences and its performers with that self-indulgent grandstanding, and now it is encountering the consequences.
—-I have no sympathy for any of them. If every performance of every show on Broadway is disrupted by stupid protests, it is the environment the “Hamilton” cast stunt and the support for it created. Now the argument is that they can hijack a performance to protest against President Trump, but only “scumbags” would hijack a performance to protest against protests against Trump?
Good luck with that.