Happy Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/27/19: Conniff, Cohen, California, And Co-opting A Classic

Weekends, unfortunately, are only a rumor when you run a business out of your home…but I’m still HAPPY!

1. “To Kill A Mockingbird” ethics. I asked an old friend and talented director to give me her review of the controversial “To Kill A Mockingbird” on Broadway (previously discussed here, and here…). What I was most interested in was whether the new version (by “The West Wing” auteur and liberal political advocate Adam Sorkin) actually meets the contractual requirement insisted upon by Harper Lee’s estate, that “the Play shall not derogate or depart in any manner from the spirit of the Novel nor alter its characters.”  Well, I knew it would not be; Sorkin and the producer held out for being able to make a “woke” “Mockingbird” reflecting “current sensibilities,” and Lee’s greedy relatives wanted the money more than they cared about what Harper Lee might have wanted, like preserving the integrity of her novel.

Sure enough, my friend reported that the play was full of anachronisms and felt nothing like a story set in a small Southern town in the 1930’s. Most jarring of all, she said, was the oft repeated message that the racially prejudiced individuals in the town were “bad people.” This is the exact opposite of what Atticus Finch tells his daughter in the novel.

2. The GDP. Today the New York Times had the good and unexpected GDP news on its front page, so I’ll retract yesterday’s criticism  of the Times for burying that important news, and evidence of some Trump success. Instapundit pulled out this LA Times article  from 2017. It begins,

With the political world deeply focused on the question of whether the Trump administration comprises a gang of Russian pawns, less attention has been devoted to more mundane questions, such as what ever happened to Trump’s economic policy?As it happens, economists are keeping their eye on that ball, and their conclusion is that it’s in a bad way. More specifically, they recognize that Trump’s policy is aimed heavily at achieving annual economic growth of more than 3%. During the presidential campaign, Trump promised growth of 3.5% a year, and sometimes even 4%. There’s no disagreement that a sustained growth rate of this magnitude would be a significant achievement. Over the past decade, the economy has grown at an average of about 2% a year. The Congressional Budget Office forecasts an annual average of about 1.9% well into the next decade..Making up the difference from 2% to more than 3% looks like a pipe dream..

Of course, the pipe dream was that the President was a Russian stooge.

3.  The mad California culture experiment continuesFrom CBS:

The California State Senate voted to ban schools and principals from suspending students for “willful defiance” of teachers, staff, and administrators. The Senate approved SB 419 Monday by a vote of 30-8. It moves to the Assembly next.

A similar bill was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown last legislative session.

Under the new version (Senate Bill 419), students in grades 4-8 wouldn’t be suspended for disrupting school activities or willfully defying school authorities, including teachers and staff. The bill would also ban schools from suspending students in grades 9-12 for the same thing until January 1, 2025. The law would apply to both public and charter schools.

This is why the Electoral College is crucial. California is our most populous state, and it has adopted a series of toxic and destructive cultural beliefs that make it a potentially crippling virus within the United States. As the population of the Golden State moves father and farther away from core American values, it is a matter of survival for the nation to isolate California dreaming as effectively as possible. It may prove impossible to save Oregon and Washington; those states  have to fend for themselves.

If you have to read to the end of the article to figure out why this law is deemed necessary by California progressives, you really haven’t been paying attention for, oh, the last 30 years.

4. Joe Biden always gets me thinking of plagiarism…since he is the only politician in memory who was ever proven to have plagiarized an entire speech, and not from Cicero or some other forgotten source, but from a still active public figure. Most younger voters don’t know this about the man who just said that he would return ethics to the Presidency, but they will learn.

Not that it will make any difference…and the question is moot anyway. Joe will not be the nominee. Trust me on this.

But I digress: my plagiarism concern involves the Ray Conniff ditty above, which was also used in a Kent cigarette commercial (To a smoker…it’s a Kent!). I was watching “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and reminded once more how much John Williams’ “Indiana Jones Theme” resembles the hit Sixties song by Paul Parnes and Paul Evans. I have read about song plagiarism claims a lot less convincing that resulted in cash settlements. I wonder if there was one here, confidential of course. Here’s Indy’s theme, so you can compare…

5.  Impeachment Plan K is not looking good…Plan K, in case you didn’t study for the quiz is that Trump violated election laws by paying off  old sex-partners who were threatening to extort him. It’s a bad theory anyway, but worse because a great deal of weight has been placed on Trump’s ex-fixer Michael Cohen pleading guilty to violating election laws at Trump’s behest. Even before the latest news, it should have been obvious that Cohen has to be the worst possible witness for any prosecution to rely upon. He may be the most untrustworthy, dishonest, incompetent, and dumb lawyer alive. Now,  Cohen is contradicting the sworn statements  he made in court as part of his sentencing,  saying that the charges were lies. Cohen  told actor Tom Arnold last month that he is not guilty of the crimes that he told the court that he committed, and Arnold—this should be a Godzialla-style horror film: “Slimeball vs. Mega-Slimeball”—surreptitiously taped him. [Pointer: Res Ipsa Loquitur]

23 thoughts on “Happy Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/27/19: Conniff, Cohen, California, And Co-opting A Classic

    • I’m so naive. I find it incomprehensible that any intelligent people would support such a law. It undermines education, it penalizes well-behaved students, it violates basic principles of responsibility, accountability and common sense. Instead of placing the burden for addressing disproportionate suspensions of defiant black students whre it belongs—on the family, on black community dysfunction, on missing fathers and bad role models, the “disproportional impact” rationalization directs that penalties for the misconduct be eliminated. The same “logic” is being used to demand that there be minimal penalties for criminal activity.

      • Why does the principle of disproportionate impact not apply when it comes taxes paid or some other issue in which the negative impact affects the whites? It just seems to me if we use disproportionate impact as a mechanism of equilibration it should be applied equally.

        • If it isn’t being applied equally, it must be discrimination and bigotry. Unfortunately, you are not going to find a federal judge in this country that will rule that the laws apply equally to people of different races.

      • It also illustrates what Mrs. Q had to say* about liberal thinking reinforcing “low expectations” — since they’re going behave badly anyway and we can’t prevent it or stop it, we might as well learn to tolerate it. “Tolerate,” one of my least favorite words, means as one definition puts it: “to put up with or allow” … It is “the open-minded verb. It means you allow something to happen or exist, even if you don’t really like it.” Even if it’s unworkably stupid, potentially dangerous, and unethical for all concerned.

        There now, problem solved. And oh! it’s never been tried before so let’s be The First and get all the credit! If it fails, hey, it wasn’t our fault. (At least we tried to DO SOMETHING!) If everyone — teachers, administrators, and parents, not to mention the rest of the students (for whom we have higher expectations) — will just back off, the badly behaved will … eventually … do … what is … expected of them . . . .

        Mrs. Q outlines the extent of such thoughtless, selfishly motivated social experiments (what it is) at:

    • Interesting trends in that article. It makes one wonder what the 2019-20 survey will show after three years of Trump.

  1. 1. To Kill A Mockingbird

    Pretty soon, every significant American artistic achievement will be forced to conform to the Left’s “woke” politics, either by outright censorship or perversion.

    The price we pay for having a monolithically Leftist entertainment and artistic establishment, I guess.

    2. The GDP

    I am reminded of Paul Krugman:

    It really does now look like President Donald J. Trump, and markets are plunging. When might we expect them to recover?

    Frankly, I find it hard to care much, even though this is my specialty. The disaster for America and the world has so many aspects that the economic ramifications are way down my list of things to fear.

    Still, I guess people want an answer: If the question is when markets will recover, a first-pass answer is never.

    Yeah, these leftists really get the economy. Even their so-called Nobel laureates are clueless as to how economics actually work.

    In fact, I’m struggling to figure out what real-world supposition they’ve been right about since Trump was elected (also, ever, but that’s another comment).

    3. California-crazy

    You know, I was opposed California breaking off from the United States to form their own country.

    Note the use of the past tense.

    5. Plan K

    Reminds me of a perfectly horrible movie and a perfectly good window manager, but I digress…

    I’m trying to figure out where Cohen denied the campaign finance charge he plead guilty to. I can’t find it, so I presume we are talking about some of the other charges such as tax evasion.

    Yes, he’s a terrible witness, but rats have been putting people in jail despite their horrible, impeachable character since time immemorial. I kind of doubt this plan is in jeopardy yet to the extent it wasn’t before.

    But if Trump gets and indictment for this, it will clearly be after he leaves office. Even if the SDNY wants to indict him, they can’t without the explicit approval of the DOJ, approval that is unlikely to be forthcoming from Barr.

    The reason it is unlikely is because Trump’s defense is rational, and probably impossible to disprove — he paid Daniels for personal, not political reasons. Unless he left a path of emails laying out his political reasoning, proving mens rea in the context of campaign finance law will be nearly impossible to do beyond a reasonable doubt.

    One thing his Arnold-recorded comments did say is that his pleas of guilty had more to do with protecting his family than his actual guilt. This statement would be used to defend Trump, damaging the prosecution’s chances of proving intent.

    • No, he hasn’t explicitly denied that charge, but 1) it wasn’t an actual election law violation by any existing precedent and 2) if he lied on the rest, it makes him virtually useless to the prosecution. He’s per se unbelievable, and is walking reasonable doubt.

    • From what I heard on the tape, Cohen agreed to a plea because he thought he would get something better from the prosecutor. To be blunt, he overplayed his hand. He testified, cooperated, and still got the book thrown at him.


        • Jack: How about the ethical issues of the great lawyer’s great lawyer, Lanny Davis? The Hill (4/24)opines that Cohen is complaining about the lack of support from Mr. Cohen’s new friends in Washington, the Democrats in Congress who provided the encouragement and the platform for his testimony about his former client, now the President: “Cohen has reportedly pushed the Democratic chairs of several congressional committees to send letters to prosecutors indicating his cooperation with their investigations in the hopes of obtaining a reduced sentence, though there is no indication they have granted his request.

          ‘You would think that you would have folks, you know, stepping up and saying, ‘You know what, this guy’s lost everything,’ Cohen said, according to the Journal, appearing to refer to the lawmakers.’ ”

          Well now. Mr Davis walks–runs– his floundering, drowning client into the hands of the most venomous, partisan anti-Trumpers, his people. After Cohen is used up by the bunch, poor Mr. Cohen is left to flounder without their help on a possible reduction of his sentence?

          How is it ethical for Davis to be advising Cohen about anything? Davis wanted a public spectacle and attack on Trump and his client does an extra couple of years, so no harm no foul? Wouldn’t Cohen be reasonable to expect his violation of basic ethics rules, kicking Trump around and jumping to Davis’ tune would be rewarded? Exactly how hard did Davis actually pursue the help from the D lawmakers to recommend leniency for Cohen?

  2. As for the plagerism the only similarity are the scales otherwise I hear little that would lead me to think there is plagerism. There is a finite number of ways to achieve a arpeggio that is not cacophony.

    Remember Salieri said Mozart’s work was second rate because it had too many notes.

    • I guess you’re referring to the second movement of the Indiana Jones theme. I’d say there might possibly be some similarity. I hear none in the main Indiana Jones theme and the Ray Coniff song, though. Don’t know if that matters in these things or not.

  3. 2) GDP. I read a comment on this yesterday which noted that the markets were unimpressed by the jump. The reason being, he thought, was that a big portion of it was a reduction in imports along with a rise in inventories by business. Both of those are likelier than not to be one time things, rather than trends.

    We shall see, though. Prior to Trump, it seemed that the one time events were always in the negative direction. The economy may not have been growing at 3.5%, but it has certainly seen sustained growth better than that we had during any of the Obama years. The Dow Jones continues to be in the stratosphere, above 26k. Unemployment, especially minorities and women, is at generational lows, if not several generations. There never was a Trump recession, at least not yet.

    What concerns me is the fact that a recession is inevitable, sooner or later — it would be nasty if it started to become evident around next summer or early fall. 2008 all over again, when the economy cratered and helped ensure Obama’s election.

    • I heard the inventory and imports theory yesterday (Friday) along with info that the spending on durable goods was flat. The question being pushed was “where is the consumer”. I was in and out of the truck, running errands, so did not hear a full run of all the clips and commentary.

      My thoughts jumped to the idea that the middle-class has been fed a long line of false info about how the tax bill was not going to benefit them, that they were going to “take it in the shorts” as is sometimes said, when its time to file. A a lot of people may have believed this, or at least feared it, and put off major purposes until they did taxes. If I am on the right track 2Q will show an up tick in durable goods, and maybe automobiles.

      WARNING! I am NOT an economist. The foregoing is for recreational use only.

      • A very good point about taxes. Many folks I worked with were very apprehensive about their outcome this year, and many were very relieved not to owe a bunch. We’ll see if there’s any rebound effect.

        By the way, as far as the reasons for the GDP uptick — that doesn’t change the fact that it’s very good news. It simply means we shouldn’t get too excited about one quarter’s results unless they’re repeated.

        And I suppose if you’re a Democrat, it means you shouldn’t get too depressed about the GDP news. Moderately depressed would be more appropriate. 😎

  4. In many musical circles John Williams’ “borrowing” of themes and snippets from other composers is a frequent topic of discussion. Some even say, though I’m pretty sure it’s apocryphal, that his favorite theme of all time was the opening of the title track from the movie “Born Free;” if you turn around the intervals and play the notes “upside down,” it becomes the “Star Wars” theme. Coincidence? You decide 🙂

  5. “2. The GDP. Today the New York Times had the good and unexpected GDP news on its front page, so I’ll retract yesterday’s criticism of the Times for burying that important news, and evidence of some Trump success.”

    I’ve often noticed that print papers always seem to have the prior day’s headlines. This may be one of the fundamental challenge this medium faces.

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