“Seinfeld” fans remember Jerry’s Uncle Leo, whose trademark was an over-enthusiastic, “Hel-LO!” The recurring character was played by the late Len Lesser, an obscure Hollywood bit player until the “Seinfeld” gig made him a familiar face. Well, I was watching “Bells Are Ringing,“ the 1960 film version of the hit Broadway musical known for the standards “Just in Time” and “The Party’s Over” (one of my Mom’s favorite songs), on TCM. The film is a reminder of just how luminous Judy Holliday was; she had won the Tony for playing the musical’s starring role on Broadway, and attention should be paid. Tragically, his was her last movie—during filming she was fighting the cancer that eventually killed her —-and I don’t know if there has ever been a female musical comedy star of greater range and presence. Anyway, there’s a number in the film where Judy tells Dean Martin that New York’s grim mass of humanity during rush hours will thaw if strangers only say “hello” to each other. Dean is skeptical, but he tries it on a dour-looking man waiting in the mob, whose face instantly breaks into a brilliant smile at the greeting. “Hel-LO!” the man responds to a surprised Dino, and soon everyone is happily saying hello to each other. You guessed it: the dour-looking man was played by “Uncle Leo” himself, Len Lesser. His catch phrase in “Seinfeld” was a deliberate reference to that bit, one of the very few memorable moments in the elderly actor’s career.
This is really a long introduction to a different point: I get a lot of ethics ideas from watching old movies. For example, I watched 1967’s “The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre,“ one of schlockmeister Roger Corman’s few films with an A-list cast and a big budget. The film’s solemn narrator is uncredited, but he is obviously meant to make the casual audience member think it’s Orson Welles. It wasn’t Welles, however: it was master vocal artist Paul Frees, who had a great, and often used, Welles impression. I assume he was uncredited so no one would realize that the narrator wasn’t the weighty Welles, but the voice of Boris Badinov from “Rocky and Bullwinkle.”
I don’t know how Corman got away with this.
1. Ah, the accurate, trustworthy news media. Reuters reports, “A South African military plane crash-landed on Thursday at the Goma airport in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a U.N. spokesman said….two sources at the airport, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there did not appear to be major damage to the plane.”
Here’s the plane:
2. Apparently the Democratic Party’s strategy regarding the economy is to just flagrantly lie about it. “The U.S. economy is working just fine for people like me. But it is badly broken for the vast majority of Americans,” Mike Bloomberg said this week. That counter-factual statement echoes Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders…pretty much the Democratic field, and it is demonstrably false.
The Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank’s monthly Wage Growth Tracker shows that Americans in the lower wage brackets are making more money, and at a better rate than they have for a very long time. Here’s a graph:
Bloomberg and the rest have access to this data; I’m sure they know about it. They are flat out lying, and hoping it works. Of course, in far left ideology, incomes are immorally unequal if anyone makes a lot more in total than anyone else: this is the central fallacy of Communism, and it has proven useful at provoking division and revolution. The increasingly totalitarian-tilting Democratic Party is wagering that the public is so ignorant and gullible that it will fall for this ploy. But any candidate who engages in this dishonesty should be estopped from ranting about President Trump’s “lies.”
3. When ethics alarms are seriously warped.…In California, investigators say Corey Curnutt, 25, and Savannah Grillot, 29, were furious over being victimized by car break-ins. Their remedy: they left unattended bikes in front of their home, waited for thieves to try to steal them, and ran out of the house swinging aluminum baseball bats. At least four would-be bicycle thieves were beaten but there could be more: not all of the vigilante duo’s attacks were posted by the couple on YouTube.
4. More missing Ethics Alarms: The parents of four African American high school students in the Longwood School District in Long Island have filed a federal complaint against teacher Edward Heinrichs. The science teacher posed the students with their hands on each other’s heads during a field trip to the Bronx Zoo. The picture was then included in a slideshow shown to the class, accompanied by the caption, “Monkey Do.” The next slide was a picture of a gorilla. The parents of the teenagers argue that this was racist.
5. Now here’s an ethics conflict: Should public defenders be immune from legal malpractice suits? The New Jersey Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Nieves v. Office of the Public Defender in which the Court is asked to decide whether the Office of the Public Defender should be covered by the state’s Torts Claims Act.
The plaintiff had been in prison for twelve years on charges of first-degree aggravated sexual assault when the charges against him were dismissed. He then filed a legal malpractice suit against the public defender’s office and the public defender who handled his case. The suit was eventually thrown out after the appeals court ruled that the office of the public defender is a public entity, and thus public defenders are public employees who come within the Tort Claims Act’s immunities and defenses. Short version of the ruling: they can’t be sued. It’s a public policy ruling; as the NJ bar Association argues in support of the public defenders (lawyers don’t like malpractice suits),
“[C]ompetent criminal defense lawyers should not be deterred from public service by the prospect of ruinous awards and defense costs. Without the defense and indemnification assured by the Tort Claims Act the interests of both PDs and those with just claims against them are ill served.”
That’s one side. The counter-argument is: “How can we be sure that public defenders do a competent, zealous and diligent job if there are no consequences when they screw up and an innocent defendant goes to prison?