Delayed Morning Warm-Up, 2/26/21: The Good, The Bad, And The Deranged…

Sorry-For-The-Delay

I just completed my ethics legal seminar, and wow, Trump Derangement runs deep. I kept getting these off topic questions about whether Trump’s lawyer in the impeachment trial was sanctionable for “lying.” Lawyers know better than that: unless you present false evidence (like, just as a wild example, claiming the rioters “killed’ and officer when they did not), advocacy for a client is immune from prosecution, liability or professional discipline. Finally an attendee messaged the group to say, “Can we please stop wasting everyone’s time with these Trump Derangement political questions?”

1. Good! As discussed here, country music superstar Morgan Wallen was suspended indefinitely by his record label and removed from hundreds of radio stations across the country after he used a “racial slur” that no news reporting organization would tell us what it was. OK, I did and will: he was captured on camera saying “nigger” in banter with his friends outside his home, and a malicious neighbor posted the video to social media. Now, I am happy to report, the efforts to “cancel” the singer appear to have largely flopped. The Times reports,

[H]is breakthrough release, “Dangerous: The Double Album” to No. 1 once again. It has held the top spot on Billboard’s album chart for six weeks in a row now, the longest run in the peak position since Taylor Swift’s “Folklore” last summer, and the only country album to spend its first six weeks at No. 1 since Garth Brooks’s “The Chase” in 1992. In its sixth week out, “Dangerous” had the equivalent of 93,000 sales in the United States, including 112 million streams and 10,000 copies sold as a full album, according to the tracking service MRC Data, which is owned by Billboard’s parent company. So far, “Dangerous,” which has 33 tracks in its “bonus” version, has logged just short of one billion streams in the United States.

Meanwhile, a country music station in Knoxville reversed its ban on Wallen’s records after polling listeners, who voted more than 9-1 to have them played again. Other stations are sure to follow, and not because the audience is full of racists who like to use that mysterious word, whatever it is, that the New York Times won’t specify, but because art is distinct from artists, and it is ignorant and foolish to confuse them. Art enriches our lives, and the more of it the better. Unfortunately, there is no correlation between virtue and talent.

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Friday Free-For-All: Open Forum

battle-marvel

Boy, that seven days went fast.

I would be having an open forum now even if we didn’t do this every Friday, because I’m Zooming and ethics seminar to New Jersey lawyers this morning.

Other Bill, esteemed commenter, wrote earlier this week:

So many people in the commentariat so well versed on so many topics. Impressive and enjoyable. Graduate level discussions of all sorts of things.

That’s very true, and I’m proud of it. I may even stop worrying about the fall-off in traffic here this month. When the quality of participation is this high, it doesn’t matter.

Another Media-Protected Democrat Is Accused Of Sexual Misconduct By One Of Those Women Who Must Be Believed

This time, it’s Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, who wasn’t exactly in the best of shape politically to start with—you know, all those dead nursing home residents and a his cover-up and everything.

But we have seen how this usually plays out, have we not? Keith Ellison, formerly co-chair of the DNC, was accused of abuse by two exes, but managed to get elected Attorney General of Minnesota. Virginia Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax also has been accused of sexual assault by two women, one claiming rape. Fairfax swears the encounters were consensual, and maybe they were…but then that’s what they always say, isn’t it? Then, of course, there is Joe Biden, whose former staff member accusing him of rape didn’t stop the vast majority of American women, those progressive, feminist warriors, from voting for him.

Lindsey Boylan, a former aide to Cuomo, came forward with detailed allegations of sexual assault and harassment against the governor yesterday, adding to the accusation she had made last December. Boylan accused Cuomo of kissing her on the lips and asking her to “play strip poker” on a plane ride on his official jet. “Governor Andrew Cuomo has created a culture within his administration where sexual harassment and bullying is so pervasive that it is not only condoned but expected. His inappropriate behavior toward women was an affirmation that he liked you, that you must be doing something right,” Boylan wrote. “He used intimidation to silence his critics. And if you dared to speak up, you would face consequences.”

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Unethical Quote Of The Month: Slate’s Joel Anderson

“For Black employees, it’s an extremely small ask to not hear that particular slur and not have debate about whether it’s OK for white employees to use that particular slur.”

—Joel Anderson,host of Slate’s podcast “Slow Burn” and an African-American journalist.

Just ponder that statement a bit while I provide the context.

The online publication Slate suspended Mike Pesca, the host of “The Gist,” a podcast on news and culture. Why, you ask? Well, says the New York Times, he debated with colleagues on an interoffice messaging platform  over whether non-blacks  should “be able to quote a racial slur” in some contexts. Wait, new York Times–what “racial slur”? Isn’t that crucial to the story? Oh..oh..I get it. The Times also can’t quote a racial slur, whatever it is, even if the “context” is a news story about that slur! Got it.

This is so stupid it hurts.

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From The “Nah, There’s No Mainstream Media Bias” Files: This Is Now What The New York Times Calls “Objective Reporting”

Capitol riot

Yesterday, the Times front page featured an article headlined “Former Security Chiefs Trade Blame For Lapses In Guarding The Capitol.” It was more evidence that the Times, supposedly the role model for American journalism, allows biased innuendo, veiled editorializing and deliberate misinformation to corrupt what it is supposed to be reporting.

Here are some examples:

  • “It also showed that the overlapping jurisdictions of the Capitol Police, the District of Columbia government and other agencies created utter confusion that hindered attempts to stop the most violent assault on the Capitol since the War of 1812.”

That’s a deliberately false and inflammatory comparison. The Capitol was burned in 1812, and it was a war. The attackers were also an invading foreign force. It is also bad history. On July 2, 1915, a former German professor at Harvard, Erich Muenter, planted a package containing three sticks of dynamite in the Capitol near the Senate Reception room. The explosive detonated around midnight and during a time when the Senate had been on recess. I’d say the explosion of a bomb qualifies as a “more violent” assault on the Capitol, but if you disagree, how about March 1, 1954, when four Puerto Rican-Americans fired guns in the House of Representatives, injuring five congressmen?  Or is that not “an attack on the Capitol”?

The Times line was either quickly added to Wikipedia’s entry on the January 6 event, or the Times reporters cribbed the comparison from Wikipedia. This is how bad reporting becomes “fact.”

  • Here’s an example of how the Times lets others do their propaganda for them:

“None of the intelligence we received predicted what actually occurred,” the former Capitol Police Chief Steven A. Sund told senators. He called the riot “the worst attack on law enforcement and our democracy that I have seen” and said he witnessed insurrectionists assaulting officers not only with their fists, but also with pipes, sticks, bats, metal barricades and flagpoles. These criminals came prepared for war,” Mr. Sund said.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/24/2021: The Sarcasm Edition

First appearance in 2021 of my favorite Ethics Warm-Up intro. Maybe that’s why 2021 ethics has gotten off to such a rotten start…

In addition to its significance in the siege of the Alamo, yesterday’s date of February 24 has other important ethics markers, perhaps some more important than Travis’s iconic letter. Perhaps the most impact on U.S. history was this date in 1803, when Chief Justice John Marshall (no relation that has been shown to my satisfaction) handed down the landmark decision in William Marbury v. James Madison, Secretary of State of the United States, establishing the legal principle of judicial revie. That’s what gives the Supreme Court the authority to limit Congressional power by declaring legislation unconstitutional. I doubt very much that the United States would still exist as a free republic had not that case been decided as it was, yet the result was probably dictated more by partisan politics than philosophy.

Marshall, in his majority opinion, declared that acts of Congress in conflict with the Constitution are not valid law and therefore are non-binding on the courts, and that the judiciary’s first responsibility is always to uphold the Constitution. And if two laws conflict, Marshall wrote, SCOTUS has the responsibility of deciding which law applies in any given case. Periodically members of Congress, pundits and even academics have criticized the decision, but there can be little doubt that had Marshall not led the Court to make this stand, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights would have been quickly shredded.

This is particularly relevant now, when the Democrats in Congress have signaled that they want government authorities to decree what is factual and what is “disinformation,” while they also seek to weaken Second Amendment rights. Incidentally, there is a prominent statue of Marshall at the Supreme Court, and a recast in John Marshall Park, near Judiciary Square, also in D.C. Another recast is in Philadelphia. Marshall owned hundreds of slaves, which is entirely irrelevant to his essential influence on our government and values. Clearly, many, perhaps most, of the college students in the U.S. would prefer that a non-slave owner had headed the Court, even if it resulted in a nation that slipped into allowing the virtual slavery of all citizens to a national government that “knew what was best.”

1. Oh, sure. Why not? We all know that committees are so effective at leadership. A letter signed by three dozen House Democrats urge Joe Biden to relinquish full control over the country’s nuclear weapons in favor of a committee of legislators. “…Vesting one person with this authority entails real risks,” states the letter, inspired by Rep. Jimmy Panetta of California. “Past presidents have threatened to attack other countries with nuclear weapons or exhibited behavior that caused other officials to express concern about the president’s judgment.While any president would presumably consult with advisors before ordering a nuclear attack, there is no requirement to do so,” the letter adds. “The military is obligated to carry out the order if they assess it is legal under the laws of war. Under the current posture of U.S. nuclear forces, that attack would happen in minutes.”

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No, Civility Is Not “Bullshit”

civility2

I’ve been tempted for some time to challenge Ann Althouse’s “civility bullshit” argument, which she has proclaimed for years and even has a tag on her blog for it. Her claim that civility is bullshit is bullshit, and obviously so: she runs a civil blog, and if she really thought civility was bullshit, she wouldn’t. Today she used her argument again, this time in the fisking of a rationalization-filled Karen Tumulty defense of Neera Tanden in the Washington Post. Althouse writes,

I’ve been writing under the tag “civility bullshit” for years. It represents my longstanding opinion that calls for civility are always bullshit. Certainly in the area of politics, calls for civility always come out when the incivility is hurting your people. When somebody is deploying incivility effectively for your side, you hold your tongue and enjoy the damage. 

That’s a shockingly bad argument for a lawyer, never mind a law professor. Saying that many people cynically use complaints about civility to silence dissent doesn’t mean that civility itself is an invalid value. One could say the same about lying, or adultery. Althouse is complaining about hypocrisy.

Furthermore, I don’t comprehend how anyone could have observed the last four years and not admit that civility is crucial. That was at the core of my warning in 2015 that electing a President like Donald Trump would turn the country into a nation of assholes. The President is always a powerful role model, and it was clear that a President Trump, given his habits and proclivities (and lack of self-control), would do terrible harm to civility in American society, and as the many follow-up pieces here track, he did.

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Dumb And Dumber: A Snap Shot Of Our Dysfunctional Civic Discourse

Two dumb tweets

If there is any value to Twitter at all, it may be its ability to reveal the intellectual deficits of those who use it.

The above tweet and response is a fine example. Hannah Cox is a libertarian-conservative writer, commentator, and activist, a Newsmax “Insider” and a frequent contributor to The Washington Examiner. Her tweet above is signature significance: any one who could state for public consumption that the United States “is one of the biggest and most intrusive governments known to man” without their brain leaping out through their nose and slapping them in the face cannot be trusted. It is a really ignorant exaggeration, the kind of hyperbole Donald Trump made daily. Overstating a point for the delectation of idiots doesn’t help. It hurts because such statements make an entire philosophy of government seem stupid by misrepresenting it.

The tweet it is responding to, by “proud progressive” Texas State Representative John Talerico, is, impressively, even worse. It is stupid AND scary. He describes himself on Twitter as “youngest legislator, former middle school teacher, and eighth generation Texan.” Then he virtue-signals by adding “1 John 4:8”: that’s the “Good is love” quote. How young is this idiot, 10? Was he frozen cryogenically in 1967 and warmed up to run for the Texas legislature against a slug? What are they teaching in Texas schools? Surely not logic, political science or world history. They clearly aren’t teaching Ben Franklin’s critical observation, “Those who give up liberty for security deserve neither.” Talerico’s tweet is an open-ended appeal to totalitarian government, if he means what he wrote—Texas schools may not be teaching English, either. The opposite of limited government is unlimited government, and unlimited government is “a boot stamping on a human face— forever,” in George Orwell’s chilling metaphor from “1984.” The Texas schools don’t teach that either, I bet.

Sadly, this is the usual level of dialogue between the Left and the Right that now frames our democracy. It’s incompetent; it’s irresponsible, and as we have seen for at least 20 years, it nurtures dysfunctional politics, government and democracy like moisture nurtures mildew.

Ethics Quote Of The Month: Colonel William Travis

Victory or Death

“”To the People of Texas & All Americans in the World—Fellow Citizens & compatriots— I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna — I have sustained a continual Bombardment & cannonade for 24 hours & have not lost a man — The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken — I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, & our flag still waves proudly from the walls — I shall never surrender or retreat. Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch — The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily & will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country —Victory or Death.

Col. William Barrett Travis, Commander of the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, on February 24, 1836, as his make-shift fort with its couple hundred volunteers were surrounded by the army of General Santa Ana, and a siege was inevitable.

Travis sent out several appeals for assistance and reinforcement that day, but this one has been enshrined as one of the iconic letters in American history. When the Texas revolution began in 1835, Travis, a failed lawyer, businessman and husband—he had abandoned his wife and unborn child in Alabama to escape his debts and start a new life in the Mexican territory—had became a lieutenant-colonel in the revolutionary army and was given command of troops in the recently captured city of San Antonio de Bexar (now San Antonio). On February 23, 1836, a large Mexican force commanded by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana arrived in the town. Travis and his troops barricaded themselves in an abandoned mission repurposed as a fort, the Alamo, where they were  joined by a volunteer force led by Texas land speculator and adventurer Jim Bowie. Later, another, smaller group of volunteers organized by former Congressman and self-made legend Davy Crockett joined them.

Before Travis’s fevered and desperate letter-writing, the Mexican dictator had demanded the fort’s unconditional surrender, promising no quarter if the defenders refused. As his letter said, Travis answered with a cannon shot.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

This is an especially important time for Americans to remember the Alamo.


Tuesday Ethics Torture, 2/23/21: Stevey’s Going, Peter Suprises, Ian Shrugs, And California Dictates…

Torture of Brinvilliers, 17th Century

I spent a half-hour searching for ethics stories that made me feel good. All I found was more sources of gloom and depression. I have a headache, and no matter how many times I play, “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart!,” it doesn’t male me want to laugh, gambol and frolic….

1. Normally the baseball season’s impending approach would cheer me up, as it has for more than 50 years (and that’s another damn thing—I can’t possibly be that old), and this time, nothing. It’s like I’m dead inside. The twin curses of the Boston Red Sox pandering to Black Lives Matter and the team’s rehiring of a proven, and as far as I can see, unrepentant cheater as manager have apparent sucked all of the joy out of what has been a lifetime passion. Now I’m bothered more by the flaws that once I would have shrugged off, like this one: Ian Desmond, a 35-year-old outfielder with the Colorado Rockies, has “opted out” of playing for the second straight season.

“For now, I’ve decided to opt out of the 2021 season,” Desmond wrote on Instagram. “My desire to be with my family is greater than my desire to go back and play baseball under these circumstances. I’m going to continue to train and watch how things unfold.” Between the two seasons, the player has now walked away from a combined $13.56 million. He was owed $8 million this year and was set to make $5.56 million of his prorated $15 million salary last season, though the Rockies have a $2 million buyout for 2022.

Desmond, 35, hit .255 with 20 homers in 140 games in 2019. He’s not special. Yet he has made so much money in a slightly above average career that he can afford to toss away millions of dollars. An industry that pays its workers so much that they have no financial incentive to work makes no sense, and any team that would keep a player like Desmond, whose attitude is, “Eh, I don’t feel like playing baseball…maybe later,” is foolish. He’s healthy, relatively young, and his risks of serious health problems from the Wuhan virus are slim: my grocery store clerks face greater risks by far. Yechhh.

2. Slippery Slope Warning! The slippery slope is both a phenomenon and a fallacy, as when someone objects to something benign by arguing that it creates a theoretical slippery slope that is not benign. Of late however, the assault of the Woke has made slippery sloping a national pastime, particularly involving slopes that lead governments to dictate all manner of conduct that should be none of its damn business.

For example, in California, good little brain-washers Evan Low and Cristina Garcia introduced Assembly Bill 1084 to require gender neutral retail departments. The bill would add Part 2.57 (commencing with Section 55.7) to Division 1 of the Civil Code, to be titled “Gender Neutral Retail Departments.” The bill would enact a regulation based on “legislative findings” that there are unjustified differences in similar products traditionally marketed either for girls or for boys. Thus the bill, on the theory that it will be easier on the consumer if similar items are displayed closer to one another in one, undivided area of the retail sales floor, mandates eliminating gender distinctions in clothing sales. In addition, keeping similar items that are traditionally marketed either for girls or for boys separated incorrectly implies that their use by one gender is inappropriate, the bill claims/

Ah! Illegal implication. Can’t have that!

I would assume that even an idiot could see that this is government indoctrination and has zero to do with serving consumers. If a retail company chooses to market clothing as unisex, they should go for it, but it is not the role of government to dictate how merchandise is displayed.

California is a contagious carrier of terrible and infectious ideas. The other states should be wearing big masks…

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