Apparently the latest deceptive slur on those who question the integrity of the 2020 election—which had less than any Presidential election in this century plus at least 40 years back in the previous one—is “election denier.” Nice. I found it ironic that just as an esteemed commenter here has been trying mightily in good faith to argue that the New York Times is not a constant purveyor of partisan propaganda, the paper headlines a front-page story, “Election Deniers Seek State Posts To Certify Votes,” a slimy and misleading header by any standard. Following in the muddy footsteps of the climate change fanatics, using “denier” to characterize those who oppose the Left’s cant, the Times headline plays a despicable cognitive dissonance game. “Denier,” until the climate change mob started using it, had previously only applied to the deniers of the Holocaust–fascists, anti-Semites, and morons. Thus, by extension, “deniers” in any context is similarly damning—and that’s the idea.

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Unethical—And Ignorant!—Quote Of The Month: The Washington Post

“The air in humid, hotter environments contains more water, which can condense onto the virus particles, make them bigger and theoretically fall to the ground faster. Wu compares the particles to a rock in this case — the more mass, the faster it falls.”

—-Washington Post Reporter Kasha Patel, forgetting about Galileo and gravity in an alleged science article headlined,  “Covid-19 may have seasons for different temperature zones, study suggests.”

Her editors also seem to have missed 6th grade science. In truth, I believe I learned about Galileo’s experiment with the Leaning Tower of Pisa before the sixth grade, after Santa left a children’s book about “great moments in science” in my sister’s stocking. We shared it, and it ended up with me: it’s around the house somewhere. I think about the book every time I end up on Walter Reed Drive in Arlington, which is often. His story is also in it; I wish I could think of the title.

The full quote is… Continue reading

Stop Making Me Defend President Biden!

At this point, President Biden has no choice, ethically or practically, other than to keep his promise to nominate a black woman to fill the Supreme Court vacancy. By all means, he deserves criticism for making such a promise, but that was done quite a while ago, when he was in full pander mode during the 2020 Democratic Presidential primaries. Breaking a pledge is never ethical, unless conditions have changed sufficiently to make the keeping of the pledge materially different from what was anticipated at the time, or if keeping the promise would be illegal.

It is often forgotten that President Reagan pledged to nominate a woman to the Supreme Court, and many liberal pundits at the time predicted that he would renege on that promise. He didn’t. It was a different kind of pledge than Biden’s however. There was a fairly deep pool of qualified women to choose from particularly if he dipped into the group of qualified female lawyers and academics. The lack of any woman ever sitting on the Court since the 18th Century had become an embarrassment. It wasn’t a matter of making the Court “look like America,” it was whether the Court could credibly look like a gentleman’s club. Continue reading

And The Civility Slide Continues…

Don’t tell me this is funny. It’s not funny, as Jack Nicholson says in “Few Good Men.” It’s tragic.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) , in his annual State of the State address, felt it necessary to further degrade public respect in elected leaders by telling Bette Midler to kiss his dog’s ass—OK, he said “hiney.” What a genteel gesture.

At the tail of an hour-long address, Justice lifted his bulldog and displayed “Babydog’s” anus et al. to say to the critics of Sen. Joe Manshin who denigrated his state while savaging him for not following in lockstep to the Lockstep Party,

They never believed in West Virginia that we could do it. They told every bad joke in the world about us. And so from that standpoint, Babydog tells Bette Midler and all those out there, kiss her hiney.

What a clod. There’s nothing like giving support to the dolts like Midler who resort to stereotypes and ad hominem attacks to make their ignorant political arguments by behaving just as crudely as the bigots expect.

This doesn’t help.

Let’s have a pool on who will be the first elected official to tell critics, “Suck my dick!”

My money’s on a female.

Sunday Ethics Fugue: Looking Like America

1. Right on cue...I am seeing an explosion of articles explaining why it is crucial that the Supreme Court “look like America.” This is one of many logically indefensible statements that is pounded into the brains of weak-minded members of the public because it sounds rational if you don’t, or can’t, think about it very hard. What is important about the membership of the Supreme Court is that it contain the best and least biased judicial scholars and legal analysts available, because then we will have the best Supreme court available. I don’t care what the Justices look like, and neither should anyone else. If the nine best legal minds happen to be black, great. If they are all female, or trans, or gay, or in wheelchairs, I don’t care, and neither should anyone else. What drives this particular brand of lookism is the presumption of bias, and judges are supposed to be, indeed are required to be, as free as bias as possible. Bias leads to lousy judges and lousy decisions. The “Make SCOTUS look like America!” crowd, which is almost exclusively on the left, want to substitute a balance of biases standard for the “as little bias as possible” standard. And, of course, the new eruption of this dumb theory is in order to make President Biden’s indefensible decision to place race and gender first among the priorities for picking Breyer’s replacement seem fair, just and rational, when it isn’t. It’s just political pandering.

2. This is a novel way to try to justify the anti-white bias...Jamelle Bouie, the full-time, race-baiting, race-obsessed black pundit formerly of Slate and now with the Times, was given an astounding two full pages in today’s Sunday Review to argue that history hasn’t sufficiently described just how awful slavery was. See, it wasn’t just evil, it was really, really, really evil. “Evil beyond measure!” Thus, we are supposed to extrapolate, it was so unimaginably evil that no current day policies devised to compensate for and make amends for that evil by the descendants of those not enslaved can ever be enough. (So stop bitching about giving blacks an edge in employment forever, because even that won’t be enough.)

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Catching Up: Professional Ethics And The Challenger Disaster

Because of non-ethical matters in the Marshall household, I missed posting about the January 28 anniversary of the Challenger disaster, as it is labeled among the thousands of Ethics Alarms tags. I have written about and alluded to the completely avoidable explosion of the Space Shuttle in 1986 many times (you can check here), and there may be no other incident that so perfectly encapsulates the complexities of professional ethics, especially in a bureaucracy. In 2016, I offered an ethics quiz on the topic.

In 2020, Netflix presented an excellent, if extremely upsetting, docudrama on how the fiasco unfolded, “The Challenger Disaster.”

I have used the tragedy in my legal ethics continuing legal education courses to force attendees to consider what might make them decide to breach legal ethics and place their careers at risk when an organizational client is hell-bent on what the lawyer knows, or thinks he or she knows, will be disastrous. Legal ethics rules are different from engineering ethics, though the latter has caught up considerably since the Space Shuttle explosion, and in part because of it. However, I view the ethics conflict in parallel situations in both professions the same, as well as situations in medicine, organized religion, the military, and government. When would, and should, professionals decide to do everything in their power to stop the consequences of a terrible decision when it is outside their role and authority to do so?

In my legal ethics seminars, a majority of lawyers ultimately say they would have done “whatever it took” to stop the Challenger’s launch, whatever the consequences, if they knew what the engineers knew. They said they would go to the news media, or chain themselves to the rocket if necessary. Of course, saying it and doing it are very different things.

Here is the most recent incarnation of my Challenger disaster legal ethics question, which I presented to government lawyers a year ago. What would you answer? It is called “The Launch.”


In 1986, Roger Boisjoly was a booster rocket engineer at Morton Thiokol, the NASA contractor that, infamously, manufactured the faulty O-ring that was installed in the Space Shuttle Challenger, and that caused it to explode. Six months before the Challenger disaster, he wrote a memo to his bosses at Thiokol predicting “a catastrophe of the highest order” involving “loss of human life.” He had identified a flaw in the elastic seals at the joints of the multi-stage booster rockets: they tended to stiffen and unseal in cold weather.  NASA’s shuttle launch schedule included winter lift-offs, and Boisjoly warned his company that sending the Shuttle into space at low temperatures was too risky. On January 27, 1986, the day before the scheduled launch of the Challenger, Boisjoly argued for hours with NASA officials to persuade NASA to delay the launch, only to be over-ruled, first by NASA, then by Thiokol, which deferred to its client. Another engineer, Bob Ebeling, joined Boisjoly and begged for the launch to be postponed, only to be overruled.

That night, Ebeling told his wife, Darlene, “It’s going to blow up.”

Question 1Should one or both of the engineers have “blown the whistle”?

  1. They did.
  2. Only the engineer who was sure that it would be a disaster.
  3. No, that’s not their role, their decision, or their call.
  4. After the explosion, but not before.
  5. I have another answer.

 Question 2: How are the ethical obligations in such a situation different for government lawyers than engineers?

  1. Government lawyers have to disclose when human life is threatened, engineers don’t.
  2. Engineers have to disclose when human life is involved, government lawyers don’t.
  3. Lawyers get kicked out of their profession for blowing whistles, engineers just get blackballed.
  4. There is no difference.
  5. I have another answer.

The Biden Supreme Court Pick Ethics Train Wreck

Wow, that was fast. This episode has turned into an ethics train wreck with record speed. Some ethics train wrecks slow down and stop after a few months; other roll on seemingly forever. The Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman Ethics Train Wreck, which has included directly-related wrecks like the Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck and the George Floyd Ethics Train Wreck, is almost nine years old, and won’t stop until Black Lives Matter lies a-moldering in the grave. The 2016 Presidential Election Ethics Train Wreck is still going strong, with the Jan. 6 riot and the subsequent kangaroo court investigation in the House the latest cars to be hooked up. The Biden Supreme Court Ethics Train Wreck? At this point, where it stops, nobody knows.

It began before it was even certain Biden would get a SCOTUS nomination, when he first promised to name a black woman to the Court. That promise, which he quickly confirmed once Justice Breyer announced his retirement, was unethical “on its face,” as the Court might say. The statement means, and can only mean, that group identification is the primary priority for the President of the United Sates in nominating a crucial individual who will help determine the course of the nation’s laws, justice system, constitutional integrity and culture for decades to come. That function has nothing whatsoever to do with race or gender. Nothing. Being black, white, Native American or Asian does not make an individual more or less qualified for the job, and neither does gender. Biden’s statement literally means that he is placing tribalism and group identification biases above the substantive needs of the nation. That’s unethical. Other Presidents have done this, notably Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. That’s no mitigation.

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Comment Of The Day: Ethics Quiz: Celebrity Post Retirement Photos

Mermaidmary99 has a strange relationship with Ethics Alarms: about half of her comments get sent straight to spam by WordPress for no apparent reason. This is perplexing for her and me, since she so often has an original and perceptive opinion to share. This Comment of the Day is an example, and yes, I found it in the spam collection.

The Ethics Quiz asked readers, “Is it ethical to take unflattering photos of former performers and celebrities and publicize them expressly to invite cruel comments and ridicule?” It was sparked by two things: the emergence of the first photograph of former movie star Bridget Fonda, daughter of Peter, niece of Jane, grand-daughter of Henry, in twelve years. Last time the public saw her, Fonda looked more of less like she did in Quentin Tarentino’s “Jackie Brown,” above; the other was my wife’s complaint, after her recent stay in the hospital (a bad scare, but all is fine), that the nurses kept telling her she was beautiful (which she is) and she refuses to believe it, insisting that the years have not been kind. I thought the new photo of the considerably younger Mrs. Elfman would help her put things into perspective. (My wife’s answer: “I bet those nurses would tell her she’s beautiful too!”)

Here is mermaidmary99’s rescued Comment of the Day on the post, “Ethics Quiz: Celebrity Post Retirement Photos.”


Who judges if it’s unflattering?

My dad would look at [the recent photo] and see a miraculous, beautiful human being with trillions of cells working in perfect intelligence allowing us to see her standing. He’s also would be keenly aware that he too is a miracle, a person with 10 to the 30th power of different viruses inside him, trillions of bacteria and fungi, and cells with 200-8000 mitochondria in each one, working non-stop. Continue reading

“Equity Snowplowing” May Be On Its Way To Boston

This may represent The Great Stupid at its zenith. That’s good news, right? Maybe it can’t get any worse from here. Maybe this means the fever is about to break.

In my old home town (sort of) of Boston, Massachusetts, they were expecting about three feet of snow yesterday. Mayor Michelle Wu, a wildly left wing fanatic who became the celebrated first Asian-American female mayor of the city, thus embodying the Joe Biden Progressive Theory of Merit: race and gender is all you need to be qualified, has signaled that the eternal Boston snow problem might be solved because Tiffany Chu will be her new chief of staff.

Chu is an advocate of “equity snowplowing,” another terrible off-shoot of the court-driven concept of “disparate impact.” She explains her passion this way:

It’s about snow-clearing and if the concept of snow-clearing can be sexist and the answer is, yes, wholeheartedly! In 2012 a number of cities in Sweden adopted a gender-equal plowing strategy where, actually, first pedestrian cycle lanes were cleared, especially near schools and day-care centers and then later on major streets. What they discovered was that [the previous] societal practice actually disadvantaged women because they were the ones who were more likely to walk and travel with children while men who are predominantly working and commuting benefited from those major corridors being plowed first. There was actually a gender equity panel or committee in Sweden where they did some data analysis and discovered that 79% of the pedestrian injuries had occurred during winter. Of that 79%, 69% were women, two-thirds of which were individuals slipping on ice.”

Do I really have to comment on something this self-evidently idiotic and irresponsible? Sidney Wang (above) isn’t enough? Oh, all right…


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