Monday Ethics Review, 2/14/2022: St. Valentine’s Day Edition.

I was going to make a mean comment about St. Valentine being beheaded on this date in 270, but thought better of it. I associate the holiday with nothing but stress and trauma personally, but my mother took it very seriously. Val was beheaded, the story goes, for secretly performing marriages in Rome after the Emperor Claudius II banned the ceremony to keep citizens from using marriage as an excuse no to serve in his army.

The real ethics event of note, which I meant to note yesterday, was the Allied fire-bombing of Dresden in 1945. The “Florence of the Elbe” was reduced to ash and rubble, while about 25,000 Germans died horribly. Yet the attack accomplished little strategically; the Germans were close to surrender, and Dresden contributed little to the war effort. It was the European theater equivalent of dropping the second atom bomb on Nagasaki. The Dresden fire-bombing has been described a war crime as well as an act of pure vengeance, pay-back for the German bombing of Coventry in England. In that 1940 raid, 568 people were killed and another 863 badly injured, but the city was considered a cultural jewel, like Dresden. I have not researched the decision to bomb Dresden in any detail, but it always seemed strange to me that Eisenhower went to such lengths not to destroy priceless artistic treasures toward the end of the war, yet approved this.

  1. Self-promotion Dept. In case there are any New Jersey lawyers reading who would like three hours of ethics credits as painlessly as possible, I’m doing a Zoom legal ethics seminar for the New Jersey bar on the 25th of this month with long-time partner Mike Messer. I write the songs, and he performs them. This is the all-Beatles program I have long wanted to do; each song covers one or more tough legal ethics issues, and they are all among my favorites: “I Saw Her Standing There,” “A Day in the Life,” “Come Together,” “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” “Here, There, and Everywhere,” “Let It Be,” and “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.”

2. Super Bowl note A. I am pleased to say that I paid no attention to the Super Bowl at all this year, and shame be upon anyone who did. The only thing worth mentioning isn’t really about football: many of the celebrities among the crowd of about 70,000 were not wearing masks despite supporting mask mandates in schools and elsewhere. Well, why not? After all, they are special, and the party all of them vote for by reflex has already given them many role models. Among the unmasked were Jennifer Lopez, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Jay-Z, LeBron James and Charlize Theron…as well as California’s governor. The Golden State has a mask mandate, not that applies to anyone but kids and “nobodies.”

“Here’s the video of every celebrity without a mask during the Super Bowl. But every kid in California will have to be wearing them tomorrow in school. They must all be holding their breaths the entire game…One rule for us, another for them!” a widely re-tweeted tweet read.

3. Super Bowl note B. The great break-through this year was supposedly a half-time show consisting exclusively of Hip-Hop, automatically excluding white viewers over the age of 40 (and anyone with taste). Inclusion! Predictably, Eminem “took a knee,” symbolically calling police racists while they are bring picked off in the cities like clay pigeons. The Babylon Bee highlighted the hypocrisy of a bunch of rappers serving as NBC and the NFL’s family entertainment while Joe Rogan was under assault for using the term “nigger” in discussions of racism. A sample of the pointed spoof:

In a move celebrated by social justice leaders around the world, NBC has removed artists Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg from the Super Bowl LVI Halftime show after discovering multiple past recordings of the rappers cavalierly using the n-word.

“We were stunned when these tapes were brought to our attention,” said NBC executive Gil McFasterson. “Snoop and Dre were caught openly throwing this disgusting, offensive term back and forth, referring to each other as ‘my N*****’, and to themselves as ‘two loc’ed out N*****s.’ We even learned that Dr. Dre was once in a music group called N.W.A., which he told us stood for ‘Nerds With Attitude.’ Turns out that was a lie.”

NBC uncovered several recordings, including an entire album from 1992, “The Chronic,” featuring both rappers dropping n-words throughout.

Nicely done.

4. I wonder how we get out of this cycle. They are “mostly-peacefully-protesting” in Minnesota again, because the Black Lives Matter crowd doesn’t wait for investigations or facts; all that matters is that a black man (with a gun this time) was shot by a cop, so by definition it’s racism. A SWAT team executed a no-knock warrant, Amir Locke peaked his head out of some covers on the couch where he had been sleeping, and the gun he was holding was visible. The police didn’t wait for him to shoot them: they shot first.

So far, it appears that the gun was legal, and Locke was in the wrong place at the wrong time: he wasn’t named on the warrant. That doesn’t mean that police were at fault, but now they are talking about defunding police again.

Radley Balko has a helpful analysis of the issues here.

5. A musical celebrating Michael Jackson, his life and his music, except for…well, that. “MJ” opened on Broadway this month. It covers all manner of facets of his life and art, but manages to skip the Diplodocus in the theater: Jackson’s “problem” with young boys. We don’t expect musicals focusing on the achievements of famous people to dwell on the bad stuff—“1776” did not introduce us to Sally Hemmings—but a purported biographical musical that leaves out its subject’s biggest flaw of all is doing more than just being upbeat; it’s being deceptive. Would a Bill Cosby musical be justifiable if it left out his serial raping hobby? The problem “MJ” had was that it needed the permission of the Jackson estate, to which the ethical response from the producers should have been, “Fine. There are plenty of pop music greats who didn’t molest kids.”

6. Update: the mainstream media is still refusing to report the Clinton spying scandal! The Wall Street Journal has an update. I’m waiting for any of those stalwarts who deny that the media is biased to present a justification for the blackout, or an explanation of why this episode doesn’t prove just how unprofessional and unethical the news media is.

7. Related to these posts, we have the Volokh Conspiracy making what I assume is the obviously correct case that the Democratic scheme to disqualify GOP members of Congress using a 14th Amendment provision explicitly aimed at former Confederates is unconstitutional. Like the crack-brained argument the ERA should be viewed as ratified and the bullying of Congresses Parliamentarian for objectively enforcing House rules, it is just stunning to me that Democrats would so flagrantly set out to defy basic established principles of our governance while pointing the finger at others as a “threat to democracy.” [Pointer: Michael Ejercito]

I can’t think of a parallel in our history. Anyone?

Meanwhile, don’t read the comments. There may not be a greater gap on all the web between an erudite and scholarly blog’s content and its bickering, low-brow commenters.

8 thoughts on “Monday Ethics Review, 2/14/2022: St. Valentine’s Day Edition.

  1. Over 75 years ago, ending today, the Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Force struck the German city of Dresden in a series of raids that ultimately involved just shy of 1,300 Flying Fortress and Lancaster bombers and almost 800 P-51 Mustang fighters. The Germans could muster only 28 fighters to oppose them. The city was burned to ashes and probably 25,000 Germans perished. This should have come as no surprise to the Germans, as Berlin was under constant siege from the air and Hamburg and Braunschweig had already been targeted for incendiary raids and mostly destroyed. This was nothing new.

    Nazi Germany was not in a good place. France, Poland, and Czechoslovakia had all been liberated and Fascist Italy was defeated. The Luftwaffe’s last major air offensive had destroyed some Allied planes but cost the Germans twice as many of their own. The Americans could make up the losses with no trouble. The Germans could not even make good on part of theirs. The ill-advised gamble that had resulted in the famous “Bulge” in the Ardennes had been defeated and netted them nothing. Nonetheless, the Allies had yet to enter Germany proper, and the question of just how tough of a fight that would be was still very much an open one. Japan, of course, was still very much an unresolved issue, and, as far as anyone knew, might have to actually be invaded…a year down the road, for which they’d need every soldier, sailor, airman and marine the Allies could muster.

    It was critical that Germany be defeated as quickly as possible, while, hopefully, minimizing losses to the Allies. Like it or not, the way to defeat the enemy in any war is to kill him, break his stuff, and destroy his will to keep going. The Hamburg raids and others had jolted the German will, but not broken it. Dresden contained 110 factories and was a major railway and communications hub. It was also defended and stood right in the way of the Red Army, soon to invade from the east. Any way you slice it, it was a legitimate target.

    I might add that by this time, the Allies knew full well what the Nazis had done in their short reign of power and terror, and most of the British airmen flying remembered what the Germans had done to London, Coventry, etc. This is before we even talk about all the pilots from the occupied nations, who’d fled and were still carrying on the fight, who’d seen their homes and cities destroyed and friends and family fall into the Nazis’ hands. Some wanted to save what they still could. Some wanted justifiable revenge. Almost all of them knew they were facing one of the three most evil regimes ever to blight this world (only the murderous, inhumane Japanese Empire and the homicidal, lying Soviet empire can challenge that reign). They flew off knowing full well what they were doing, and I don’t think many lost a wink’s sleep over it.

    Some, usually devotees of Noam Chomsky or some other revisionist, want to call it a war crime. It would be very easy to scoff and say “Ha! War crime? Ever been in a war?” However, we have to do better than scoffing. The fact of the matter is that the German nation, while it probably didn’t set out to become an empire of institutionalized racism and the genocide and violent destruction of all but those the powers that be approved, let itself be led there. Three generations before Germany had stood astride the world, having beaten Austria soundly, destroyed the Danes on the battlefield, and dethroned France as the premier military power in the world.

    A generation before this it all came crashing down in World War I. Where had it all gone so wrong? If you asked them, I doubt they would say that they shouldn’t have interfered in an otherwise regional conflict between Austria-Hungary and Serbia, or bet against the British coming to the Belgians’ aid, or let their general staff delude themselves into believing they could fight a war on two different fronts and win, or pointed to the example of the American Revolution, where an empire whose power was greater than ANYONE else’s found out the hard way that its power was not greater than EVERYONE else’s, or that after Verdun their officer corps was no longer up to the task due to the huge losses. They would have said that they were doing fine for most of the war, and they only lost because the Jews and the socialists stabbed them in the back, sowed the seeds for mutiny in the High Seas Fleet, fomented labor unrest that stopped them from moving their eastern armies west quick enough after the collapse of Russia, and led to general civil unrest that made continuing the war impossible. They also wouldn’t say that the worldwide depression made for terrible conditions a decade later, instead they would blame the Weimar Republic for not being able to handle the problem.

    No one, and least of all a proud, successful, imperial people, wants to admit they went wrong themselves. They will look for excuses, find someone to blame, whatever it takes to absolve themselves. The Nazis played on this, and the Germans followed, just like children following a pied piper, hoping for a return to those successful days. However, in doing so, they covered their eyes to the crimes taking place around them, and so became their enablers. This was no war crime, but the punishment for a decade and more of piled up crimes.

  2. 5) The problem is that it was never proven and unlike with more recent examples there was no huge flood breaking after the first accusation–there were a few–out of a lot of children that had visited. I’ve gone back and forth with it over the years and I honestly don’t know. I couldn’t be as confident as you are with what Michael Jackson did or didn’t do.

    On the other hand, what he did admit to was messed up and creepy as hell and made me not want to let children near him even if I was sure he wouldn’t touch them.

    Full disclosure, the first concert I ever attended was a Michael Jackson concert.

    Tangental note. Tor’s free book of the month is the “Bundle O’ Love” Which contains All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries) which I mention in case I can get you to finally read All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries) which is an enjoyable–and short–romp.

    So maybe check out All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries)?

    • We know he paid off at least one family handsomely to avoid charges and a lawsuit, but you’re right: lots and lots of smoke, minimal fire. (Historians have unanimously labelled John Paul Jones as a pedophile with less, though.) Jackson was a genius and one of the most electric performers of the last hundred years, just as Cosby was a brilliant ground-breaking comedian. The artist should devalue the art, but the cognitive dissonance scale makes that almost impossible.

  3. It also doesn’t help that the one time he was tried he was acquitted. I also think that the producers of the show might be counting on the fact that 13 years have gone by since he died, so people might see him in a different light. I doubt they do.

  4. Dang. I was hoping to find some amusing bickering and low brow commenters in the comments section and found nothing that enticing. Everything seemed sober and rational. That’s disinformation, Jack.

    As far as holding one’s breath while attending a sporting event unmasked, I don’t understand why LA’s esteemed Mayor Garcetti recieved so much snide flak for his claim regarding the NFC championship game. I, for one, find it perfectly believable that he was holding his breath. I googled it, and it turns out weasles are able to hold their breath for up to 8 minutes.

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