Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/18/19: Complainers, Climate Hysterics, Tiny Tims And Fake News

Good morning!

Good news! You won’t be thinking I’m dead any more, at least not until I am.  The combination of some complicated travel itineraries and the death of my laptop resulted in uncharacteristic interruptions of the dialogue here, twice causing soem readers to speculate on my demise, or at least incapacity. No, it was just that budgetary priorities made replacing the travel computer a bit less urgent than things like a new roof, a car that runs, things like that. Over the weekend I address the computer problem, and not a second too soon, as I will be setting off today on yet another New Jersey odyssey. Paul Morella and I will be presenting editions of our Clarence Darrow legal ethics program for N.J. lawyers in Brunswick and Fairfield,  sandwiched in between about 9 hours of driving, but I should be able to keep the ethics fires burning to some extent. Unless I’m dead, of course. As my fatalistic father liked to say cheerily , driving my morbid mom crazy, “You never know!”

1. God bless them, every one! This is one example of non-traditional casting I agree with: increasing numbers of “A Christmas Carol” productions are casting children with disabilities to play Tiny Tim. I would fight to the death for the right of a fully-able young actor to play the roles, as well as for the right of a director to cast one. However, the show presents such an ideal opportunity for a child who normally might not  have many chances to a play any  role on stage  because of his physical limitations that it seems like a shame to let it pass. I also agree with the directors who opine that having a genuinely challenged Tiny Tim gives some extra oomph to the show.

Is it exploitative? Sure, to some extent. That, however, is show business.

I draw the line, however, at casting Cratchit children who are different races than their parents, making it look like Mrs. Cratchit has been turning tricks to make ends meet, or “Tiny Tina.”

2.  Here’s another kind of “fake news”…Yahoo! News felt that an entire post was necessary to inform the world that the President had screened “Joker” at the White House. Why is this news, or even mildly interesting? It’s a big movie, with lots of buzz. Presidents have screened movies at the White House for decades, usually without comment from the news media. Now, if he had screened the original “Birth of a Nation,” like racist Woodrow Wilson, or “Tusk,” that might be worth a small news item.

Let’s see, what other fake news items (as in thins that don’t qualify as news) are there on Yahoo!? How about “Michelle Obama Looked Incredible in a Yellow Corseted Schiaparelli Gown at the American Portrait Gala”? For some reason, I thought the fawning over Michelle, which as always hyperbolic and excessive, might have abated since she left the White House, after all, the news media quit going bonkers over every Jackie Kennedy ensemble once she wasn’t First Lady any more. Then there’s the matter of the gown Yahoo! is raving about… Continue reading

Veteran’s Day Ethics Warm-Up, 11/11/19: Wishing My Dad Hadn’t Died Before He Figured Out How To Comment On Ethics Alarms…[CORRECTED]

Pop Quiz:

How many military veterans are currently running for President in 2020?

Answer: Two…Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

[Correction notice: I forgot about Pete in the first version of the post. Thanks to Jutgory for the catch, and thanks to Mayor Buttigieg for his service.]

1.  Here’s that “violating democratic norms” Big Lie again. This one was flagged by Ann Althouse (Thanks, Ann!)

U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman,  an appointee of President Bill Clinton,  said in a speech at  the annual Thomas A. Flannery Lecture in Washington, D.C. last week, “We are in unchartered territory. We are witnessing a chief executive who criticizes virtually every judicial decision that doesn’t go his way and denigrates judges who rule against him, sometimes in very personal terms. He seems to view the courts and the justice system as obstacles to be attacked and undermined, not as a coequal branch to be respected even when he disagrees with its decisions.'”

Althouse comments,

How do you get to be a federal judge and think the expression is “unchartered territory”? That’s a written speech too (presumably). Did he visualize some entity that issues charters authorizing people to speak about the courts in a particular way? You don’t need a license to speak in the United States, and to require one would, ironically, violate our norms. The expression is “uncharted territory,” which would simply mean that Trump is venturing into a new area of speech that we haven’t previously explored and therefore have not mapped…Now, I agree with the idea that Trump’s speech about law is unconventional, but what determines that he has violated all recognized democratic norms? It’s often said that the judiciary is the least democratic part of the government, that it’s countermajoritarian. So what are the norms of democracy that say a President should not criticize the courts?! You might just as well call this purported norm a norm of anti-democracy.

Anyway… the weasel word is “recognized.” It takes all the oomph out of “all.” Trump’s speech about judges violates “all recognized democratic norms.” Who are the recognizers? The judges? Judges certainly have a role talking about democratic norms, which are often part of the determination of the scope of the judicial role: Judges refrain from doing what is left to the processes of democracy. But part of democracy is speech about government — which includes the judges — and that speech is not limited to flattering and deferring to them. It does not violate the norms of democracy to criticize and attack judges.

Bingo. And it is because of judges whot say these sorts of things that the President is not unreasonable to accuse the judiciary of  bias. Ann chose not to mention that this was also a “norm” breached by Barack Obama, more than once, but I will, the point not being “everybody does it,” but that to this judge and others, what Obama did was apparently only objectionable when Trump did it too—a common theme in the anti-Trump propaganda of the last three years. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 11/10/2019: Be Warned, I’m In One Of Those “The Morons Are Everywhere, So Why Do I Bother?” Moods…

Hi!

Why is there a picture of a Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich here, you may well ask? It is here because it symbolizes how weird American priorities are. That was last week’s ad. This week, being ignorant of Popeye’s recent promotions, I offered to cheer up my wife, who was not feeling well, by driving up King Street (usually about a 10 minute trip) to the local Popeye’s for some dark meat fried chicken, her favorite.  As soon as I got on King, however, I was in gridlock. It took over a half hour to get to the restaurant, and it’s parking lot was in chaos. It turned out that the whole traffic disaster was being caused by the jam in the Popeyes drive-up line, which spilled into the street. I crawled up past Popeye’s and parked by the 7-11 a block away. Then I walked to Popeye’s—I would be damned if spent all that time in traffic without coming home with my wife’s treat—and the restaurant was packed wall-to wall. I was informed by one customer that the end of the line was out the door. “What’s going on?” I asked. “It’s the chicken sandwich!” he said. “All of this is for a fast-food chicken sandwich?” I asked, incredulous. “Yup!” he said, smiling.

“You’re all idiots,” I said, and left.

More than half of American won;t take the time to vote, or bother to investigate the vital issues and events that are shaping their lives, but they’ll waste hours of their lives to spend $4.50 on a Popeye’s chicken sandwich. Then, presumably, take pictures of it with their smartphones and put them up on Instagram.

1. Dog ownership ethics: Anyone who can’t figure this out on their own shouldn’t have a dog. What a surprise! Researchers have shown that screaming at dogs traumatizes them over the long term, and that love and patience lead to better training results. Science Alert reports that a team biologist Ana Catarina Vieira de Castro of the Universidade do Porto in Portugal tested 42 dogs from dog training schools that used reward-based training, and 50 dogs from aversion training schools. The dogs trained  with shouting and leash-jerking were more stressed, indicated by higher levels of cortisol in their saliva.

“Our results show that companion dogs trained using aversive-based methods experienced poorer welfare as compared to companion dogs trained using reward-based methods, at both the short- and the long-term level,” the researchers write in the paper published by biology news service bioRxiv.

Duh. Routinely shouting at dogs is animal cruelty. Our sensitive English Mastiff Patience would hide under the sink in one of our bathrooms any time anyone in the house raised his or her voice to anyone. If my wife and I argued, we had to coax Patience out by hugging each other as she watched.

2. Is the 2020 election a mass “Bias makes you stupid” experiment? Two  terrible  (and unelectable) potential candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg and even worse, Obama “wingman” Eric Holder, are reportedly exploring joining the still-crowded field. Why? They recognize that none of the current candidates look like they can attract broad-based support from Democrats, much less the rest of the electorate. A short way of describing this phenomenon is to say that if either Bloomberg or Holder are an improvement over the current crop of socialists, totalitarians and septuagenarians vying to run against President Trump, the Democrats are in big trouble.

A week ago, a New Times/Siena poll showed President Trump highly competitive in the six closest states carried by the President in ’16. The New York Times’ Nate Cohn wrote about it, and didn’t sugar coat the message: even with a 24-7 news cycle bashing the President on all fronts, and even with the impeachment push giving Democrats the opportunity to soak the public’s brain with denigrating quotes, President Trump still looks like a formidable opponent.

Well, of course he is, and it should be obvious to all why. Yet Ann Althouse, who flagged the article, posted the two highest  comments to the revelation from Times readers:

This is the most depressing article I’ve read in a while. The idea of a second Trump term is literally terrifying. Who are these people that like him? How can it be? Fox News, owned by a soulless Australian, is destroying this once great country.

Second highest:

I simply cannot fathom this. How is this even possible? Also I live in Michigan and my sense is that Trump is deeply unpopular here. Are these polls using the same techniques that were used to predict a 97% chance of victory for Hillary? Perhaps the polls are wrong? I sincerely hope so because the alternative is unthinkable.

Wow! How cocooned does one have to be in Leftist echo chambers, false narratives, fake news. conventional wisdom, “resistance” talking points and Big Lies to write things like this for public consumption? If reality is that far from permeating the biases of such people—-after three years of a mass effort to effectively disenfranchise citizens who rebelled against the media-progressive bullying of the Obama years and the blatant dishonesty and corruption of the Clinton candidacy—-they must be permanently damaged. Continue reading

A Case Study In Dog Breed Libel

With 331 comments and still active, my 2015  post about the anti-pit bull site “Dogsbite.org” features the longest-running debate on Ethics Alarms. It isn’t much of a debate, really: on one side are people who know something about dogs and understand that the hysteria over “pit bulls”—really several breeds that dog-ignoramuses lump together–is utter, destructive, cruel nonsense, and opposing them are the hysterics, who give a vivid example of the brain malady defined by the statement, “My mind’s made up, don’t confuse me with facts!” with every comment.

As explained in multiple EA articles, one of the primary reasons people who aren’t paying attention think there is a deadly monster dog called “the pit bull” is that police and journalists so frequently misidentify the breed of dogs involved in attacks on humans. Amazing as it seems to those of us who love dogs, most people have minimal knowledge about dog breeds: they call any large or strong dog with short hair and a broad muzzle a “pit bull,” including boxers, American bulldogs, and Mastiffs, as well as mixed breeds and mongrels. As I have related here before, my first Jack Russell Terrier, the kid-loving Dickens, terrified a woman when he was a seven pound puppy by happily bounding up to her toddler in the park. She scooped up the child as if death were imminent and started screaming, “IT’S A PIT BULL!!!!” I replied in kind with “YOU”RE A MORON!!!!” She was, sadly, more typical than not.

In today’s news is a revealing story of breed misidentification that, interestingly, does not involve defamation of pit bull breeds and what I refer to as dog racism. It’s  a nice change from the norm: for once, at least, another breed is being falsely blamed for an attack.

“Woman Mauled To Death By Great Danes In Ohio” is a typical headline about the death of Elayne Stanley, mother of three. Her ex-husband told reporters that the dogs had always been vicious, and that he “never wanted to have Great Danes.” Well, he didn’t have Great Danes. The two dogs involved in the attack are pictured above. They are obviously mixes, and not even mixes of the the same breeds. One appears to be some kind of St. Bernard mongrel, and the other looks like a Dogue de Bordeaux mix, the variety of mastiff that starred in Disney’s “Turner and Hooch.”

This is an uncropped Great Dane:

Oh, never mind: Great Danes, pit bulls, what’s the difference? Dogs don’t sue for slander and libel, and lazy journalists don’t think that properly identifying the dog breed in an attack is important, just as they usually don’t care why an attack occurred (most of the time they involve abuse or negligence of the dogs, and, as in this case,  pack behavior). Great Danes are among the gentlest of breeds, but any breed can be dangerous under certain conditions.  For example, here is a September story about a woman mauled to death by her coonhounds (another gentle breed) in New York—if they were coonhounds, You simply cannot trust these stories. If those dogs in the Ohio attack can be called Great Danes, then those coonhounds might be poodles.

Sunday Ethics Fallback, 11/3/2019: Poisoning Children For Their Own Good, And Other Alarming Developments

Whatever time it is…

1. Not exactly a shock, but we now know Ruth Bader Ginsburg lied in her 1993 Senate confirmation hearings. At a Georgetown Law Center event last week featuring both Clintons and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Bill Clinton told the audience that he queried the Justice-to- be about Roe v. Wade before nominating her to the Supreme Court in 1993:

[Ginsburg] knew this perfectly well, that I was under a lot of pressure to make sure I appointed someone who was simon-pure, which I had said I thought was important. But I was fascinated by a—either an article I had read or something I had read on Justice Ginsburg saying that she supported the result in Roe v. Wade but thought Justice Blackmun should have decided the case on the equal protection clause not the right to privacy. And I asked her the question and she talked about it just as if it was any other issue, no affect: “This is what I think, this is why I think it,” and she made a heck of a case.

That’s odd, because one of the written questions she responded to in the process was…

Has anyone involved in the process of selecting you as a judicial nominee (including but not limited to a member of the White House staff, the Justice Department, or the Senate or its staff) discussed with you any specific case, legal issue or question in a manner that could reasonably be interpreted as seeking any express or implied assurances concerning your position on such case, issue, or question? If so, please explain fully.

And the now-revered Ginsburg replied,

It is inappropriate, in my judgment, to seek from any nominee for judicial office assurance on how that individual would rule in a future case. That judgment was shared by those involved in the process of selecting me. No such person discussed with me any specific case, legal issue or question in a manner that could reasonably be interpreted as seeking any express or implied assurances concerning my position on such case, issue, or question.

Yet the former President directly contradicted this, in Justice Ginsberg’s presence.

2. Further lives unborn ethics notes: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/1/2019: “30 Days Hath September” Appreciation Edition

Welcome October!

 I knew the date without having to check..for once.

Time to express my gratitude to the anonymous composer of the days of the month mnemonic, which I still literally have to sing in my head several times a year.

The earliest English version of the  verse has been traced to approximately 1425. It seems that the initial rhyme began with “Thirty days hath November,” not September, but by the time the little verse was first published in English, in  1562, September had taken over the top spot, and there it has remained. Wikipedia’s entry notes that “it is probably the only sixteenth-century poem most ordinary citizens know by heart.”

1. But by all means, it’s irresponsible to have Rudy Giuliani as a guest on a news program…CNN’s fake media ethics watchdog thought it was appropriate to have Robert De Niro as a guest on his CNN show over the weekend. Why is an uneducated, loud mouth, vulgar actor an appropriate guest? It is because he is guaranteed to delight the Trump Deranged with sophisticated commentary like he treated America with when he appeared at the 2018 Tony Awards, shouting, “I’m just going to say one thing. Fuck Trump! It’s no longer ‘Down with Trump.’ It’s ‘fuck Trump!’”

De Niro never graduated from high school, and has fewer credentials to expound on public policy matters than the average American you could identify by throwing a rock into a crowd blindfolded,. He has repeatedly shattered basic standards of public decorum by going into angry, vulgar, non-substantive rants against the President when invited to stand behind a podium or in front of a microphone. So, naturally, he was a perfect guest for Stelter’s show, and, also naturally, he said, in the course of opining that the President and his supporters were “gangsters” and “crazy” and that “This guy should not be president, period, ““F​uck ‘em. Fuck ‘em!”

A voice from off-set could be heard yelling “Woahhhh!”After all, who could have possibly predicted that the actor would behave on CNN when discussing the President exactly as he has been behaving for years? “This is cable, so it’s not an FCC violation, but it still is a Sunday morning,”  Stelter commented, weasel-like as usual.

Yes, it’s Sunday morning, and you invited a guest who habitually shouts versions of “Fuck Trump!’ in public places while being televised, because you know your audience wants to hear someone say “Fuck Trump.” Continue reading

Australia Goes Right Past Nanny State To Dog-Walker State

The new Australia law’s sponsors…

And all you thought they would do to stomp on individual rights  was to take away everyone’s guns! No, that was signature significance, you see. A state that decides that it, and not its citizens, should decide how they get to protect themselves is not going to stop with that. As Clarence Darrow said in the Scopes Trial, “Fanatacism is ever busy and needs feeding.  Always it is feeding and gloating for more.”

Down Under they just passed something called the the Animal Welfare Legislation Amendment Bill. Among its provisions is one that holds that dog owners can face heavy  fines if they keep their dog confined for 24 hours. Unless they then allow the dog to  “move freely” for the next two hours or face prosecution. That’s just a sample, however: the Australian Capital Territory’s new law says…

A person in charge of an animal commits an offence if the person fails to give the animal —

  • (a) appropriate food; or
  • appropriate water;
  • appropriate treatment for illness, disease or injury; or
  • appropriate shelter or accommodation; or
  • a clean and hygienic living environment; or
  • appropriate grooming and maintenance; or
  • appropriate exercise; or
  • appropriate opportunities to display behaviour that is normal for  the animal; or
  • care that is appropriate for the animal’s well-being.

No vagueness there! Maximum penalties include heavy fines , imprisonment for up to a year, or both. The territory is the first jurisdiction in Australia to recognize animal sentience, which apparently means the legislators let dogs write the legislation. Not smart dogs, either. Basset Hounds maybe. Irish setters.

Here are the particulars on dog-walking: Continue reading