Shameless Self-Promotion Dept.: My Upcoming Smithsonian Program on Cross-Examination

I don’t know how many Ethics Alarms readers live in the vicinity of Washington, D.C.—I suspect quite a few—but if you do and are interested in seeing me and my sister present a lively two-hour program exploring many of the legal ethics issues that I have tackled here, along with plenty of history, popular culture and trial technique (and are willing to pay $45 for the privilege as well as some take-home materials),  maybe I can meet you on the evening of October 21st.

The event is called “Courtroom Drama: The Art of Cross-Examination,” and here’s description: Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Month: Actor Peter Fonda (1940-2019)

“I believe that one is only truly free when learning, and one can only learn when one is free.”

—-Actor Peter Fonda, Henry’s son, Jane’s brother, and Bridget’s father, who died yesterday.

Memorable ethics quotes come from unexpected places sometimes, and this is a striking example. It’s also important, wise and true. I have never heard or read of anyone putting that thought quite that way.

Fonda’s observation focuses nicely on the roots of today’s existential cultural peril. A vast segment of the population has grown to adulthood with insufficient or defective knowledge, making them easy prey for power-seekers, demagogues and charlatans peddling theories and nostrums that a basic comprehension of history would instantly undermine. Instead of being imbued by their teachers and parents with intellectual curiosity, a healthy and intrinsically American suspicion of authority, and a reluctance to follow mobs of any kind, they lack the intellectual defenses to fend off ideological cant, the most dangerous of which holds that society will only be made virtuous by the unthinking acceptance of approved doctrine. That requires locking in dogma early, and creating a public that is inoculated against learning by being cut off from non-conforming information. Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Week: San Francisco School Board Member Alison M. Collins

“This is not history; it is a remnant from a bygone era.”

—–San Francisco School Board Member Alison M. Collins, expounding to the New York Times and expressing her displeasure with the school board’s vote to nullified an earlier vote to spend over $600,000 to paint over Depression-era school murals depicting slavery and the deaths of Native Americans.

I love this unethical quote; it might be my favorite of all the unethical quotes Ethics Alarms has ever featured. It tells us so much in so few words.

Ethics Alarms wrote about the school board’s earlier vote that this one, for now, at least, undid, last June, noting,

The San Francisco school board unanimously voted this week  to spend at least $600,000 of taxpayer money to eliminate the  “Life of Washington,” a 13-panel, 1,600-square-foot mural that has been on view in the  city’s George Washington High School since 1936. It was considered politically incorrect at the time, but in a way that explicated American history rather than whitewashing it.  Among the mural’s many scenes is one depicting slaves picking cotton at Mount Vernon and Virginia colonists walking past a dead Native American.  The Horror. Although these scenes are historically accurate as well as provocative, “The truth will make you free” has been substantially abandoned by the Left in the U.S. Taking their cues from the dead and rotten Soviet Union and “1984”,  the new slogan is George Orwell’s “Who controls the past controls the future.”

Ms. Collins’ classic quote perfectly expresses how her city, her party and her ideological clones reached the state of delusion and the worship of manipulated reality (remember, the Democratic Party’s leading contender for the White House “gaffed” by admitting last week that “we choose about truth, not facts”) that have so many of our political leaders flirting openly with totalitarianism.

The idea is to prevent young citizens (and older ones too) from acquiring the kind of messy information that requires critical thought to sort out, the information known as “history”and “life.”Without forceful filtering, people of sound and open minds are liable to reach conclusions that don’t advance those of the ascendant (they think) re-engineers of American values and culture. Those poisoned by the past and traditional American values  might be willing to treat  with fairness and respect, rather than contempt and abuse, those who hold non-conforming, non-woke positions and policies. They might tolerate the rebels and iconoclasts who refuse to follow in lock-step their betters of superior virtue and wisdom . Continue reading

(I Admit It: I Can’t Resist….) Poll: Bill Clinton In A Blue Dress

The portrait above, which once seen, cannot be unseen, reportedly was hanging in the late Jeffrey Epstein’s mansion in Manhattan. Clinton, as well know be now, hung out with the infamous sexual predator more times than is good for his reputation.

Now this. So far, no mainstream media source has covered the weird episode. Few websites have either. Call me crazy, but I find it difficult to believe that if an equivalent portrait was found hanging in Epstein’s lair with the subject being Donald Trump or George W. Bush, CNN, MSNBC, the Times and the Post would be all over the story, snickering, speculating and asking questions. I assume that the Democratic candidates for President would be doing so too, noting that this was one more example of what an embarrassment the President was, that it hinted of his suspicious involvement with the sex offender, and that it proved how “unfit” he was to sit in the Oval Office.

On conservative blogs, several commenters have asked whether any reporter will have the fortitude to ask Bill of Hillary about the monstrosity. Don’t they have a duty to at least ask? What could the painting possibly mean?

I’ll be interested in the response to this poll, the topic of which is journalism ethics and double standards…

“Fredo” Ethics And Chris Cuomo

 

In case you too missed this enjoyable and revealing story, Chris Cuomo, the CNN anchor with a former New York governor father and a current New York governor brother,  erupted into a string of fucks and fuckings (I’ll fucking ruin your shit. I’ll fucking throw you down these stairs like a fucking punk!”), other insults, and also threatened  to throw a man down some stairs after he called Cuomo “Fredo.”

One of the lessons of this incident is that you can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time when everything you do in public is likely to be captured by a smartphone. The fact that Cuomo, who works in the news media,  has yet to grasp that principle is one more bit of evidence in a long, long convincing chain that the nickname “Fredo” is apt.

The incompetence, arrogance, ignorance and bias of Cris Cuomo is what finally drove me away from CNN as my early morning news source. The horrible, smirking Carol Costello couldn’t do it, as openly partisan and obnoxious about it as she was. At least Carol had some apparent intelligence and arguable qualifications for being a newsreader. Cuomo’s “qualifications” are only that he’s what passes for beefcake in the news business, had a famous father and has a powerful brother. I would say that his law degree is a qualification, except that he has proven repeatedly that something funny was going on with that, because he has tweeted out and recited many howlers that no real lawyer or D+ law student would ever think, much less broadcast.

Here’s the Ethics Alarms Chis Cuomo file. Here are representative excerpts from my commentary on Cuomo’s various adventures in idiocy:

  • May29, 2019: “We know—there is no doubt about this, and Ethics Alarms has documented the fact—that Cuomo is really, truly, a dolt. He is the poster child for affirmative action for celebrity and politician offspring. An alleged lawyer, his every other reference to the law is incorrect. …He is the perfect example of that horrible species, the stupid person who thinks he’s smart. CNN keeps him employed because 1) he’s cute, 2) he seems to be a nice guy, and 3) he’s a typical knee-jerk progressive. Reading his twitter feed is profoundly depressing. He is at once glib, earnest, and incoherent.”
  • August 18, 2018: “CNN cannot be taken seriously as a news organization as long as it continues to employ Chris Cuomo. I have concluded that Cuomo was only admitted to law school because his father was a popular governor of New York. No other explanation makes sense. Even after allegedly completing his three years, he doesn’t comprehend basic law or the Constitution. He has, for example, advanced public ignorance by stating that “hate speech” is not protested under the First Amendment. On another occasion, he said that it would be illegal for citizens to read leaked classified material available on the web, but that journalists could read it and then tell the public about it. The man is an idiot. He constantly utters legal and logical nonsense, and with the certitude that only a true idiot can muster. As a journalist he is biased and sloppy; as a pundit he is pompous and unqualified.”

You get the idea. Apparently Rush Limbaugh has adopted the habit of referring to Chris Cuomo as “Fredo” as if that were really his name. That sounds like Rush. The man who was the target of Cuomo’s tirade swears that he really thought that was Cuomo’s name—he is a loyal Limbaugh listener—and tells Chris that on the video. I believe him; there are people named Alfredo who go by the nickname “Fredo”; I worked with one a long time ago. Obviously the “Godfather” movies have made the name less popular.  The claim still isn’t so farfetched,  and if Cuomo was the nice guy he’s supposed to be—I retract that statement, incidentally—he would have given the stranger the benefit of the doubt.

Even while blowing his top, Cuomo couldn’t avoid spreading disinformation—it’s what CNN journalists do, after all— claiming that “Fredo” was an ethnic slur, like calling an African-American a “nigger.” Right. When did THAT happen? I think Chris may believe this  so he doesn’t have to process the real reason he’s called “Fredo”—like the pathetic John Cazale character, he’s weak and stupid, doesn’t know it, and demands respect.

Poor Fredo. Poor Chris.

The outburst tells me that Chris is beset with feelings of inferiority from a lifetime of being compared to his father and brother, and “Fredo” strikes a nerve. Would any self-confident, genuinely competent and intelligent professional react so violently to being called “Fredo”? In my family, evoking Fredo and his “I’m smart!” lament is a running joke, and it’s funny because there are no Fredos among the Marshalls. (My mother’s family was another story…)

Some random points: Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Catch-Up, 8/11/2019: Cape Cod Dreams And Nightmare Jerks

Sigh.

This would be the week that my dad typically took his vacation. At this moment, when I was 10, I would be on a beach in Dennisport on the Cape, sampling the sandwiches my mother packed,  sitting in bathing trunks on my father’s army blanket that he carried all over Europe during the war, and listening to Curt Gowdy describe the Red Sox game on mt transistor radio  . Nothing could have been farther from my mind than ethics. Those were the days…

1. Once again, 7-11 ethics in Alexandria, VA.. I’ve written about several ethics encounters at my  local convenience store. This time I was patiently waiting for a space to open up (eventually I am going to tell one of the jerks who have finished their errands and sit in the space texting and surfing on their smart phones while others are desperately seeking parking spaces that he or she is an antisocial blight on the community) when a car backed out almost in front of my vehicle. before I could slide in around him from the right, an SUV that just entered the parking lost quickly moved into the space. The driver had seen me; he just did it because he could. As the young black male moved toward  the store, I got out of my car and shouted: “Classy. You knew I was waiting for the space, and you jumped in ahead of me anyway. You’re an asshole.”

Two thirty-something African American women exited the car in the space next to the one I have just lost. “Sir?” one said. “My girl friend just said exactly what you did. He is an asshole. Some black men just don’t care abut anybody, and I can say that, because I’m black. It really pisses me off. Look—take my space. I can park across the street. Please.” I told her that really wasn’t necessary, but she insisted.

My wife came back to the car after she had purchased the items we came for, and as we drove away, I could see the Good Samaritan giving hell to the young man who had snatched my space.

2. Hollywood ethics, confused as usual. Universal is temporarily cancelling the release of “The Hunt,” an R-rated satire in which progressive elites hunt “deplorables” for fun.  The film was scheduled to open in September. The reason for the cancellation was apparently the recent mass shootings. “While Universal Pictures had already paused the marketing campaign for “The Hunt,” after thoughtful consideration, the studio has decided to cancel our plans to release the film,” the studio said in yesterday’s statement. “We stand by our filmmakers and will continue to distribute films in partnership with bold and visionary creators, like those associated with this satirical social thriller, but we understand that now is not the right time to release this film.”

Interesting question: what is the “right time” to release a film like that? The answer, I would think is either “never,” or “now is as good a time as any.” It’s an ugly, tasteless, offensive idea for a film, but Ethics Alarms will defend to the death Hollywood’s right to make ugly, tasteless, offensive films. On the other hand, maybe releasing this film while the antifa is roaming the fruited plains and Democrats are encouraging people to harass and attack anyone wearing a MAGA cap is a tiny bit irresponsible. On the other hand—there I am with three hands again—if we are going to go down the road of speculating what bad behavior movies and TV might trigger, we’ll end up with Care Bears, Smurfs, and not much else. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/10/19: Insomnia Edition

Jeez, what time is it?

This stuff  kept me awake, gave me nightmares, or made me wish I was dreaming. Started this post before 5 am…

1. Idiotic meme of the week:

A lawyer friend whom I can vouch for having a brain actually posted this thing, apparently approvingly. In zombie movies, the equivalent is when a previously normal friend suddenly bites off your nose. Jules Suzdaltsev is hard left progressive journalist whose background is in film and psychology, and would be a fine example for teaching purposes of what someone sounds like who is so far on one side of the ideological spectrum that he is incapable of finding the center. He’s an ideologue and a Leftist incapable of objective analysis or non-compliant thought, who was steeped for seven years in the  rarefied politics of San Francisco, and who tweets deliberate misrepresentations like “There have been more MASS SHOOTINGS in 2019 than there have been DAYS in 2019” and such cliched “resistance” bile like “Hey do you guys remember when the generation that grew up breathing lead fumes ended up voting for this guy as President?”

The scary thing is not Suzdaltsev—he’s a professional left-wing echo chamber provocateur, and good luck to him, glad he has a career. The scary thing is that lawyers, trained in critical thought, can reach the point where they find extremist agitprop persuasive. Society relies on educated, trained professionals to steer us clear of such rot, not to embrace it. The 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck has seen one professional group after another abandon this duty for mob-pleasing expediency.

And how can someone post a statement that Bernie and Warren are barely left-of-center as anything but satire?

2. Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide, hanging himself in his cell. This was gross incompetence by the New York City jail, as well as federal authorities. If there ever was a prisoner who was a candidate for suicide (or murder), Epstein was it. He needed to be on a round-the-clock suicide watch. Epstein was allowed to cheat the justice system and his victims. He is now officially innocent of the crimes he was charged with.

Aside from all that, good. The world is better place without him in it. Continue reading