Sunset Ethics Round-Up, 2/2/2021: The Narrative That Refuses To Die, The Weenie Who Whines From A Safe Distance, And Other Tales

setting sun

Pop quiz! What’s the significance of the photo above?

It’s official: last month, February 2021 was the worst in Ethics Alarms traffic in five years, and last week was the worst non-holiday week in longer than that. I am at a loss to explain it, and I am going to stop obsessing about it. The comments are among the best and most erudite on the web, and I am confident that the quality and variety of content remains as high as ever.

1. Never give up that narrative! Over the weekend the Times had a puzzling news article telling us that the FBI had “zeroed in” on a suspect in the death of Brian Sicknick, the Capitol police officer who was falsely and repeatedly cited by mainstream media sources and the Trump prosecution in the impeachment trial as being “killed” in the riot or by rioters. The great discovery was that of a video showing someone in the crowd spraying pepper spray or bear spray on officers during the melee. However, as the article itself states, neither irritant is known to be fatal, and both the officers and the crazies were using it that day. Sicknick died of a stroke after the riot, and no link between his death and what occurred while he was trying to control the crowd has been established.

The usual course is to first establish that there has been a homicide, then to look for suspects. “Let’s see if we can pin this on someone” is not considered ethical. I predict that no one will be prosecuted for Sicknick’s death—not ethically, anyway.

2. Speaking of predictions: In yesterday’s post about Governor Cuomo’s apology, I wrote,

[T]he acid test for sexual harassment (and worse) is whether there are additional victims who come forward after the first one breaks the silence. Cuomo is now up to two. It’s a safe bet there are more.

Yesterday a third accuser came forward. Three usually is the tipping point at which even the most protective mainstream media hacks will finally turn on a Democrat. For example, I doubt that Justin Fairfax, the Lt Governor of Virginia, would have survived three rape accusers, but he’s a black Democrat, so the formula is a bit different. The Babylon Bee has it exactly right. Meanwhile, Jim Treacher writes,

Late night liberal “comedians” are finally jumping on the bandwagon to criticize formerly beloved New York governor, Andrew Cuomo. Taking the media’s lead, “Late Show” host Stephen Colbert suddenly found the scandal-embroiled Democrat was an easy target, after several women came forward alleging sexual harassment from the governor.

On his Monday night show, Colbert spent roughly three minutes mocking Cuomo as an “old man” pervert for his alleged creepy comments and behavior towards young women. This after, he spent 2020 grossly promoting the Democrat’s leadership and sex appeal.

These are awful people. They were prepared to ignore the thousands of nursing home deaths Cuomo caused and covered up while praising him as a brilliant pandemic leader (unlike President Trump.) Indulging in the kind of sexual harassment and assault that Joe Biden engaged in regularly while cameras were shooting is too much to bear, however. Now Cuomo is a monster.

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Ethics Dunce: Plastic Surgeon Dr. Costanza, I Mean Scott Green

Dr. Scott Green, a plastic surgeon, tried to appear before a judge during a remote video-conferenced traffic trial last week from his operating room, while he was working on a patient. This was not a reality show stunt: Green really attempted to do this. Saved time, you know. Busy, busy, busy. Sacramento Superior Court Commissioner Gary Link, presiding over a virtual courtroom at the Carol Miller Justice Center, couldn’t believe what he was seeing: a defendant in surgical scrubs, with his patient just out of view.

“Hello, Mr. Green? Are you available for trial?” asked a courtroom clerk. “It kind of looks like you’re in an operating room right now?” “I am, sir,” Green replied. “Yes, I’m in an operating room right now. I’m available for trial. Go right ahead.” The doctor had his head down, talking as he replaced a nose, pumped up some breasts, or something. Link was dumbstruck.

“So unless I’m mistaken, I’m seeing a defendant that’s in the middle of an operating room appearing to be actively engaged in providing services to a patient. Is that correct, Mr. Green? Or should I say Dr. Green?” Link asked. The video is on YouTube, and one can hear the sounds of medical devices at work, pumping and beeping.

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Regarding Governor Cuomo’s Apology…

Schodengers douchbag

[I’ve been looking for a chance to use this expression for a while. It derives from the quantum mechanics paradox called Schrödinger’s Cat in which a hypothetical cat in a closed box may be considered simultaneously both alive and dead as a result of being linked to a contingent subatomic event that may or may not occur. I’ve really never understood the cat, but Schrödinger’s Douchebag I get.]

He was cornered, so the Governor of New York, already being buffeted by one serious scandal, decided to try to talk his way out of another one. Two staffers have gone on the record to accuse him of sexual harassment, and one of them related two instance of sexual assault (a kiss and a stroke on the legs). The Gov’s initial vague denials didn’t work, so yesterday the falling Democratic star tried a sort-of apology. Here is the statement:

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When Factcheckers Go Bad…

foot in mouth Xray

Here’s the First Law of Factcheckers: “Never make a public statement that shows you haven’t checked the facts.”

Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post’s longtime factchecker, broke that law today, and spectacularly.

After former President Trump chided Biden for not opening the schools by saying in his CPAC speech today,

“America’s children must get back in the classroom, and they must get back now. Joe Biden’s anti-science approach sold out America’s children to the teacher’s unions.”

Kessler, who is actually called “The Factchecker” by his paper, tweeted,

Kessler tweet

January 28? That would be Joe Biden, Ace.

The significance of this lazy, Twitter-driven botch is that Kessler is eager  and inclined to find fault with what Donald Trump says or does, and primed to protect Democrats, like Joe Biden. But we knew that, did we not?

Bias makes you stupid; Twitter makes you stupid. Bias and Twitter make you incredibly stupid.

Why should anyone trust Kessler’s objectivity and professionalism after this?

Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/27/2021: Confusion And Irony

Doomscrolling” is a relatively new term to describe the habit of constantly checking one’s smartphone for bad news. Jeffrey Hall, professor of communication studies at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, has spent over 10 years studying technology use in conjunction with relationships. He says that the mass media is intentionally triggering the habit:

“People tend to have what’s called negativity bias when it comes to information. From an evolutionary perspective, it’s related to the idea that we needed to be more alert to threats. If things are not particularly surprising, we can reside in a very low energy state, but as soon as we see something that’s potentially threatening or worrisome, it piques our attention. The algorithms are picking up on what we engage in, and our attentive processes tend to focus on the more negative information….”

The professor recommends filtering social media as a remedy:

“You can also take active steps to recognize if there are people who are a part of your social network that seem to be fueling your sense of doom and gloom. You may want to consider unsubscribing or muting them. People are very loath to actually unfriend or stop following a person altogether. However, there are ways to not get that content. Oftentimes we’re very upset about content we see, but we don’t do anything to change what we see.”

I dunno, professor! The people on Facebook seem to revel in shared, if imaginary, gloom and doom. Most of them “muted” me when I pointed out that the false narratives about the President being some kind of a traitorous Nazi racist monster trying to end American democracy were media-driven, partisan scams. That should have been good news, and it happened to be true. Instead, my Facebook friends crawled back into their comforting imaginary crisis bubble and, from what I can see, virtually no one there reads any EA posts that I put up. Trump Derangement was (in fact, is) a fad, a pastime, and sort of a club that eventually metastasized into a mindless mob.

1. On the question of canceling artists of bad character…A note that on this date in 1936 Shirley Temple, who was all of seven years old, signed a deal paying her almost a million dollars per picture in today’s currency reminded me of this horrible story: when Shirley was an attractive teen seeking to transition away from child roles, she met with MGM’s legendary movie musical chief, Arthur Freed. He exposed himself at the interview, and Shirley’s mother decreed that she would have no further dealings with MGM.

First, how sick to you have to be to expose yourself to Shirley Temple (the term “scumbag” comes to mind)? Second, would that justify refusing to watch and enjoy all of the classic musicals he was responsible for at the studio, like “Singing in the Rain,” “The Bandwagon,” “Wizard of Oz,” “Gigi,” the Mickey and Judy films, “Meet Me in St. Louis,” and many more? How about all of the songs he wrote, including the ones used in “Singing’ in the Rain”? I love that movie, but it is presented as a celebration of Arthur Freed, as is another favorite, “That’s Entertainment!” And the guy exposed himself to Shirley Temple!!!

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In Which I Am Admonished For A Slur, And Am Unapologetic

Former US senator John Edwards speaks 30

An episode today raised echos of a couple of Ethics Alarms topics this week, such as incivility and the use of uncomplimentary words.

Today’s presentation of the musical legal ethics seminar “Ethics Rock 2021” began with my partner Mike Messer singing “Ethics Man,” a parody of Billy Joel’s classic “Piano Man.” It was about the tenth version of that wonderfully adaptable song that I have written. This was today’s chorus (it’s usually a sing-along, but not on Zoom):

Sing us the Rules, you’re the ethics man!
Sing us the Rules today!
We’re stuck in an ethics dilemma here
And it’s your job to show us the way!

I had returned an old verse to this installment because I felt the issue of character and the fitness to practice law was an especially relevant topic. The verse was first written shortly after the John Edwards scandal was exposed.. Edwards, as you may know, never faced any professional discipline from the North Carolina bar despite what I have been told were thousands of complaints, though none were related to his legal practice…

Now John, he was running for President
While running around on his wife
And he fathered a daughter and lied like a rotter
Constructing the scam of his life.
But some lawyers say, “Hey, all that’s personal!
He isn’t unworthy of trust!
Like that guy with the huge student loan he owes
So his bar application’s a bust.”

The last part was a reference to Robert Bowman, a hard-working, honorable law grad denied membership in the New York bar for years because his student loan debt had ballooned due to no fault of his own. (He was eventually admitted.) Bowman was found to lack the character to practice law, while Edwards was (and is) still officially a lawyer in “good standing.” This is a sore point for me; I have said many times that I wouldn’t trust Edwards to mail my water bill, and for the profession to assert that he has the “moral character” to practice law is not just a double standard but a ridiculous one.

Somewhere in my riff on Edwards versus Bowman I used the term “scumbag” to describe the former Senator, and quickly got a message from one of the participants claiming that it was “inappropriate” to refer to Edwards with that slur.

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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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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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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.


George Washington’s Birthday Ethics Warm-Up, 2/22/21: Happy Birthday, George! We’re Sorry Your Country Has Become Populated With So Many Ignorant, Ungrateful Fools…

portrait_of_george_washington

If there is any American whose birthday should be a national holiday, it is George Washington, born this day in 1732 in Westmoreland County, Virginia, the first of six children of Augustine and Mary Ball Washington. If I have to tell you the reasons he was “the essential man” in American history, well, I guess you’re the product of our current public school system, a recent college graduate, a Democrat, a Black Lives Matter enthusiast, or something. There is no rational excuse for every American, yes, even African-Americans, to not be grateful for this day. Martin Luther King is now the only individual to have a national holiday dedicated to his honor, while Washington’s memory was dumped into a hodge-podge of lesser figures including Franklin Pierce, William Henry Harrison and now, Donald Trump. King is worthy of his day, but to honor King over Washington is as good an example of “putting the cart before the horse” as one could find. Shame on us. True, George is not lacking honors, with the capital city named for him, a towering monument, cities and towns in many states, Mt. Rushmore, and his image on both the most-used bill and coin. Nonetheless he earned all of it, and this date should be a holiday.

On The Ethics Alarms home page, you will see to your right a link to the list of ethical habits some historians believe made Washington the remarkably trustworthy and ethical man he was, ultimately leading his fellow Founders to choose him, and not one the many more brilliant, learned and accomplished among them, to take on the crucial challenge of creating the American Presidency. Directed to do so by his father, young Washington copied out by hand and committed to memory a list called “110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.”  It was  based on a document compiled by French Jesuits in 1595; neither the authors nor the English translator and adapter are known today. The elder Washington was following the teachings of Aristotle—another Dead White Man whom most Americans alive today couldn’t tell you Jack S-word about— who held that principles and values began as being externally imposed by authority (morals) and eventually became internalized as character. As I wrote when I first posted them here,

The theory certainly worked with George Washington. Those ethics alarms installed by his father stayed in working order throughout his life. It was said that Washington was known to quote the rules when appropriate, and never forgot them. They did not teach him to be a gifted leader he became, but they helped to make him a trustworthy one.

Would that readers would access that list more often. And politicians. And lawyers. And educators…

1. How ignorant and ungrateful? THIS ignorant and ungrateful

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