Not Protesters, Just A Mob

Giving a mob the dignity and legitimacy of referring to them as “protesters” just encourages them. A prime example occurred two days ago in New Haven, at the traditional Harvard-Yale game, the culmination of the Ivy League college football season. Personally, I wouldn’t have crossed the street to attend the 136th edition of “The Game,” though I witnessed the most famous of the them all, 1968’s 29-29 tie. Nonetheless, what a bunch of climate-addled demonstrators inflicted on a large group of students and alumni just trying to have a good time enjoying football, traditions, nostalgia and camaraderie  should not be romanticized. The “protesters” are arrogant, disrespectful and anti-democratic jerks. Boola-Boola.

A large mob of Yale Bowl spectators rushed the field at halftime, demanding that Harvard and Yale divest themselves of investments in fossil fuel and energy companies, delaying the start of the second half by nearly an hour, and causing the game to finish in near-darkness. Students from both schools, who didn’t care who they hurt or inconvenienced, rushed to midfield as soon the Yale band finished performing. ( At least they could have done it while the Yale band was performing…)The contest resumed after the Yale police issued 42 summonses for disorderly conduct. But the wasted hour threatened game’s finish:  the Yale Bowl lacks stadium lights, and the game went to double overtime. Yale won just before it became too dark to play.

The Ivy League referred to the protest as “regrettable.” and Yale said that while it “stands firmly for the right to free expression,” it added that “the exercise of free expression on campus is subject to general conditions, and we do not allow disruption of university events.”

So will Yale suspend or expel any of the mob? Of course not.

Protesters that set out to get attention by disrupting the lives of law-abiding citizens engaged in innocent activities are low-level terrorists. They aim to bypass democracy by creating implicit threats, hoping that their adversaries will surrender to just shut them up and avoid the annoyance. Continue reading

Ethics Warm-Up, 11/23/2019: Sitting Around In Airports Edition

Personally, I’d prefer the Baby Shark Dance.

I have been in the Las Vegas airport for more than an hour now, and the only music continuously playing has been Wayne Newton, circa 1965. You know, “Red Roses for a Blue Lady,” and “Danke Schoen.” No wonder Millennials think we’re lame.

Las Vegas is depressing. Everywhere you go, there are lonely, aging, shabbily-dressed people sitting around looking lost, or chain smoking while they roboticly lose their money at garishly flashing gambling machines. It occured to me that the same addiction processes might be at work here as hwatever causes people today to stare at their smart phones rather than interact with the people around them. I saw a lot of that in Vegas too.

Today is my wedding anniversary, and I’m spending most of it in airplanes and airports. We chose November 23, changing the date by one day, because I didn’t want our anniversary to coincide with JFK’s assassination. ( Then my father, perverse as always, chose to die on my birthday…). Yesterday I had dinner with seven lively, intelligent people ranging in age from 25 to 45, and asked them if they knew the significance of the date, November 22.  None did.

1. What IS this? The band Coldplay made news yesterday when it announced that it would no longer tour because of climate change. Presumably they are trying to avoid the hypocrite label being affixed to celebrity climate hysterics whose carbon footprint is approximately that of whole towns, as they jet around the world to tell everyone that they are doomed. Or were they just sick of touring, which is, I say mid-ethics tour, no fun after the novelty wears off, and wanted virtue points through grandstanding? This we do know: whether Coldplay tours or just hangs out in recording studios will have no impact on climate change whatsoever. I assume they know that.

2. Virginia counties are discussing becoming “gun sanctuaries, in anticipation of the Democrat majority legislature and governor enacting gun-hostile legislation. Whether it is guns or illegal aliens, this is a dangerous and unethical trend. States, cities and counties must not be able to just defy the law. There needs to be a set of legal penalties established for this conduct.

3. More from the Old Dominion State! Historical airbrushing and statue-toppling continues in Charlottesville, which proved that it’s not just Robert E. Lee and Confederate generals that it wants erased from history. The City Council voted to remove a statue depicting Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and Sacagawea, their Shoshone interpreter, because the latter isn’t represented in a posture that activists approve of. Continue reading

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

Ethics Catch-Up 11/14/2009: Better Late Than Never

Good morning!

Good Afternoon!

Good Night!

I started this post at about 10 am, and again, and again, and each time another post topic intervened, pushing the daily Warm-Up from the beginning of the day to the end of it…

1. Yet another shield becomes a sword…Add caller ID to the list of useful developments ruined by unscrupulous technology. I was recently tricked by what my phone said was a call by the Social Security Administration, and it included a phone number that I had recently received a legitimate call from, via an agent. This call was a scam. Investigating, I found that there are inexpensive apps available at the Android and Apple app stores with no limitations on who can purchase them that have few if any legal of legitimate purpose. SpoofCard, TraceBust, Fake Call Plus and more  allow a caller to enter any ID they choose, and any number. They also offer menus of background sounds, various voice pitches and other features to facilitate fraud.

When ethics fail, the law must step in, and these apps should be illegal.

2. Mona Lisa Ethics. “Leonardo’s painting is a security hazard, an educational obstacle and not even a satisfying bucket-list item. It’s time the Louvre moved it out of the way” shouted a New York Times sub-headline.” It’s hard to argue with the article’s conclusion….or its author’s contempt.  Here’s a photo of the typical crowd in the Louvre’s room where the Va Vinci painting is exhibited:

The Times observes…

Content in the 20th century to be merely famous, she has become, in this age of mass tourism and digital narcissism, a black hole of anti-art who has turned the museum inside out…Relocated to the Richelieu painting wing, the Mona Lisa reduced the museum’s Flemish collection into wallpaper for a cattle pen, where guards shooed along irritated, sweaty selfie-snappers who’d endured a half-hour line. The overcrowding was so bad, the museum had to shut its doors on several days. “The Louvre is suffocating,” said a statement from the union of the museum’s security staff, who went on strike…[The author] went up with the crowds recently. Things were no better. Now, you must line up in a hideous, T.S.A.-style snake of retractable barriers that ends about 12 feet from the Leonardo — which, for a painting that’s just two and a half feet tall, is too far for looking… visitors…could hardly see the thing, and we were shunted off in less than a minute. …Pathetic new signs [read]: “The Mona Lisa is surrounded by other masterpieces — take a look around the room.”

Morons. These are the fruits of celebrity culture and the spread of the sick addiction to self-celebration. Taking selfies of an art masterpiece only has the objective of proving an idiot was there, for other idiots who are impressed. Meanwhile, those who might really appreciate the painting are  prevented from doing so. Continue reading

The Misleading Nature Of Media-Hyped Research

Aaron Carroll is an American pediatrician and professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, as well as the Vice Chair for Health Policy and Outcomes Research and the Director of the Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research. He favored the New York Times with an unusually clear and unbiased explanation of why so much “consensus” research used to panic the public is dubious, and mirabile dictu, they published it. For some reason, however, it ended up inside the Times Business section, despite Times having a perfect forum for it, its weekly Science insert.

I’m going to apply Hanlon’s Razor and attribute this to lunk-headedness rather than sinister instincts, even though Carroll’s observations clarify much of what’s wrong with “climate science.” Professor Carroll’s specific complaint involves the myths, as he calls them, declaring that diet soda is deadly, but his points apply to other scientific research and public opinion manipulation as well. Among them:

The public’s fear of “chemicals”

“Everything is a chemical,” Carroll writes, “including dihydrogen monoxide (that’s another way of saying water). These are just words we use to describe ingredients. Some ingredients occur naturally, and some are coaxed into existence. That doesn’t inherently make one better than another.”

[As an aside, the same kind of intentional confusion occurs regarding the term “drugs.” I saw a TV ad last might for melatonin tablets that repeated over and over that the pills were “100% drug free.” Melatonin is a hormone, and hormones are drugs, defined as any substance “that causes a change in an organism’s physiology or psychology when consumed.” Ah, but chemicals and drugs are scary.] Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/23/2019: On “Lynching” And Other Things

The day looks good, feels bad…

1. No, “lynching” is not the right word for the Democratic Party/”resistance”/news media impeachment assault. The word worked for Clarence Thomas during the Anita Hill ambush, but someone ought to remind the President that Thomas was and is black.

The correct word is coup. This has always been what the effort to delegitimatize and remove Trump has been, and this is what it remains. “Witch hunt,” which some idiot issued as an anti-impeachment talking point again a couple of weeks ago, is also an inappropriate term. It may accurately evoke the McCarthy-like methods being used, but it is historically and politically confusing, focusing on methodology rather than objective.

The inability of this President and his staff to communicate competently is a dangerous weakness. It has always been so, but now more than ever. The public literally doesn’t understand what is going on, and a clear, credible, trustworthy advocate for the President who is able to explain what is so wrong, so insidious, and so damaging to democracy about what the “Troika of Totalitarianism” (I’m trying to imagine what Spiro Agnew would have called them) have been doing since the 2016 election is an essential bulwark against impeachment and conviction. Even someone like—I can’t believe I’m writing this—Lanny Davis would be an upgrade.  Kellyanne Conway destroyed her credibility with her “alternate facts” gaffe. Rudy Giuliani got himself enmeshed in the Ukraine controversy. Mick Mulvaney proved, with his naive and ham-handed explanation about why there is nothing criminal or inappropriate about any President using the leverage of his office to persuade a foreign government to do something that needs doing, that he isn’t up to the job. And the President is foolish to believe that his tweet-storms are an effective remedy against  a news media determined to tell only one side, the “resistance” side,  of the issues.

Why, for example, isn’t there an advocate for the White House who can point out, clearly, that the misleading characterization in this morning’s Times front page “news” story—the New York Times no longer does “news” involving Trump, only adversary spin—that the President used strong-arm tactics to force the Ukraine to “investigate Mr. Trump’s political rivals”? Joe Biden isn’t “political rivals,” he’s a former Vice President of the United Sates who may have been using his high position to enrich his son and warp foreign policy.

At this point, Joe Biden isn’t an official election opponent of the President either. It is completely legal and responsible for our government to find out exactly what was going on in the Biden-Biden-Ukraine tango, and the idea that a President cannot legally pursue investigation of serious misconduct in the previous administration because the members of it can now be called his “rivals” is, or should be,  a transparent Catch-22 concocted to advance the coup. Is that really so hard to explain? Why isn’t anyone explaining it?

A prominent  reason is that one of the more effective and damaging tactics in the coup attempt has been to intimidate and threaten any competent D.C. professionals who could advise and assist a President under siege. Until the Trump administration, the accepted norm when a patriotic member of the Washington establishment, regardless of party,  was invited to help a President was for the individual so invited to say, “Of course.” This was how President Clinton persuaded Reagan advisor David Gergen to rescue his administration from self-immolation.

Today, any political establishment figure, no matter how well-respected before, can count on being savaged in the news media if he or she agrees to join the administration, as well as harassed if they go out for dinner. The phenomenon effectively gives this White House a lobotomy by making it a huge and risky sacrifice to try to assist the White House.  It also isolates the President, and increases the chances of him making his situation worse out of anger, frustration, and his unfortunate lack of impulse control.

This too has been part of the coup strategy from the beginning: withhold from this President all of the honors, respect, fairness, deference and cooperation every other President has earned as a right of office by virtue of being elected, and eventually he will do something that will justify impeachment.

It’s a coup. “Lynching” just muddies the waters, and in this dirty business, muddy waters is exactly what the “resistance” wants and needs. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/2/19: While Basking In The Glow Of Another Life Lesson From Baseball

Go Nats!

The Washington Nationals had never won an elimination game in the National league post-season. They were 0-6 in such games going into last might’s do-or-die single Wild Card play-off at home against the Miracle Milwaukee Brewers. Following the script many Nats fans dreaded, the team’s Hall of Fame-bound ace, Max Scherzer, quickly gave up three runs while the Brew Crew’s storied bullpen kept the offense at bay save a solo homer from National shortstop Trey Turner. Heading into the bottom of the eighth, the Nationals had to face closer Josh Hader (he of the Hader Gotcha), who gives up hits less often than some pitchers give up runs.

Then, as they say, fate took a hand. With one out, uninspiring Nats pinch-hitter Michael Taylor reached first illicitly. A 3-2 pitch from Hader hit the knob of Taylor’s bat and immediately ricocheted onto his hand. It should have been called a foul, but the umpires ruled it a hit-by-pitch, sending Taylor to first base. Hader struck out the next Nats batter, then aging Nats slugger Ryan Zimmerman was called upon as another pinch-hitter. He barely connected with a pitch out of the strike zone, breaking his bat, but his weak “dying quail” bloop dropped in just over the head of the Milwaukee second baseman for a cheap and fortunate single. (On TV, Zimmerman could be seen smiling and shrugging sheepishly.) That meant the tying runs were on base for the Nats best hitter, MVP candidate Anthony Rendon. Hader gave him what is known as an intentional unintentional base on balls in order to face 20-year-old Juan Soto, a left-handed batter. Lefty Hader allowed left-handed batters to hit .143 this season. But young Soto lined a pitch into right center, and Brewers right fielder Trent Grisham, one of the heroes of the late-season Brewers play-off drive, did a Bill Buckner. The single got past him (he was charging the ball in what would have been a futile effort to throw out the tying run at the plate) , and all three runners scored. Incredibly, the Nats now led 4-3. After the Brewers went down in the top of the 9th without scoring, they, and not Milwaukee, moved on to the next round of the play-offs.

Lesson: In baseball, as in life, it is as important to be lucky as to be good. Chaos lurks in every second, and the illusion of control is just that, an illusion. A bad call, a fluke hit, and a horribly-timed fielding botch that the same outfielder avoids 99 times out of a hundred, and so much changed for two cities, two fan bases, and the 2019 post-season, affecting jobs, careers, reputations and commerce.

This is why we should never give up, never despair, and never get cocky. It is also why we should strive to live as ethically as possible. We can’t control whether we win or lose, but we can control how.

1. Again we must ask: when did the Democratic Party decide to abandon freedom of speech?  Yesterday, we learned that Joe Biden’s campaign wants the news media to censor adversary commentary from Rudy Giuliani, while claiming that no one who isn’t a public official is qualified to opine on TV regarding public policy.  Now Senator Kamala Harris, who also aspires to be President, says President Trump should be banned from using Twitter because he  uses the platform in an “irresponsible” way. Harris, in an interview with CNN host Anderson Cooper, also called for “other mechanisms” to make sure Trump’s words “do not in fact harm anyone”—you know, like harming her party’s election prospects by exposing its Big Lies and open coup attempts.

I wonder if the public sees how ominous the repeated Democratic calls for censorship are. Maybe the President will tweet about that.

Of course, the President’s use of Twitter is often irresponsible, but also a necessary end-around media propaganda aimed at unseating him and undermining democracy. It is remarkable that Harris, a Senator and a lawyer, somehow missed  that the First Amendment proclaims the importance of free speech to our society. It doesn’t only endorse the right to engage in responsible speech. I think, for example, that advocating censoring the speech of the President of the United States is irresponsible, but I’ll defend Harris’s right to do it—and my right to conclude that because she does it, she is an ignorant, dangerous fool. Continue reading