Category Archives: Etiquette and manners

Ethics Dunce: Bob Dylan

As everyone knows by now, the Nobel folks awarded iconic folk/rock troubadour Bob Dylan its prize for literature, setting off an international debate and also cementing Dylan’s status as a cultural giant, whatever you decide to call him.

Dylan, however, has not deigned to respond to the committee, or to acknowledge the honor in any way other than a brief reference on his website (“Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature”) that he  removed once it was noted in news reports.

What a jerk.

Dylan fans are making excuses for him—he’s shy, he’s always been strange, he doesn’t like honors, it’s a mark of integrity, and so on—-but there is no excuse for such rude and gratuitously arrogant behavior. All they really want to  do, Bob, is be friends with you.

You could say “thank you.”


Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Literature, Popular Culture

Unethical Donald Trump Quote Of The Day


“Oh, I’m sure she’s never been grabbed before…”

—-Donald Trump,  responding to the most recent accusations of sexual assault, in this case from Jessica Drake, a porn star who became the 11th woman to claim Trump assaulted her in a press conference over the weekend.

I suspended the Ethics Alarms Unethical Donald Trump Quote of the Day, or UDTQOTD,  feature a couple of months ago when I realized that pretty soon there would be no room for anything else. This one, however, is special, and can’t be ignored. It perfectly encompasses so much of what is fatally wrong with Trump, his character and his campaign.

Here and elsewhere, desperate Trump rationalizers have defended voting for him over the horrible  Hillary Clinton by reducing his abundant deficits of character to a couple of adjectives, essentially representing him as acceptable by strategic omission. As I recently replied in part to a commenter who argued that Trump may be “narcissitic and crude” but...gotta love that equivocal “may”:

“And no, you cannot get away with “narcissistic and crude” here. …Take out crude and narcissistic, and that still leaves ignorant, lazy, corrupt, arrogant, a fantasist, a liar, a misogynist, a fool, a political incompetent, a terrible delegater, a poor judge of character, lacking in any relevant experience, literally unable to comprehend what ethical conduct is, governed wholly by rationalizations, unaccountable, feckless, incompetent, cruel, mean-spirited, devoid of common sense, self-control, prudence, compassion and decency, and, on top of all of that, inarticulate and dumb as a brick. No responsible voter can risk making such an individual President, and doing so is indefensible.

Let’s see…18, 19, 20…today’s quote embodies 21 of the characteristics on that impromptu list, and in only seven words, which is impressive. Continue reading


Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Quotes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics

Ethics Dunce: The Smithsonian Institution


The new Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture is intended to celebrate the two aspects of African American influence on the nation mentioned in the title, and that includes honoring  influential and historically significant African American leaders. Among the figures ignored by the museum’s displays is Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, only the second black member of the Supreme Court. The museum does, however, celebrate the “heroism” of his last-minute accuser at Thomas’s confirmation hearings, law professor Anita Hill.

This is another and particularly sad reflection of the petty partisan bias and lack of integrity demonstrated by the Obama Administration at so many levels. It is stuffed with so many intractable ideologues, and often incompetent ideologues, that objectivity, respect and fairness are frequently too great an effort to muster. The museum honors Hill, who was recruited as a last ditch effort by Democrats to block President George H.W. Bush’s nomination of a black conservative judge to the Supreme Court and whose accusations of sexual harassment were never verified except by the confirmation bias of Democrats and Thomas’s enemies. It chose to snubThomas, which all involved had to know would be seen as an insult to the Justice, and a calculated one.

By all logic and reason, Hill should be, at best, a footnote to a Thomas display. Mean-spirited bias from the empowered Left under Obama has extended even to museum curating, which should be non-partisan. Continue reading


Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Race, U.S. Society

Half Ethics Hero: Wisconsin Talk Radio Host John Murphy


Longtime Eau Claire, Wisconsin radio talk show John Murphy walked out of of his WAYY studio midway through his morning show this week.

He had just finished telling his listeners that he would not be chased out of the industry he loves but that, “I’m through doing this show as it is.” The sports talk show scheduled to follow Murphy started early to cover for his absence after a commercial break. The frustrated talk show host had been on Eau Claire radio for 34 years, for the past 14 years as a host of the “WAYY Morning Show,” a typical local call-in program where the  callers discussed and debated local, state and national news. Murphy quit, he said, because the discourse this year gradually stopped being civil, and had degenerated into a partisan and ugly exchange of nastiness and hate.

“It started with a lot of Trump and Clinton stuff, but now that same kind of vitriol is starting to permeate our local races and local issues,” Murphy explained.  “After a while, day after day and week after week, that starts to wear on you.”  Murphy said he knows that many of the callers hurling insults “are educated, wonderful people who have become caught up in this hurricane of hate.” He says the frustration had been building up inside him for months, and that he was beginning to engage in some of the same behavior he deplored. Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Heroes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, language, U.S. Society, Workplace

Judicial Ethics Quiz: The Cranky Judge

Judge Clarke (L) and artist's representation (R)

Judge Clarke (L) and artist’s representation (R)

A three-judge panel in California found misconduct in Judge Edmund Clarke, Jr’s treatment of one or more jurors in a jury pool for a murder trial.

Your challengeGuess which of the incidents was found to be an abuse of judicial power and authority.

A. Judge Clarke also told a potential juror who wrote that she had only $25 in her checking account that “every one of these lawyers spent more than that on lunch today.” He excused the juror, and after she left, Clarke told everyone in the courtroom how much the juror had in her account. When a second potential juror disclosed he had only $33 in his checking account, Clarke again announced the amount and said that his savings put the other juror “in the shade with that big account.”

B. Judge Clarke reduced another juror to tears reprimanding her after she appeared to change a form to indicate that she did not speak English, which he found incredible. She said  had lived in the United States for 25 years. Clarke said,

“Most people that have been in this country for 10 years have picked up enough English. [Twenty] or so, they’re moving right along. And 25 years is—so you better have a different reason why you want to be excused than that.” 

After she began weeping loudly because, she said later, she was ashamed because she didn’t speak English, he dismissed her from the panel.

C. Finally, Judge Clarke became annoyed at a juror who had written on her hardship form, “Having Severe Anxiety!!” next to her drawing of a frowny  face. “I work as a waitress and make minimum wages, plus I’m planning a wedding in two months and all of these things, especially this courthouse are aggravating my anxiety terribly. On the verge of a meltdown!” Clarke  excused her from jury duty,  but when she added that the clerk who was checking in potential jurors was “really disrespectful” to everyone, he  told the woman that she could stay in the hallway and tell him more at the end of the day. When the dismissed juror insisted that she had to leave, he said,

“No, you’re staying. You’re staying You’re staying on. I’ve been a judge for seven years. No one’s ever complained about my clerk. But I’ll be happy to hear your complaint at the end of the day. So go to the hall and stay and come in, act like an adult and you can face her and tell me everything she did wrong.”

The woman did as she was ordered and apologized to Clarke after waiting for an hour court to be adjourned. The judge  asked her how she would have felt if he came to the restaurant where she worked and criticized her in front of everyone, saying, 

“If you came here thinking that this was going to be Disneyland and you were getting an E Ticket and have good time, I’m afraid you have no sense of what is going on in this building. Now, seven years ago the first clerk that was assigned to me, she’s still here. The only clerk I’ve ever had. One juror, in all that time, out of thousands, has ever complained about her. That’s you. You can leave now knowing that’s what you accomplished.”

D. All of the above.

Take the poll, and then go to the answers after the jump.

Continue reading


Filed under Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Quizzes



Now I think understand why Ann Althouse, an intelligent, rational lawyer and law professor, has begun holding a “Most Loved Rat” contest on her blog to see which of her rat doodles are most popular. I’m less creative, I guess (though I also draw good rat cartoons!)—my head just explodes. It exploded last night.

It’s hard to explain exactly what did it.  Here I was, watching a series of baseball play-off games (since the Red Sox had been eliminated by the Cleveland Indians the day before), and Neil Patrick Harris appeared yet again to tell me that “Heineken Light makes it OK to flip another man’s meat.” (I wrote about the gratuitous vulgarity of this ad here. Apparently this makes me a homophobe.)

Wait…isn’t flipping another man’s meat sexual assault? What is the difference, in lack of respect and sexual assault ethics, between grabbing a woman by the pussy, as Donald Trump so eloquently put it, because you’re a rich celebrity, and flipping another man’s meat because…of beer? 
Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, Kaboom!, Marketing and Advertising, Popular Culture, U.S. Society, Workplace

Now THIS Is “Conduct Prejudicial To The Administration of Justice”!

The late Joe Jamail, role model...

The late Joe Jamail, role model…

Almost all jurisdictions include in their lawyer ethics rule a catch-all provision, Rule 8.4 (d), that says that is is professional misconduct for a member of the bar to

(d) Engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice;

Virginia is one state that omits this prohibition as too vague; D.C.’s version says that a lawyer must not engage in conduct that is seriously prejudicial, whatever that means. My position is that such a rule is necessary, since no set of rules can cover every situation, and lawyers, I have found, are especially creative in finding new ways to be unethical.

Texas Super Lawyer Joe Jamail (who died last December) established the proposition that a lawyer could prejudice the administration of justice by his spectacular incivility in this deposition:

The Delaware Supreme Court condemned Jamail’s conduct as “rude, uncivil and vulgar,” saying that it abused the privilege of appearing in a Delaware proceeding,” and showed “an astonishing lack of professionalism and civility.” (The immortal quote from the video is Jamail telling his adversary counsel that he “could gag a maggot off a meatwagon.” The deposition deteriorated into a Trumpian insult-fest, with Jamail calling the other lawyer “Fat boy” and being called “Mr, Hairpiece” in return.) The court went on to call Jamail’s unprofessional behavior “a lesson for the future—a lesson of conduct not to be tolerated or repeated.”

Following the judicial reprimand,  Jamail said,  “I’d rather have a nose on my ass than go to Delaware for any reason.”

But even Joe never did this. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions