Law Prof. Ethics Rule: Don’t Say Anything To A Student That You Wouldn’t Say Over An Open Mic…

Oops! Law professor Daniel Capra, an adjunct professor at Columbia Law School, responded to a student complaint that he spoke too quickly in his lectures and international students were having trouble keeping up with a foreign language. Capra dismissed the compliant and and dismissed the students’ problems following hm as “assumption of risk.” Then, after the student walked away, he said, “Fuck!”

His class was being recorded, and a nearby microphone was live. Of course, the episode is being given maximal attention, life today being what it is. Above the Law gleefully weighed in, so did Aditi Thakur, president of Columbia Law’s student senate, released a statement announcing that the student senate is “deeply alarmed” by Capra’s conduct. Gillian Lester, the dean of Columbia Law, said that she has told Capra that his “language, and the disrespectful attitude it conveyed, were unacceptable.” She also told students that she wanted to “express my own sorrow about this incident.” Sorrow!

Capra is also a professor at the Fordham University School of Law, so Matthew Diller, the dean there, had to pile on, saying, “His conduct was not consistent with his reputation as a teacher and scholar over many years or the spirit of inclusiveness and care for others that is at the heart of a Fordham education.”

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Cartoon Ethics, Part I: Here…

In Margate, Florida…

…a controversy erupted in South Florida when a shopper at the Presidente Supermarket in Margate saw the logo on a package of  Azucar Morena brown sugar (above). Paul Taffe, the indignant shopper, immediately reported to the local political correctness station—well, a local TV news squad—and expressed his horror.

“Doesn’t matter how you look at it, it’s racism in any form,” Taffe said. “Bottom line, and it should not be on the shelf. When you see an image of a Mammy dancing around with two sugar cane stalks in her hand, thinking that she’s having a jolly old time, it’s not. It was never a jolly old time for us.”

Not to be picky, but how does he know what “Mammy” is thinking? To be clear, like it or not, the fact of life in the U.S. is now that no cartoon representation of blacks is safe to present, unless the approach rejects the exaggeration of prominent features that makes it a cartoon as opposed to just a crude drawing. Exaggerated features on a white cartoon character…

…are recognized as humor and accepted as such; doing the same with any other race is racist, as with the sugar image above or Dr. Seuss’s now banned drawings…

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Ethics Dunce: Jack Phillips (of Masterpiece Cakeshop):

It is a basic life skill: quit while you’re ahead.

In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission acted in the grip of anti-religious bias when it enforced an anti-discrimination law against baker Jack Phillips. He had famously refused to bake a wedding cake celebrating the wedding of same sex couple Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins in 2012. But that was just a technical victory for Baker; SCOTUS chose not to rule did not rule on the macro-controversies over whether a business can invoke religious objections to deny service to LGBTQ people, whether a cake is art or just a product offered by a public accommodation, or whether forcing a baker to create a cake for a gay wedding is compelled speech.

Sadly, annoyingly, unethically and stupidly, neither Baker nor the activists who are determined to bend him to their will had the sense to declare a truce.

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In The Dispute Over The Fate Of The Elgin Marbles, It Is Time For The Brits To Choose Ethics Over Law

My mother stole a piece of the Parthenon. She was Greek, my father and she were visiting Athens, and when no one was looking (including my father) she scooped up a 1 x 8 inch chuck of white marble by the ruins and smuggled it home, where she displayed it on her fireplace mantle. My sister and I were horrified when we learned what the piece was, and plotted various ways to have it returned without getting our aged mother prosecuted. When they moved from Arlington, Mass. to Arlington, Va, the item just vanished, or so Mom said. (We didn’t believe her.) It was never seen again.

I think about this family scandal whenever I think of the seemingly endless dispute over the Elgin Marbles.

In the early 1800s, Lord Elgin, a British aristocrat, shipped to England treasures of Greek antiquity that he had strip-mined from Greece, including the carved frieze panels that had decorated the Parthenon. Supposedly this was done with the permission of Turkey, which was then ruling Greece, which is like your home invaders giving neighbors permission to take the art off your walls. The “Elgin Marbles” were sold to the British government and became among the most valued artifacts in the collection of the British Museum in London. As my mother’s son, I know they were among my top three favorite exhibits when I first visited, along with the Rosetta Stone and Paul McCartney’s handwritten draft of the lyrics for “Yesterday.”

Well, Greece has been asking for the Elgin Marbles back for over two centuries now, and if the museum has a leg to stand on in keeping them, it pretty much comes down to that hoary (and not exactly true) line, “possession is 9/10s of the law.” However, recent decades have seen a cultural shift as Western colonization and imperialism have acquired a bad reputation. Many museums are returning such looted treasures to where they were created and, I believe, belong. Why, then, haven’t the Elgin Marbles been sent back to Greece as its government demands, urges, and begs?

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Bitter Harry: Famous Grandchildren Ethics #2

Part I is here.

A London pub has announced that it will be selling a ‘Harry’s Bitter’ beer in response to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s tell-all Netflix documentary, “Harry and Meghan” as well as Prince Harry’s family dirty laundry opus, “Spare.” Well-played. For Diana and Charles’ youngest offspring is indeed Bitter Harry, and a weak and rotten Royal to boot.

Because the U.S. is in the throes of The Great Stupid, in part a hangover from the George Floyd Freakout, Harry and his gold-digger spouse Meghan are more popular here than in the UK. Some Americans just enjot seeing the Royal Family shat-upon; some are suckers for those who play the racism victim card, Meghan’s specialty (with Harry’s dog-like assistance), and some were so absurdly smitten with the late Princess Diana, herself often an unseemly publicity addict, that her sons can do no wrong in their eyes. Nonetheless, Harry’s exploitation of his family’s misplaced trust for cash and cheap celebrity is the mark of a royal asshole as well as one whose bitterness has rendered his ethics alarms useless.

What kind of person deliberately reveals—often with dark shading borne of dark agendas—private conversations and family secrets in a manner guaranteed to embarrass, insult and infuriate named relatives and stain the reputation of those who have expired? The answer is… a petty, untrustworthy person. Harry doesn’t need the money, but apparently he needs something else: revenge, probably. He evidently has adopted his late mother’s attitude toward the Royal Family, blames them for her demise, and is doing everything he and his wife can think of to cause them pain.

This is ironic, because the only reason anyone cares a twig for either Harry or his C-list actress wife is his membership in that family. Harry is the epitome of a celebrity who is famous without having done anything constructive, admirable, or praiseworthy. He doesn’t have to work; he was born with the metaphorical silver spoon, and nothing short of treason or murder could remove it—indeed, if British history is any guide, not even those things.

However, he has been relatively cut off, and his wife, at least, wants to make sure they have a bright future ahead of interviews with Jimmy Kimmel, guest spots on sitcoms and starring roles as infomercial pitch-nobles. Thus the plan is to tar King Charles, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, Prince William and the rest as racists and creeps, even if it makes Harry and Meghan look creepy too. Creepy celebrities do quite well here.

Maureen Dowd, amusingly snarky with a drop of illumination as usual, writes,

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On The Freedom Of Speech Front…

Strangely, many of the same people who are claiming that democracy is hanging by a thread or two are also trying to fray a rather obvious thread, the right to free expression and free speech. Since that First Amendment thingy is a bear, they have to find ways around it that will stifle ideas, opinions and arguments that interfere with the “greater good”.”” (as they see it, natch). Or pretend the First Amendment “isn’t what it is” (#64).

Recent developments:

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Stop Making Me Defend President Biden!

In his Christmas speech on December 23, President Biden said, referring to Christmas’s religious significance,

“How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is given. There is a certain stillness at the center of the Christmas story. A silent night when all the world goes quiet and all the glamour, all the noise, everything that divides us, everything that pits us against one another, everything — everything that seems so important but really isn’t, this all fades away in stillness of the winter’s evening. And we look to the sky, to a lone star, shining brighter than all the rest, guiding us to the birth of a child—a child Christians believe to be the son of God; miraculously now, here among us on Earth, bringing hope, love and peace and joy to the world.”

Many conservative blogs, pundits and celebrities “pounced,” attacking the President for not mentioning Jesus by name.

The headline at The Daily Wire was “Biden Delivers Christmas Address Without Mentioning Jesus By Name: ‘A Child Christians Believe To Be The Son Of God’” Father Gerald Murray of the Archdiocese of New York told Newsmax that it made “no sense” for Biden to omit the name of Jesus from his annual Christmas address to the country. “President Biden is always talking about his Catholicism and how it inspired him,” Murray said. “If you’re going to honor the birth of Jesus, you should mention his name. I was very sad to see that. That’s not anything that should be imitated in the future.” Doug Collins, a Georgia Republican and former member of the House,said, “Not saying the name of Jesus—look, there are other holidays to celebrate, but Christmas is the birth of Christ. When we celebrate the birth of Christ who came and gave us the gift of life. That’s what we celebrate and to take that out is just sad.” The Heritage Foundation’s Kara Frederick, complained, “America’s lost its sense of God, it’s Judeo-Christian values, and I think this is just a manifestation. This speech not mentioning Christ, talking about how divided this nation’s been for so long, it’s all part and parcel of the secularization of America and we need to return to our faith.”

The United States is not supposed to have a stated “sense of God,” and for the President of the United States to officially espouse the beliefs of any particular religion is, according the the line of judicial interpretations of the Establishment Clause and the First Amendment, a violation of the Constitution.

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More Evidence That The Public Is In Need Of Basic Education Regarding The Constitution And The Bill Of Rights…

The online petition can demand until it is blue in the face, if petitions could be blue in the face, or had a face, for that matter.

The comments of the citizen in the video clip are 100% First Amendment protected speech. There is no valid argument to the contrary. Signatories of such a petition have announced that a) they don’t believe in free speech; b) they want the government to censor individual opinions they disagree with and c) they are unfit to participate or benefit from a democratic republic, preferring a totalitarian government provided its agendas aligns with those of the petition-signers.

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Ethics Quiz: The Milking Class Gaffe

The photo above was taken in a Plains state elementary school in the early 1950s, and depicts a cow-milking exercise. It is, obviously, one of those “Oops!” unfortunate—but funny!—shots that ended up in a local newspaper somewhere because nobody noticed the problem until it was too late.

A Facebook friend posted it on the social media platform for “a chuckle”, and it was clear that the reaction was…restrained.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is tougher than it may seem…

Is posting that photo unethical, as it will be legitimately offensive to some, or is it innocently funny, and only objectionable to the political correctness scolds?

I thought it was funny when I saw it. I also thought my friend would get a fair amount of flack. But the more I think about the factors involved, the more uncertain I am of the answer to the quiz question…

  • Is posting the photo in a public forum a Golden Rule breach? Obviously the photo embarrasses the teacher who, as my freind wrote, “probably wishes she had been standing for the photo.” My friend, however, was a professional performer, in a field where being able to laugh at moments that would humiliate normal people is essential.
  • Based on the period of the photo, it is certain that the teacher by now must be either dead or too old to care about an old newspaper clipping. Does that take the Golden Rule off the table.
  • It is more likely that the children shown might be embarrassed by the photo, or were when it was originally published. Does that matter? Was showing it more unethical then than now, when parents (unethically, even though “everybody does it”) post videos of their children in embarrassing (but funny!) situations constantly?
  • Some people thought  the photo was very funny, and appreciated seeing it. It brightened their day! Is that enough to make showing the picture ethical? What formula should we use to determine whether utilitarian analysis justifies an action where the benefits are tangible and the “harm” is ephemeral? If the photo brightened one viewer’s day, isn’t that enough?
  • One critic of the photo sniffed, “Photoshopped!” If so, and I note that there is always someone who will try to discredit any photo they object to as photoshopped whether it was or not, does it matter to the question at hand. If it’s funny, it’s funny. Or, since it is theoretically funnier if genuine, does being photoshopped change the utilitarian analysis? Should it?
  • Can showing the photo be justified as a social statement and attempt at a course correction, echoing the common lament that the culture is becoming humor adverse thanks to woke-poisoning, and it is a serious problem?

In Dedham, Massachusetts, A Library’s Christmas Tree Makes People “Uncomfortable”

So the board of library trustees and the library director responded to an undisclosed number of complaints by banning the tree, so nobody can enjoy it.

Ever since uber-athiest Madeleine Murray O’Hair’s lawsuit got the Supreme Court to rededicate itself to ensuring that national, state and local governments did not endorse a particular religion in defiance of the Constitution’s establishment cause, there has been a tug of war over how America should celebrate Christmas. Are office Christmas parties “insensitive”? Should elevators play “Joy to the World?” Is the greeting “Merry Christmas!” offensive to someone who isn’t a Christian?

Prior to Mrs. O’Hair’s attack, the balance between religious and secular elements at Christmas time was solid. Schools included traditional Christmas carols in their annual programs without anyone seriously regarding it as pro-Christian propaganda; Bing Crosby was as likely to sing “O Holy Night” as “White Christmas” on his TV Christmas specials. Then the lawsuits started flying over public crèche displays, and otherwise rational people began causing trouble. I remember a smart and generally sensible female executive at an association I worked for in the ’80s making a huge issue out of a “Christmas elves” staff gift exchange mandated by the executive director. She was Jewish, and felt “excluded” by “Christmas elves.” So the gimmick was renamed the “holiday pixies” program. What the heck are “holiday pixies?” Unless she was one, which I doubt, how did that make her feel more “included”? Her successful Christmas protest only managed to put a sour taste in everyone’s mouth and divide the staff, just as the current Christmas nonsense divides the country.

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