Pacific Coast Time Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/20/19: Guys and Dolls

Good morning from San Diego!

Well, I was speaking to 600 seats just now, but only about 300 lawyers. Several came up to me afterward, inspired or stimulated, and thankful. In ethics, as in the theater, I have come to adopt William Saroyan’s creed that if just one person sings your song, your life as an artist has meaning. Like Saroyan, I have come to adopt that out of self-preservation and to stave off insanity.

1. It looks like a Saturday Night Live writer plagiarized at least two skits this season. The story is here.

The combination of SNL’s insane schedule, the pressure to be different and edgy week after week, and the temptation of YouTube made this inevitable. The rules on borrowing, adapting, copying comedy material has always been a gray area, often settled by the good faith and collegiality—or not—of the comics themselves. By accident, I just saw an old “Everybody Loves Raymond” episode which was an obvious rip-off of an even older Dick Van Dyke Show episode in which Laura writes a children’s book, and professional writer Rob offers to help her improve it.? Plagiarism? Comedy skits in vaudeville were passed around like the flu: Abbot and Costello weren’t the first to do the “Who’s On First?” routine, they just did it so much better than anyone else that they owned it. Was Lucy plagiarizing Red Skelton with her “Vitameatavegimin” skit, where a pitch woman gets drunk doing multiple takes of a TV ad that requires her to drink the alcohol-laced product, when Red had been doing the same routine for years as “Guzzler’s Gin”? Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/18/2019: Paranoia, Pettiness, Pirro, Provoked Applicants, Piqued Students, Posturing And Progressives

Good Morning, Pacific Time Zone!

I’m heading to San Diego tomorrow to talk about “Five Looming Ethics Issues for Lawyers  and  Their  Corporate Clients”  to a group of over 600 lawyers. THEY don’t think my analyses of ethics issues violate community standards…okay. I admit it, I’m getting paranoid. Despite a lot of, I humbly believe, useful, timely and well-presented content, the weekend traffic was terrible, and comments were sparse, if excellent. This year, so far, is lagging behind last year, which seriously trailed the year before. What’s going on here? Has Google secretly joined Facebook in its efforts to keep the posts here from reaching an audience? Of could it be that I just suck? Maybe Donald Trump really has killed all belief in ethics…that’s the ticket! Blame the President!

1. Pettiness and vindictiveness vanquished. Good. The Judicial Council of the 10th U.S. Court of Appeals  has affirmed its December decision to reject 83 ethics complaints against Justice Brett Kavanaugh, all filed by bitter partisans who are determined to hurt the newest Justice because the Democrats’ slimy and unethical ambush tactics failed, as they should have. In a 6-1 decision, the judicial council affirmed its earlier finding that the federal law governing misconduct complaints against federal judges does not apply to justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. Many of the complaints filed against Kavanaugh argued he had made false statements under oath during hearings on his nominations to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 2004 and 2006 and to the U.S. Supreme Court last year—you know, like having an innocent recollection of what “boof” meant in his completely irrelevant high school year book.  Other complaints accused Kavanaugh of making inappropriate partisan statements in his inappropriately partisan hearings, or claimed he treated members of the Senate Judiciary Committee with disrespect, or as I would put it, the disrespect they deserved for attempting to smear his good name and reputation through demagoguery and calls to reject the presumption of innocence.

Let me remind everyone that Ruth Bader Ginsberg, in her confirmation hearings, stated under oath that she had no pre-formed opinions that would affect her objectivity in abortion cases. Nobody filed any ethics complaints. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/15/2019: Fevered Ethics Musings, and More” [Item #2]

Cultural literacy pop quiz: who’s the quote from?

This Comment of the Day by Benjamin, a relatively recent recruit to the discussions here, typifies the thoughtfulness and seriousness that distinguishes the commentariat at Ethics Alarms. Ann Althouse, a blogger (whose work  Facebook doesn’t block) with a much larger readership whose topics often mirror mine, just announced that she is considering changing “the commenting experience”:

I’ll regard the comments submitted to moderation as private messages to me, and I’ll only publish comments I think readers would generally enjoy reading — comments that are interesting, original, well-written, and responsive to the post.

I consider most of the comments here interesting, original, well-written, and responsive to the posts. The kind of comment that Benjamin registered is rare on Althouse, or any blog, really, though not rare here. (The exceptions would be PopeHat, whose progenitor has, at least for now, apparently abandoned for greener pastures, and the original Volokh Conspiracy, before it moved to the Washington Post, and then Reason). Why is that? One reason is the subject matter; another is that commenters who can’t express themselves, issue uninformed opinions or who just aren’t too bright don’t do well on Ethics Alarms. Another reason is that, as I have probably complained about too much, the mass exodus here of the Trump Deranged and knee-jerk progressives has eliminated most of the “You’re an idiot!” “No, you’re an idiot!” exchanges that pollute most blogs, as well as comment sections everywhere.

Here is Benjamin’s Comment of the Day on Item #2 in the post, Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/15/2019: Fevered Ethics Musings, and More:

My efforts at suppressing the sin of schadenfreude are becoming futile. The things festering behind fiercely-reinforced masks are starting to spill putrid materials out of the eye and nose holes nearly everywhere and all at once. I believe I’m addicted to two “drugs”: watching good men hoisting the black flag and destroying evil with relish in the name of a good end, e.g. Liam Neeson’s Taken is dangerous for me to watch – I start getting ideas – so I’ve placed an embargo for myself on such plotlines; and watching evil destroy itself. I don’t think I’ll need to embargo the latter, though. There’s nothing more instructive of the fact that difficult-but-correct choices ought to always be chosen over immediately convenient wrong ones than watching the effects of a century or so of those wrong choices. Continue reading

Q: “What Kind Of Person Fakes Her Voice?” A: “A Competent One.”

Preface: This is the kind of issue that can be hard to find, unless one has unlimited time to search all sources and for better or ill, I don’t. Ethics Alarms is still feeling the effects of losing the regular services of topic scout Fred, who had a remarkable reach, finding ethics issues in all sorts of places I never would (though Fred does drop by here to comment, and I am grateful for that, as well as his long service.) I really do depend on the readers for tips, particularly in the non-political arena. Even the news aggregating sites like The Daily Beast, The Daily Caller, the Blaze and Huffington Post have become more politics obsessed than ever, so Ethics Alarms has to dig deeper and go farther. Some of our best discussions have arisen out of obscure venues. So please: keep an ye open, and write me at jamproethics@verizon.net/

Ann Althouse found this, from The Cut:

There are many fascinating, upsettingdetails in the story of Elizabeth Holmes, but my favorite is her voice. Holmes, the ousted Theranos founder who was indicted last year on federal fraud charges for hawking an essentially imaginary product to multi-millionaire investors, pharmacies, and hospitals, speaks in a deep baritone that, as it turns out, is fake. Former co-workers of Holmes told The Dropout, a new podcast about Theranos’s downfall, that Holmes occasionally “fell out of character” and exposed her real, higher voice — particularly after drinking. One can only assume the voice will be discussed in the upcoming HBO documentary, too.

To begin with, as anyone can hear from the video above, Theranos did not and does not speak in deep baritone voice, which tells us immediately that the author, Katie Heaney, doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Neither, apparently, does Ann, who directs us to another video and describes Holmes’ voice as “a ludicrous phony voice.” There’s nothing ludicrous about it, and if she is not using a ventriloquist, it’s not phony either. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/14/2019: Talking The Walk, Or Not

Good Morning!

1. Fight racial hate with cognitive dissonance. It is apparent that the Left’s battle plan depends on making sure that minorities hate and fear white people, and it’s up to whites and all the shades lumped in with them—I’m kind of olive colored, or as an old girl friend used to say, “green”—to foil it. It’s simple cognitive dissonance: the more positive experiences minorities have with whites, the more the cognitive dissonance scale works in favor of racial respect and comity.

Yesterday, in a rush, I arrived in the line to pick up my drug refills simultaneously with an African-American man who was probably about my age, and looked pretty grim. I asked him if he wanted to play paper-stone-scissors to see who got to go first. He appeared genuinely startled that I spoke to him, then smiled and told me to go ahead. “You sure? ” I asked. “I really like playing  paper-stone-scissors !” He waved me ahead of him, and I noted that I was rushing to pick up a carry-out order from my favorite Chinese restaurant.

“That’s a good reason to be in a hurry,” he said. I asked him if he liked Chinese food, and he nodded, so I asked if he had eaten at The Peking Gourmet Inn nearby. (It really is the best Chinese eatery in the D.C. area, and except for a little hole in the wall we stumbled into in London, the best I’ve ever encountered.) He hadn’t, so we got in a long conversation about the menu, how to get there, why he really owed it to himself and his family to check it out. I also learned that he and I both favored the same local Thai restaurant. Great guy.

After I got my pills and started to leave, he crossed over to me with his hand outstretched. “Thanks for the tip,” he said, with a big smile. “It was nice talking with you.” “Same here.” I said, as we shook hands.

One down, about a hundred million to go. Of course, if he had been much younger, I never would have been able to talk to him because his eyes would have been glued to smartphone screen…. Continue reading

Dar’shun Kendrick And “The Testicular Bill Of Rights”

A Georgia House committee approved legislation last week to outlaw abortion after a fetus’ heartbeat can be detected. Yes, it’s a bad bill and almost certainly an un-Constitutional one.  My guess is that this law and a similar one in Tennessee are designed to give the Supreme Court yet another shot at over-turning Roe v. Wade.

In response, Democratic state Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick sent out this proposal on Twitter:

Is this woman as brick-stupid as this would suggest, or is she making some subtle point that her intellectual inferiors are too limited to grasp? It appears that she really thinks that this is a valid, even clever, analogy. Do abortion fanatics really think this way? Do they really not even perceive that sexual autonomy is just one half of the issue, and that without the half that they are ignoring, there would be no issue? Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/13/2019: The Defending The Unsavory Edition

Good morning from Alexandria, VA.!

I love Atlanta, but it sure is good to be home.

1. I just posted this note on Facebook to make my “friends'” heads explode:

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez:: “I know when I was growing up, I didn’t see any women like me in positions of leadership, And so when you’re only seeing white dudes just like, running the world, you think you need to act like a white dude to run the world.” She’s a stone-cold bigot as well as arrogant and ignorant. There is no “acting like a white dude” any more than acting like a black dude, or a gay dude, or acting “Asian,” or “acting like a girl.” The woman is an idiot, and is being given a pass by progressives and the media…and many of YOU. She embarrasses her party , the House and her generation just about every time she opens her mouth. Ocasio-Cortez even manages to be an embarrassment to Socialists, which I didn’t think was possible.

2. Now Stop making me defend AOC!Ocasio-Cortez Blames Pipeline That Hasn’t Been Built Yet For An Oil Spill” is a typical headline around conservative media today. It’s a cheap shot: the lively Miss O-C got here South Dakota pipelines mixed up, as would I, as would you. This is the kind of biased and petty “gotchas!’ that these same pundits complain about when the mainstream news media uses them on President Trump. Hypocrites, all of them. The exact same principle applies to Trump and Ocasio-Cortez: they say enough things that genuinely deserved to be criticized without manufacturing targets for mockery.

3.  And stop making me defend Pete Davidson, too! SNL’s Pete Davidson, the same smug jerk who mocked candidate, now Congressman, Dan Crenshaw for wearing an eyepatch (he lost an eye in combat) is under fire again for this joke: Continue reading