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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Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss! You’re Cancelled, You Racist.

Suess birthday

Today is Dr. Theodore Geisel’s birthday. Better known to the world as Dr. Seuss, the author and illustrator of such classic children’s books as “The Cat in the Hat,” “Horton Hears A Who,” and my personal favorite, “Fox in Socks” because it drives my wife crazy, was born this day in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1904. Geisel, who used his middle name and his mother’s maiden name as his nom de plume, wrote 48 books (even some for adults). His work has now sold over 200 million copies and been translated into multiple languages. His style of verse and illustrating have been imitated and parodied countless times. Jesse Jackson even read “Green Eggs and Ham” on Saturday Night Live.

Nobody ever thought of Dr. Seuss books as “racist” until recent fads, events , cancel culture and The Great Stupid washed over the land. Well, OK, not “nobody.” Ethics Alarms had a post about the Seuss Museum in Springfield cutting a piece out of a Dr. Seuss mural because three prominent children’s authors who had been invited to attend the Children’s Literature Festival at the Museum threatened to boycott the event on the theory that the mural, painted to replicate a scene from Dr. Seuss’s first book “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,”  was, they claimed, offensive. It had, said one of the grandstanding hysterics, a “jarring image” of a man with slanted eyes and a coolie’s hat using chopsticks to eat rice, because, apparently, Chinese people never wore such hats, don’t use chopsticks and hate rice. I wrote, while awarding the museum an Ethics Dunce designation (I’m thinking about adding a “Weenie of the Week”…what do you think?):

There is nothing racially jarring about Geisel’s painting of a “Chinaman” except to someone already looking for offense. Dr. Seuss’ drawings can be fairly termed cartoons. The definition of a cartoon is “a simple drawing showing the features of its subjects in a humorously exaggerated way.”  What are these juvenile children book authors asserting…that all cartoons are racially insensitive? That only cartoon of non-whites are offensive?…Normal Americans, meanwhile, understand the cartoon art form, recognize that features are exaggerated, and thus do not take drawings like those by Dr. Seuss (or Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons) as literal or malicious.

Well, silly me. I thought this was just a one-off moment of woke insanity: I have since learned that the Woke never sleep. In the post, I referenced “The Simpsons” and the fact that nobody had called for the elimination of Apu. Apu has since been cancelled as “racially insensitive.” The show also decreed that white voice actors can no longer portray black characters, so Dr. Hibbard has a new sound. Presumably “The Simpsons” will eventually seek a low IQ hick to voice “Cletis the Slack-Jawed Yokel” and a socially awkward MIT PhD. to do the voice of Prof. Frink.

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Ethics Verdict: It Doesn’t Matter Whether Or Not Coke’s Diversity Training Specifically Tells Employees To “Try To Be Less White”—It’s Still Unethical.

Less white

Coke 1

One of the ways the news media and factcheckers confuse the public rather than enlightening them is their well-developed penchant for complicating an issue beyond comprehension so normal people just shrug and say, “I don’t have time for this: the sock drawer beckons.” This strategy allows all sorts of unethical conduct to fly under the radar. A recent example has been the controversy over Coca-Cola’s corporate diversity training, a current obsession of the rightish media which I admit that I skipped when I saw the first of the Powerpoint slides above. I saw it, and concluded that it could not possibly be part of an official major corporation’s diversity course despite what I was being told so I and any other woke-averse Americans would become livid. As it happens, I was right, but that misses the real issue.

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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?

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/28/21: A Missing Part 2, And More…

“Never on a Sunday” was a surprise international hit film in 1960, a romantic comedy starring Melina Mercuri as a choosy Greek prostitute. The actress also recorded the film’s title song, which had a, er, slightly different meaning in Greek, as my mother, who spoke Greek, delicately explained to me at the time. “Kiss,” mom said, doesn’t exactly mean kiss. Nevertheless the song was covered by lots of singers. including the pre-“Downtown” Petula Clark, and was ubiquitous for months. It was also the first song I ever wrote a parody of, #1 of hundreds.

1. It’s comforting to know that the conservative media is trying to be just as unfair to President Biden as the progressive news media (also known as “the media”) was to President Trump. Yesterday i read many stories about how Biden had a complete meltdown during a speech, didn’t know where he was and asked, “What am I doing here?” As you can see for yourself, that’s a false representation. Joe looks vague and unwell, but he merely got lost momentarily reading a list of names. I have said out loud, “What am I doing?” on more than one occasion while speaking.

2. And this is why it’s important to have a conservative Supreme Court: The Supreme Court ruled on February 26 that Santa Clara County may not enforce a complete ban on indoor religious services as part of California’s draconian pandemic measures. (Wait, I’m confused: who are the fascists again?) Earlier, the Court told California that indoor church services could not be banned because of the pandemic, but allowed the state to cap attendance at 25% capacity and to prohibit singing and chanting.

Santa Clara argued that its ban and limitations on any indoor gatherings should be allowed to stand because its restrictions for churches were the same as those imposed on other establishments where people can visit but not gather in groups. The Justices’ unsigned order last week said that the earlier order “clearly dictated” that Santa Clara’s ban could not stand. Chief Justice John Roberts had written at the time,

“The state has concluded, for example, that singing indoors poses a heightened risk of transmitting COVID-19. I see no basis in this record for overriding that aspect of the state public health framework. At the same time, the state’s present determination—that the maximum number of adherents who can safely worship in the most cavernous cathedral is zero—appears to reflect not expertise or discretion, but instead insufficient appreciation or consideration of the interests at stake.”

Showing their insufficient appreciation of the interest at stake—the right to worship—were the three liberal Justices, Kagan, Sotomayor, and Breyer.

3. I was going to post a follow-up to this post about the film “Denial” (hence the “Part I” in the headline) and other issues intervened. (Sorry). To summarize briefly, Part 2 was going to recount my own run-in with Prof. Lipstadt at the time of her defamation trial when she was sued for defamation by a Holocaust-denying British historian in 2005. In my previous ethics website, the suddenly returned Ethics Scoreboard, I gave C-Span an Ethics Dunce award based on Prof. Lipstadt’s account that it had insisted that the Holacuast denier’s arguments be presented on video as a condition of her appearance on its broadcast. I wrote in part,

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ARRGGH!!! NAZIS!!!!!

Conspiracy design

Apparently, vaccinations are needed for Trump Derangement Syndrome. It is not going away despite the exit of Donald Trump. There’s also a significant likelihood that this is just one more manifestation of The Great Stupid, and as we all know, you can’t fix stupid. Or at least there’s no vaccination…

That’s the nifty stage at CPAC above, where conservatives are flocking right now to tell tales of the good old days of child labor, women baking pies while barefoot and pregnant, and the coloreds happily singing in the cotton fields. Or something: all Democrats are sure of is that it’s some kind of evil cult. So now a bunch of conspiracy theorists led by unemployed actress Alyssa Milano, with assistance by TMZ and Snopes, are telling social media that the design is an open admission of the fascist sympathies of the Right.

Milano tweet

ARRGGH! NOOOOOOOOOOOOO! IT’S TRUE IT’S TRUE!!!

Yes, these are the same people Republicans sat back, snoozed, and allowed to out-maneuver them on voting regulations. The GOP is literally dumber than the people who believe things like this.

Observations:

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Ethics Hero: Bluefield (Va.) College President David Olive

Bluefield

The players for Bluefield College’s basketball team had done “a Kaepernick” several times prior to their games in January and February, and after being warned by school officials that this conduct was against school policy and would be punished in the future, the team stayed in the locker room during the playing of the National Anthem in the next game. But on February 9, the Bluefield players decided to defy the college and kneel during the anthem. College President David Olive informed the team’s coach, that “there would be consequences.” There were. He suspended the entire team for the next game, thus forfeiting the contest.

Good. That is exactly what he should have done.

The students were warned, and decided to test the resolve of the college in their arrogant wokeness. Now they know that not everyone backs down.

The players then proceeded to demonstrate the deficits of the American educational system, including, sadly, Bluefield. They argued a double standard, because a pro-Trump rally held near the campus showed that some protests (you know, white protests!) are acceptable to the school, but not theirs. “So it’s OK for everyone to have a Trump rally with Confederate flags, but it’s not OK for us to kneel for our people who’ve fallen,” said one player who has been speaking for the team.

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Our Financial System And Trust

fix

Guest Post by Michael R

The recent House hearing on Wall Street did not actually dig into the scandals that are threatening our financial systems. The blatant manipulation of the stock market by market players has been made clear and people are just ignoring it. The same is true with precious metals trading, with JP Morgan being fined almost $1 billion for manipulating metals the same way the hedge funds manipulated GameStop above. This is after being fined $550 million in 2015 for rigging currency prices. In 2013, they were fined $410 million for price fixing energy In 2019, they were fined for manipulating the currency market. In one 3-year period, they were fined $35 billion for financial wrongdoing. Why is such a company still allowed to dominate key financial sectors? Why is it even allowed to be in business?

Is our entire system ‘rigged’? Look at the feedback loop the Fed is currently in:

A. “We don’t have inflation because inflation would cause the government to collapse under the interest of $30 trillion in debt.”
B. “We have inflation due to unrestrained printing of money, so foreign government dump Treasury bonds that pay little interest and are being devalued by inflation.”
C. Interest on the Treasury bonds increase to attract customers.
D. This can’t happen, so the Fed declares there is no inflation, prints a lot of new money to buy the bonds off the market to make the bond more valuable (because there are fewer of them).
E, This still isn’t enough and only half the bonds are purchased.
F. The fed prints more money to buy the bonds that didn’t sell to keep interest rates from increasing due to inflation from printing

Return to A...
Certainly looks rigged. Cue hyperinflation!

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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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