Pre-Crummy Thanksgiving Warm-Up, 11/25/2020

Friend thanksgiving

1. It’s a good thing I’m not a conspiracy theorist…because it would then be easy for me to conclude that the Wuhan virus lock-downs, travel restrictions and dictatorial measures enacted by various Democratic Party-run states as well as the would-be edicts of the CDC are part of a calculated plan to weaken the family, isolate and divide the citizenry, undermine religion, increase fear and desperation, and further weaken American traditions and institutions, all for the purpose of paving the way for a totalitarian, single-party takeover. Killing Thanksgiving, which has been on the anti-American hit-list for a long time, would be an obvious and effective step in such a plotan.

Fortunately I am not a conspiracy theorist, and I view these developments from the perspective of Hanlon’s Razor. However, Thanksgivingcide this year, though not premeditated, will still advance the cause of the fascists of the Left, who are real, powerful and with the election of Joe Biden, on the ascendance.

What is particularly galling is that it is nearly impossible to hold a Thanksgiving family dinner this year even if one wants to be defiant, as I do. The various quarantine rules make traveling futile. The fearmongering has worked: my sister, for example, is now a full Wuhanphobic. She wouldn’t come into my home, and wouldn’t allow us in hers. I will not patronize another restaurant that requires diners to wear masks between bites, like the one in Arlington, Virginia we used last month to try to celebrate my son’s birthday—I’d rather starve—or rush to put the damn things on whenever a waiter nears the table.

Next up, Christmas. That’s been on the Left’s hit list for a long time too.

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Ethics Proposition: Justice Barrett Should Immediately Recuse Herself From Any Future SCOTUS Decisions Relating to the 2020 Presidential Election

Barrett Trump

I will stipulate that the newest Supreme Court Justice does not have to recuse, and that even the judicial ethics rules applying to other Federal judges (no judicial ethics rules are controlling for Supreme Court justices) would not require recusal in Justice Barrett’s circumstances.

I will also concede that the arguments that she should not recuse are significant and important:

1. Were she to recuse, it would be interpreted by many as an acknowledgment that her Senate critics and others were correct to suspect that she was nominated to assist the President if necessary in any Supreme Court challenges to the election results.

2. Her recusal would suggest a precedent holding that a Justice being nominated by a President creates a rebuttable presumption that such a Justice has a conflict of interest that would interfere with the Justice’s ability to exercise independent and objective judgment in any case directly affecting that President’s interests.

3. Her recusal would leave the Court with a potential 4-4 split on a case that would have major impact on the nation.

4. Democratic officials’ demands that she recuse herself are driven purely by partisanship, and are hypocritical. Justice Kagan, appointed by President Obama, did not recuse herself in cases involving the Affordable Care Act, for example.

All this is true,

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Distracted Ethics Warm-Up, 11/24/2020: “A Website, Two Governors And An Actress Walk Into A Bar…”


I’m writing this while simultaneously watching an Ethics Rock Extreme Zoom replay and answering typed-in questions from participants. Boy, I hate watching and listening to myself….

1. Unethical website? is labeled by the New York Times as “promoting claims of fraud, built on fantasy.” I’d call the big map showing Biden with 214 Electoral votes and the President with 232 misleading. I also find the Times’ constant refrain in headlines and stories that the President is “trying to subvert a free and fair election with false claims of fraud” an outright lie.” The 2020 election was not “fair” because of biased and manipulated reporting by the Times and most of the media, and there is no question that many of the allegations of fraud are accurate, with legitimate reasons to suspect broader corruption.

The site is also serving valid purpose since the news media isn’t reporting the current controversies objectively.

2. And this is why most celebrities and actors should shut up, because they make people stupid. Here is actress Kristen Stewart’s response to a interviewers question on how she feels about gay activists demanding that only gay actors should be allowed to play gay characters (Stewart decided she was gay mid-career. Whether she stays gay —think Ann Heche—is an open question. It’s all about branding…) :

I would never want to tell a story that really should be told by somebody who’s lived that experience. Having said that, it’s a slippery slope conversation because that means I could never play another straight character if I’m going to hold everyone to the letter of this particular law. I think it’s such a gray area. There are ways for men to tell women’s stories, or ways for women to tell men’s stories. But we need to have our finger on the pulse and actually have to care. You kind of know where you’re allowed. I mean, if you’re telling a story about a community and they’re not welcoming to you, then fuck off. But if they are, and you’re becoming an ally and a part of it and there’s something that drove you there in the first place that makes you uniquely endowed with a perspective that might be worthwhile, there’s nothing wrong with learning about each other. And therefore helping each other tell stories. So I don’t have a sure-shot answer for that….Sometimes, artfully speaking, you’re just drawn to a certain group of people. I could defend that, but I’m sure that somebody with a different perspective could make me feel bad about that — and then make me renege on everything I’ve just said. I acknowledge the world that we live in. And I absolutely would never want to traipse on someone else’s opportunity to do that — I would feel terrible about that. So my answer is fucking think about what you’re doing! And don’t be an asshole.

Thanks for that clarification, Kristen..

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40th Anniversary Ethics, 11/23/2020…

That was the recording the lovely and brilliant Grace Bowen Marshall and I danced to at our wedding reception. An old fashioned tune, you say? Hell, it was old-fashioned then. After an uproarious party featuring the combined talents of my two performing groups, The Showstoppers and The Music Lobby, seasoned by my cherished friend Jay Silva’s saxophone rendition of “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart.” I performed “Let a Woman in Your Life” (from “My Fair Lady”), and it was off to the historic Hay-Adams hotel (across from the White House) and from there to a cozy Civil War era inn near Charlottesville, where the charming host brought us breakfast in bed, and his cat and dog slept with us. As I said: cozy.

And thus began a great adventure that still has some twists and turns, battles, defeats and triumphs to reveal.

What a wonderful day.

1. Stay classy, Jenna!


You know, once upon a time a public utterance like this would be viewed as a breach of legal professionalism, if not an outright ethics violation. By the standards of past Trump lawyers like Michael Cohen, however, it seems positively quaint.

This kind of thing is why I caution lawyers to avoid Twitter.

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The 2020 Election And “The Fruit Of The Poisonous Tree”

The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree is a century-old legal doctrine that extends the exclusionary rule to make evidence inadmissible in court if it was discovered as a result of illegally obtained information or evidence. If the evidence”tree” is “poisoned,” so is its “fruit.” The doctrine was established in the 1920 case of Silverthorne Lumber Co. v. United States; Justice Felix Frankfurter gets credit for the metaphor from his 1939 opinion in Nardone v. United States.

There are three exceptions to the rule. The evidence will not be excluded if it was discovered from a source unrelated to the illegal activity, if its discovery was inevitable, or if the connection between the illegal activity and the discovery of the evidence is weak. The most famous example of the doctrine in action is probably “Dirty Harry,” where a mad serial killer is set free because detective Harry Callahan locates where the maniac had buried a girl alive by torturing him until he revealed the information..

The “fruit of the poisonous tree” analogy has turned up in the Ethics Alarms comments and elsewhere on the web regarding a possible application to voter fraud in the 2020 election. The theory: even if enough votes in a particular state can’t be conclusively shown to have been fraudulent to change that state’s winner in the Presidential election, substantial proof of cheating by the party prevailing in that states’ voting ought to invalidate the result, since the vote total itself was the result of cheating, and the entire election is “poisoned.”

There is a lot wrong with the theory and the analogy, both from a legal and an ethical perspective.

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Nicely Timed Ethics Quote Of The Month: John Cleese


Monty Python legend John Cleese apparently has decided that to hell with it, he’s going to get himself canceled, and he doesn’t give a damn if he is. The tweet above was part of a long string of them tweaking transgender activists, J.K. Rowling haters and more, but his “woke joke” was especially apt.

The Australian singer Sia (never heard of her—you?) wrote and directed an soon-to-be released movie titled “Music” about a young woman with autism. Music is played by actress Maddie Ziegler, who is apparently not on the autistic spectrum.

The Horror.

The cyber-mob, almost all of which have never directed or cast anything, were outraged, with reactions like this from Irish actress Bronagh Waugh:

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Sunday Evening Ethics, 11/22/2020: A Day That Changed Everything Edition

One of the things November 22 changed was my wedding: we were scheduled to get married on November 22, 1980, until I protested that I did not want to have the anniversary of what was going to be one of the happiest days of my life coincide with one of the most traumatic days in my childhood, and in the nation’s history.

On this date in 1963, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, was assassinated while traveling through Dallas, Texas, in an open-top convertible. Kennedy was, in some ways, the opposite of Donald Trump, a youthful, inspiring, charismatic President who radiated promise and good will, and who seemed poised to lead a united and vibrant America into the second half of the 20th Century. It was all hype: JFK’s was the ultimate “golden dancer presidency” even before Barack Obama. As P.J. O’Roarke writes this week in Commentary, Kennedy “was a man of no abiding political principles, a plagiaristic pseudo-intellectual, a liar about his health and fitness, and a gross philanderer. But, it turns out, he also wasn’t a very nice guy.” Yet he made the nation feel good, optimistic, excited about the future. His sudden death was shattering and transforming in ways, I would argue, even 9/11 couldn’t match.

The previous assassination had occurred when McKinley was shot, leading us into the era of Teddy Roosevelt and Progressivism. Kennedy’s death made the U.S. lurch into the Vietnam era, campus activism, civil rights protests, Richard Nixon and Watergate, and the drugs, sex and cynicism of the Sixties. They might be listening to more boring music in the multiverse where JFK lived to a ripe old age, but I’d take my chances with it.

Talk about an ethics train wreck! Gross incompetence allowed Kennedy to be vulnerable to a sniper that day. The Dallas police let Jack Ruby shoot and kill Lee Harvey Oswald on live TV. The official Warren Commission report of 1964 concluded that neither Oswald nor Ruby were part of a larger conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy, but few believed it, and irresponsible conspiracy-mongers from Jim Garrison to Oliver Stone were able to exploit the giant holes in the report to plant a cancer of suspicion and distrust that has thoroughly metastasized. In 1978 Congress issued a “preliminary report” that Kennedy was “probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy” that may have involved multiple shooters and organized crime.

That was one magic lugee.

1. And while we are on the topic of cult figures who died tragically…Netflix’s “The Crown” has revived all-matters-Diana, and now the BBC has reopened an inquiry into how journalist Martin Bashir arranged his sensational interview with the late Princess in which she openly attacked the Royal family and Prince Charles. A two-part documentary that aired on the British network ITV on last week included allegations that Bashir used dishonest tactics to earn Diana’s trust and persuade her to tell tales “out of school” with candor unprecedented in Royal Family history.

The documentary claims that Bashir used doctored bank statements to convince Diana that royal employees were being paid to spy on her.The British Broadcasting Corporation, which originally aired the interview on its “Panorama” program, announced that it would open an independent investigation into the allegations.

Martin Bashir? Where have I heard that name before? Oh, right, now I remember. He was the MSNBC host who had to resign after saying on the air that someone should shit in Sarah Palin’s mouth. But surely someone like that would never use unethical tactics to get the scoop interview of the century…

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This Is Unethical, But The Rhetoric From Democrats, Pundits And The Media Make Resisting The Impulse Nearly Impossible


Matt Mayer of The Spectator, in an essay titled, Revenge of the Republicans, writes in part,

The 2020 election has provided fertile ground upon which Republicans can spend the next four years doing to Joe Biden what the Democrats did to Donald Trump and George W. Bush. 

For four years, Democrats and their media allies trumpeted every claim, no matter how baseless or crazy, that Trump’s 2016 election win was illegitimate and fraudulent. Despite zero evidence that so much as a single vote was interfered with, Democrats peddled the hoax that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to elect Trump. Even after the Mueller investigation exonerated Trump and his campaign from the collusion canard, Democrats, led by the shameless Adam Schiff, continued to allege collusion. Their simple goal was to undermine and delegitimize the Trump presidency. It clearly worked to the degree some voters turned their backs on Trump even as they voted Republican down-ballot….

Though he managed to get far more done than people give his team credit for, Trump governed under a dark cloud for most of his presidency. His team had to waste precious time and energy defending him against the Mueller investigation with its phalanx of Democratic hitman lawyers and corrupt FBI personnel. The media aided this assault by running stories over the last four years based on anonymous sources, several of which ended up being false. No president has had to undergo so thorough an investigation on such thinly-sourced claims. Trump may be lots of things, but he is as patriotic and faithful to America as any man who ever occupied the Oval Office….

…The fact of the matter is Biden’s call for unity is like the kid in your class who lost every game, but always shouted ‘starting now’ only after he was ahead. In the days since Biden asked Republicans to turn the other cheek, his old boss Barack Obama launched his book promotion by claiming that Trump only won in 2016 because too many Americans are racists. Obama followed that left hook to Main Street America by then denigrating Trump as a dictator despite the fact that it was Obama who arrested and investigated journalists during his presidency.

…One legacy of Trump is he taught Republicans how to fight back. Thus, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Biden will now serve under a cloud of suspicion and feel the heat as investigators dig into every nook and cranny of his family’s life. If Republicans pick up the handful of seats they now need to take back the US House in 2022, Biden and the Democrats will rue the day they made Schiff their attack dog.

Turnabout is fair play, especially in politics.

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Saturday Ethics Respite Before Holiday Madness, 11/21/2020: The Justice, The Pope, The Scouts, And The Chickens

This is annually the last day before everything goes bananas in Marshall World. From now until New Years, its like the Nantucket Sleigh ride, not quite as dangerous, but not as much fun either. November 22 is the anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination, my generation’s 9-11. It changed everything. The 23rd is my anniversary, #40, which my son is sure to forget and my wife, for various reasons, doesn’t like to celebrate. Next is Thanksgiving, always depressing now because what was once a vibrant table of 7-15 relatives and friends is now at most four and a lot of wistfulness. My birthday comes on December 1, forever tainted because my perverse father chose the date to die on, and fate chose me to find his body. Then it’s the anxious run-up to the Christmas holidays, which always follows in the deadest period for ProEthics, meaning that we are counting pennies at the one time of the year we don’t want to be. (There is also the annual tree drama, since both my family and Grace’s were addicted to real, meticulously decorated trees, and we have a 20 foot ceiling which makes any tree less than 8 feet look silly. The thing takes about 2500 lights, which I have the responsibility of hanging, and then over a hundred mostly unique ornaments, beginning with the yarn Santa my mother made for Jack Sr. and Eleanor’s first scraggly tree in their new Cape Cod-style home in Arlington, Massachusetts. It was 1948. Getting our tree up and decorated to family standards takes about twelve hours and multiple First Degree prickle wounds. I can’t wait.

On the plus side, I’ll finally finish the Ethics Alarms Ethics Guide to “Miracle on 42nd Street”…

1. No, I’m not surprised that the Catholic Church sexual abuse cover-up went straight to the top. Are you? I’m not even disappointed. This is what organizations and institutions do: they protect themselves, and sacrifice the victims of their misconduct.

The Vatican this month released a report that showed Pope John Paul’s role blame in allowing the disgraced former prelate Theodore E. McCarrick to continue in the Church’s hierarchy.

The investigation, commissioned by Pope Francis, who canonized John Paul in 2014, reveals how the Pope ignored a wave of accusations of sexual abuse and pedophilia against McCarrick. Three popes participated in the cover-up, but one of them, John Paul, has been canonized. So Catholic saints are now accessories to rape.

A reversal of the canonization, which may never have happened, is unlikely, but it may slow the rush to canonize future popes.

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