Sunday Ethics Cheer-Up, 10/25/2020: A Gaffe, A Cake, A Charge, And A Check

Well, I’m trying to cheer up, anyway. It’s raining, I’m behind in several projects, including several posts, I’ve been exhausted without good cause this weekend, and I’m depressed. I even broke out my anti-depression play list (21 pieces in all), with artists noted:

  • “One Fine Day” by the Chiffons
  • “The Man on the Flying Trapeze” by Spike Jones and His City Slickers, Doodles Weaver, soloist.
  • “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody” and “Zing Went the Strings of My Heart” (Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall)
  • “Only You” by the Platters
  • “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond
  • The First Act Finale of “Iolanthe” and the Overture to “The Pirates of Penzance” by Gilbert and Sullivan
  • “I’m a Fool,” by Elvis.
  • “Neverland,” sung by Mary Martin.
  • “The Star Spangled Banner” by Whitney Houston
  • “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “When I Saw Her Standing There” by the Beatles.
  • “Where the Boys Are” by Connie Francis
  • “La Mer”by Charles Trenet
  • “The Carousel Waltz” by Richard Rodgers.
  • “Runaround Sue” by Dion
  • “Tessie” by the Dropkick Murphys
  • “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir
  • “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash.
  • “A Christmas Festival” by the Boston Pops

If that group doesn’t restore my spirits, it’s time to head for the bridge.

1. I know Ethics Alarms has assigned Joe Biden’s now routine gaffes and misstatements to the Julie Principle category, but you have to admit, “We have the most extensive voter fraud organization in history” is special.

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Friday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/23/2020: Oh, Might As Well Talk About The Debate…

Debate2

If you are going to have a bad and a good debate performance, is it better to have the better showing in the last debate? That was certainly the case for Barack Obama in 2012, after Romney aced him in the previous one. Allowing early voting makes the calculation uncertain—one more reason it’s a terrible policy that undermines responsible, informed elections.

(The debate transcript is here.)

1. By recent, horrible standards, the moderator, Kristen Welker on NBC, was relatively competent, fair and unbiased. How hard was that? Even so, she interrupted the President repeatedly while mostly letting Biden finish his answers, which was not necessarily in Joe’s best interests. The mains thing was that her questions to both candidates were pointed and tough, and she did not seem hostile to one or the other. Nor did she bail out the Democratic candidate—you know, the one she’s almost certainly voted for already, a la Candy Crowley in 2012.

Welker did not ask Biden about #MeToo and his repeated sexual harassment as VP, never mind the accusation from his former staffer. That topic has been verboten during the campaign, and of course Trump wasn’t going to bring it up. Astounding, really, that Biden sailed through the primaries and this campaign without anyone prominent officially raising the question of how the party of #MeToo could have an open sexual harasser as its standard bearer.

2. Joe Biden’s appeals to trust based on the public knowing good ol’ Joe were either audacious, cynical or stupid, depending on your degree of tolerance. I found them nauseating, and for me they raised the question of whether Biden really thinks the public is that inattentive. Biden has spent his entire run for the White House rejecting the positions and values he promoted during his career; how can he keep saying, “You know me! You know what I stand for!”?

3. As always, the President’s inability to be verbally precise was infuriating, as in the exchange about “catch and release.” The basic fact is that the policy is irresponsible, since there is no reason to trust someone who would illegally enter our country to appear voluntarily in court. Trump said that almost no illegals appear, which is a typical exaggeration; Biden, absurdly, said almost all of them do, which is flat out false.

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High Noon Ethics Shoot-Out, 10/21/2020: Religious Bigotry Vs Anti-Gay Bigotry! “Whitewashing” Vs Anti-Semitism! Google Vs Trust!

As you may (and should) know, the classic Western “High Noon” was and is regarded by some conservatives as anti-American. I think it is, as excellent as it is. The ending, where the heroic law man (played by Gary Cooper in an Academy Award-winning performance) throws his star in the dirt in disgust (imitated by “Dirty Harry” for very different reasons in that conservative film years later), is widely seen as a rejection of American society as hypocritical. (The fact that the screenwriter, Carl Foreman, was a Communist doesn’t help.)

My favorite scene in the movie, where Cooper begs the church congregation to help, plays like a “Twilight Zone” episode, with the whole town rationalizing furiously to avoid helping the desperate law man minutes away from having to face, alone, vengeful thugs determined to kill him. (The whole scene is not on YouTube; I searched.) “Rio Bravo,” one of the best John Wayne Westerns and a personal favorite, was devised by director Howard Hawks as a direct rebuke of the selfish and craven America “High Noon” posits. In the Duke’s movie, the lawman, Wayne, constantly rejects the offers of help he receives, though he knows hired killers are massing to free his prisoner. Yet people go out of their way, at great personal risk, to help him anyway, time after time. “High Noon” is a better movie (maybe), but “Rio Bravo” is a fairer depiction of American values and history.

1. This is why I tell lawyers and government employees that it’s unethical to use Google for professional communication and client matters. Mac programmer Jeff Johnson has discovered that if you set Google Chrome to eliminate all website cookies and site data when you close the browser, the data remains un-erased for YouTube and Google itself.

What a coinkydink!

“Perhaps this is just a Google Chrome bug, not intentional behavior, but the question is why it only affects Google sites, not non-Google sites,” Johnson says. “I’ve tested using the latest Google Chrome version 86.0.4240.75 for macOS, but this behavior was also happening in the previous version of Chrome. I don’t know when it started.”

Bottom line: Don’t trust Google. Like I’ve been saying….

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Monday Ethics Warm-Up, 10/19/2020: Wherein My Head Explodes At Least Once

head-explode Calvin

1. KABOOM! Just when I thought 1) Georgetown could not embarrass this alum more thoroughly and 2) my head had been immunized from exploding comes the astounding news that Georgetown University has hired former FBI agent Peter Strzok as an adjunct professor. Strzok is now listed on the university’s staff page and he mentioned the Walsh School of Foreign Service on his Twitter profile. An alumnus, he will be teaching a “Counterintelligence and National Security” in the fall semester.

While engaged in an adulterous affair with then FBI lawyer Lisa Page in 2016, Strzok exchanged suspicious anti- Trump messages that called into question the legitimacy and fairness of the Mueller investigation. The FBI fired Strzok  in 2018 for  undermining public confidence in the non-partisanship of the bureau and federal law enforcement.

Stay classy, Georgetown! I already have my law school diploma facing the wall; I guess I can coat it with some kind of noxious substance…

2. The villains here is the professor. This is no time to be a weenie. Actually, there is never a good time to be a weenie. A professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law used “nigger” (referred to in infantile fashion by the law school’s announcement as “the n-word,” since “poopy badspeak” hasn’t caught on yet) in the context of discussing an offensive language case. But of course a student or six reported him, because they could, and it is an easy way for young progressive cowards to justify puffing up their pigeon chests because they get to cause trouble for someone who did absolutely nothing wrong.

The adjunct professor has not been identified, but in an email from law school administrators, including Law Dean Amy Wildermuth, it was announced that the professor has resigned.

“The instructor apologized and expressed his deep regret to the class, and informed the class at 1 p.m. today that he was resigning immediately from teaching at Pitt Law,” the announcement said in part.  “We condemn the use of this word, and we believe that saying this word and words like it, even in an academic context, is deeply hurtful,” the note concluded.

Words are not hurtful. Meanings are hurtful, when they are intentional. This is virtue-signaling and language policing of the most indefensible sort. The professor, whoever he is, had an obligation to the school, the culture, his profession, common sense and himself to fight, not surrender.

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Ick or Ethics? The Cool Diorama Controversy

Lion_Attacking_a_Dromedary

Boy, as a kid, would I have loved the diorama “Lion Attacking a Dromedary” at The Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh! Things like that—by “like that” I mean cool, stimulating exhibits that fired my curiosity—got me interested in all sorts of subjects growing up: paleontology, zoology, history. The creation of French naturalist and taxidermist Edouard Verreaux and his brother was made for the Paris Exposition of 1867 and has been at the Pittsburgh museum since 1899. I wish it had been lodged at the Peabody Museum in Cambridge, Mass., where I used to spend long, leisurely Saturdays with my best friend, Peter Bena.

But now, fully in the grip of what I call “The Great Stupid,” the Carnegie Museum’s interim director says the exhibit is being “reconsidered,” because the exciting scene has disturbed “some.” After all, it depicts violence against a man described as an Arab courier. Also, the victim’s garb has been determined to be “derived from” at least five separate North African cultures. So that’s bad. I’m not sure why, but it’s bad. I’m sure PETA thinks the scene encourages cruelty to camels.

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Weekend Ethics Update, 10/18/20: As The Election Nears…Seeking Contrast And Perspective

  1. Ethics movie alert. Its heart is true blue—this is an Aaron Sorkin film, after all—but “The Trial of the Chicago Seven,” now on Netflix, is excellent, as well as must-watching for the astounding number of Americans under 40—50? 60?—who know almost nothing about the previous period of liberal arrogance, political incompetence and institutional failure, the late Sixties. The cast is excellent and star-studded; whoever came up with the idea of casting Sasha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman should win a casting Oscar, for example. For me, the movie brought back memories sharp and grim: what a shitstorm that trial was. Frank Langella, whom I just watched in his remarkable performance as Richard Nixon more more than a decade ago in “Frost/Nixon,” is a memorable if unsympathetic Judge Julian Hoffman. Hoffman, I think, deserves better: like Judge Ito, Hoffman never had a chance to avoid judicial infamy once that trial became a circus, and that bwas something no judge on Earth could have stopped.

Then there is the frightening reality that the Chicago Seven (and Bobby Seale made Eight), who seemed like fringe-y, juvenile extremists at the time, look moderate and reasonable in comparison to today’s antifa, Black Lives Matter followers, and…dare I say it? … a nearly critical mass of Democrats.

2. Speaking of which…Senator Diane Feinstein is under attack from that nearly critical mass for indulging in traditional professional civility and bi-partisan responsibility by not pushing the recently completed hearings on the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett nomination to turn into a hyper-partisan fiasco, like the Kavanaugh hearings. She even praised her Republican counterpart, Senator Graham, for doing a good job (it wasn’t that good a job) in chairing the hearings, unlike, to just pick an example out of the murky past, the job Senator Joe Biden did during the infamous Clarence Thomas hearings. Feinstein is nearly 90, and should not be in the Senate at that age just as the unjustly sainted Justice Ginsburg should not have been on the Supreme Court long enough to die in office. Nonetheless, she is trying to hold the line against forces in her own party that would make peaceful and functioning Democracy impossible.

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The Annoying 70th Rationalization: The Idiot’s Proof, or “Some Say…”

moronic-idiot

There I was, half-asleep, drinking my second cup of double caffeine coffee, considering how I had already missed the window for Saturday blog posts (if at least two posts aren’t up by 12:30 pm., the day’s traffic will be pathetic), and watching the Smithsonian’s educational and attractive “Aerial America” series, where a staid narrator waxes on abut various locales as a we see them from a lying camera above. (Did YOU know that “penitentiary” is a word devised by William Penn, who designed Pennsylvania prisons to cause criminals to be penitent (by making them spend their sentences in solitary confinement? I didn’t, and now I feel really stupid.)

Suddenly, as the airplane flew low over Central Park in Manhattan, I heard the narrator proclaim, “Some say that more gunpowder was used to make the ponds and landscapes in Central Park than was used during the Battle of Gettysburg.”

ARRGH! THAT again!

And there it was.

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A “When Ethics Alarms Don’t Ring” Anniversary Retrospective: The Cancellation Of Charlie Rich

charlierichjohndenver

I wasn’t paying attention in 1975 when this episode occurred: it was a big year for me. I graduated from law school, took the bar, moved back to Massachusetts and then back to D.C. Most of all, the Red Sox went to the World Series and I had prime seats to see Carlton Fisk hit his immortal homer in the 12th inning of Game 6, waving the ball fair, but barely. The Country Music Awards (CMAs) were nowhere on my radar. They still aren’t: there isn’t a sock drawer in America I wouldn’t rather color-code that watch that show. But on October 13, 1975, 45 years ago to the day, an ethics drama unfolded with many lessons.

Charlie Rich, the soulful country music singer they called the Silver Fox (Even I had heard “Behind Closed Doors”) had been voted Entertainer of the Year by the Country Music Association of America one year earlier, and thus was chosen to  announce that year’s winner of the CMA’s greatest honor at the televised 1975 show.  He opened the envelope, appeared to read the name on the slip of paper,  and instead of announcing it, Rich reached into his pocket, took out a cigarette lighter and set the slip on fire.  While the paper burned, he finally announced that the winner was “my friend Mr. John Denver” Denver was only available to accept the awards via satellite linkup, so he made his acceptance speech with no knowledge of Rich’s gesture.

The audience was horrified, and many country music fans—and obviously John Denver fans— were furious. Charlie Rich was blacklisted from the CMA awards show for the rest of his career. His popularity crashed: from that moment until the end of his career in 1992, Rich had only one more #1 hit in those years, though a couple of songs reached #3 on the country charts. By any standard, his career after flaming John Denver was greatly diminished. Denver, universally regarded as a nice guy, was seen as the victim of a jerk. (The “my friend” seemed like a particularly nasty touch.)

What was going on here? The assumption was that Rich was taking a stand for country traditionalists against pop music turf invaders like Denver and Olivia Newton-John, who had won the Most Promising Female Vocalist award in 1973.  To this day, some even see his uncivil attack on Denver as courageous. The Saving Country Music blog opined in 2013:

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Facebook, Meet The Slippery Slope. Slippery Slope, Facebook. Public, PAY ATTENTION!

censorship

This issue doesn’t need a lot of exposition—I hope, at least not among this enlightened and educated readership— but it is important.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced yesterday that his platform will now block posts and inks that argue that the Holocaust didn’t happen or has been exaggerated. , Facebook  is increasingly a taking action to undermine what it considers  conspiracy theories and misinformation, using the approaching U.S. presidential election as justification.

It isn’t. Facebook is too powerful a platform for public discourse and communication to engage in picking and choosing which opinions and assertions are worthy of being read and heard. In addition, Facebook is not objective, unbiased or trustworthy…or competent. I know this for a fact.

It bans Ethics Alarms. Case closed.

Holocaust survivors around the world have pushed Zuckerberg this summer to remove Holocaust denial posts from the social media site. The effort was coordinated by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which used Facebook itself to promote its suppression efforts, posting one video per day urging him to remove Holocaust-denying groups, pages and posts as “hate speech.”

Once again, and this also is a fact, what is labelled “hate speech” is too often a matter of bias on the part of the hate speech accusers.

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Ethics Hero: New York Times Op-Ed Columnist Bret Stephens

1619

Bret Stephens has been criticized on this site for regularly failing his alleged assignment of bringing a principled conservative voice to the New York Times op-ed pages, and seeming to yield to the strongly biased culture of the uenthical paper that employs him.

In his most recent column, however Stephens courageously and unblinkingly calls out the New York Times’ controversial “1619 Project” for what it is—dishonest, misleading, falsified—oh, let’s not mince words— crap. [Ethics Alarms discussed the “1619 Project” and its unethical creator, Times reporter and race activist Nikole Hannah-Jones, here] Josh Blackmon, for example, writing at Reason, thinks that the columnist metaphorically biting the hand that feeds him will mark the beginning of the end of Stephens at the Times. After all, a Times editor recently resigned after the paper’s Jacobins called for his head for daring to allow a Republican Senator to voice an opinion that went against the Times’ view of the world. Stephens has gone far, far beyond that.

He knows it, too. At the end of his dissection of the bad history and unethical journalism that disgracefully won the Times a Pulitzer Prize, the columnist writes,

For obvious reasons, I’ve thought long and hard about the ethics of writing this essay. On the one hand, outside of exceptional circumstances, it’s bad practice to openly criticize the work of one’s colleagues. We bat for the same team and owe one another collegial respect.On the other, the 1619 Project has become, partly by its design and partly because of avoidable mistakes, a focal point of the kind of intense national debate that columnists are supposed to cover, and that is being widely written about outside The Times.

To avoid writing about it on account of the first scruple is to be derelict in our responsibility toward the second.All the more so as journalists, in the United States and abroad, come under relentless political assault from critics who accuse us of being fake, biased, partisan and an arm of the radical left. Many of these attacks are baseless. Some of them are not. Through its overreach, the 1619 Project has given critics of The Times a gift.

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