Pre-Christmas Panic Ethics Warm-Up, 12/18/2020: “The Virus Made Me Do It!!”

I have to give Harry a callout: his Christmas classic is the only recording on the Sirius-XM Christmas Traditions channel sung by a still-living singer. Harry’s 93 now and the clock is ticking. His voice is shot, and he has become progressively more radical, angry and bitter over the years. But ah, what a great and transformative talent he was!

I also note that just this week, YouTube has slapped ads on all its songs and movie clips. Of course it has.

Why am I panicked? Oh, the tree’s not up, its a pine and too soft to hold about 40% of our cherished ornaments,we’re behind on other decorations, no shopping has been done, and “there’s plenty of time” suddenly mutated into “Holy crap! There’s only a week left!” At least Christmas decorations around the neighborhood are at an all-time high. I’ve been walking Spuds around to see them: boy, those huge inflatable lawn things are horrible. What does an Imperial Walker have to do with Christmas? Spuds tried to kill a giant inflatable Nutcracker Prince. I was proud of him…

1. This is, in short, a lie. “COVID-19 is now the leading cause of death in the U.S.” says an editorial published Thursday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. This false and intentionally fear-mongering conclusion is in part based on the U.S. practice of calling every death of someone who was diagnosed with the illness a death caused by the illness. That’s ridiculous. Three researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University, cite current daily mortality rates to show that COVID-19 has now surpassed heart disease and cancer as the leading daily cause of death in the U.S. “It’s been a long time since an infectious disease was the leading cause of death for the whole country,” said lead author Steven Woolf, M.D., director emeritus of VCU’s Center on Society and Health. “And it’s a tragic milestone we could’ve prevented.” As for that last statement, prove it, without a time machine. Meanwhile, it appears that Wuhan virus-“caused” deaths also include deaths from other causes that killed people because they put off getting medical treatment.

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The “White Christmas” Ethics Guide 2020

2020 Introduction

I have some very dear friends who are still angry with me for writing this admittedly harsh analysis of their favorite Christmas movie. Maybe that’s why I didn’t post it last Christmas season; I don’t know. It really is an ethics mess, however, and as I’ve stated elsewhere this week on Ethics Alarms, if you are going to make an ethics movie, someone involved ought to have functioning ethics alarms. The heartwarming ending—I still get misty when the old general played by Dean Jagger, gets saluted and serenaded by his reunited army unit—doesn’t make up for all the gratuitous lying and betraying going on in the rest of the film.

I have never mentioned this here before, but the movie was the result of an ethical act by one of the most unlikely people imaginable, Danny Kaye. If you search for Danny here, you will find that I have more connections to him than to any other entertainer, primarily through my co-writing and direction of an original musical about him, written by his long-time publicist and my friend. I credited Kaye with my interest in performing, musicals, and comedy, but my research into the real man was disheartening: in stark contrast to his persona and his public image, Danny was a miserable, paranoid, selfish, mean and insecure sociopath when he wasn’t playing “Danny Kaye,” which could be on stage or off it. “White Christmas” had been conceived as a re-make of “Holiday Inn” with the same cast, Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. Fred couldn’t do the project, so his part was re-written for Donald O’Connor, who became ill so close shooting that there was no time to retool the script and have the film ready for its target holiday release. In desperation, the producers asked Kaye if he would play Bing’s side-kick even though it meant 1) playing a support, which he had never done in a movie since becoming a star 2) playing a role that couldn’t highlight his special talents 3) subordinate himself to Bing Crosby, who was indeed the bigger star and box office draw, and most daring of all, expose his own limitations by doing dance numbers created for Donald O’Connor. Kaye was not a trained dancer, just a gifted mimic and athlete who could do almost anything well. Danny (actually Sylvia, his wife, agent and and career Svengali) had his price for the rescue: he demanded $200,000 and 10% of the gross.

Everyone around Danny Kaye was shocked that he agreed to all of this. Not only did he agree, he also amazed everyone by not playing the under-appreciated star on set, by doing O’Connor’s choreography as well as he did, and by knowing how not to steal focus from the star, something he infamously refused to do when he was in “Lady in the Dark” with Gertrude Lawrence. The movie was the top grossing film of 1954, and the most successful movie musical up to that time.

Danny’s good deed was punished, because today it is by far the most seen of his films, and is likely to be the source of his public image as time goes on. Yet it is not his best movie, or a fair representation of what made him a unique and popular supporter. Like Darren McGavin, a fine and versatile dramatic actor cursed to be remembered only as the father in “A Christmas Story,” Danny’s slice of immortality also minimizes his legacy and talent. Watch “The Court Jester.” With your kids or grandchildren.

1. The First Scene

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The Amy Coney Barrett Hysteria, PART I

We knew that whenever it was that Ruth Bader Ginsburg had to be replaced (and those of us who have not completely forgotten the immutable rules of mortaliy were not shocked when this occurred sooner rather than later) we knew that the Left would freak OUT. That they—by “they” I mean Democrats, “the resistance,” the Trump Deranged, pro-abortion fanatics, feminist ideologues and the substantial segment of social media that can be counted upon to react like the cattle in “City Slickers” when Billy Crystal turns in his battery-powered coffee grinder—would freak out quite this embarrassingly, however, I did not foresee.

This is only because I am an idiot, of course. The way the left has reacted and is reacting to Donald Trump’s election should have prepared me. Surely the despicable way they treated Brett Kavanaugh should have prepared me. It’s just that I find it hard—maybe I should say “painful”— to believe that one whole side of the political spectrum is capable of it all.

Need I mention that metaphorically running around screaming nonsense with one’s hair on fire is unethical? It is irresponsible citizenship, it is neither competent nor prudent, and it upsets the less-intelligent members of the herd, and it is wildly unfair to Judge Barrett.

Let’s just stick with that proposition, and concentrate primarily on examples that are res ipsa loquitur, meaning in this case that if you have to be told why some things are nuts, then you’re nuts too.

  • Senator Gillibrand’s tweet:

The fact that this outrageous statement is not out of character for the Junior Senator from New York doesn’t make it any more tolerable. The statement itself is another iteration of The Big Lie. Of course Barrett is qualified for the Court. Her former colleagues say so, the ABA says so, and and the current membership of the Court itself says so, since there are more than one Justice whose qualifications upon being confirmed were considerably less impressive.

Gillibrand represents the dangerous brand of anti-democratic thought her party is now peddling, albeit more openly and flagrantly than most of her compatriots, who are smarter than she is. That false principle is that only those who bow to Leftist cant are “qualified” to have any influence, legitimacy or power at all. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 9/20/2020: Tales Of The Great Stupid [Updated and Corrected]

1. Yes, these are the people who want to have power over our lives. Imagine: this woman isn’t mourning the death of a human being, she’s angry because that human being can no longer serve her interests. The human being in question continued to work for the public long after she could have retired with dignity and comfort, and this woman is furious that she wasn’t physically able to do so “until 2021.” Not only that, she posted this repulsive video with no apparent comprehension that it exposes her as a horrible human being. She just assumes that most who share her political persuasion are just as  incapable of empathy and compassion as she is. Maybe she’s right.

Again I must ask, “How do people get like this?”

***

Okay, I just stumbled on some timely satire. I generally hate memes, but this is genuinely funny. Forgive me.

2.  Speaking of memes and The Great Stupid, what can you say about an adult who would post this on Facebook in all seriousness, as if it was profound or true?

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Monday Musical Ethics , 8/31/2020: A Number From Today’s Seminar!

Good afternoon!

We ran out of time and had to dash through our last number on today’s version of Ethics Rock (By the way, Mike Messer really looks like the logo, which was designed before we found him), so I’ll let the legal ethics whizzes here (and everyone else: non-layers often do better on these quizzes than lawyers do—take a shot at the questions…Are you ready? “NJSBA” means “New Jersey State Bar Association,” you stress the “J” to make it scan.

“The Day My Ethics Died”

[A ProEthics legal ethics parody to the melody of “American Pie” by Don McLean]

A long, long, time ago,
I can still remember
Legal practice used to make me smile
And I knew if I could get my shot
I’d win my cases, like as not,
And then I could drink Chivas for a while.

But ethics rulings made me nauseous
I’m no good when over-cautious.
Clients give a cruel look
When they see you check the rule book.

I can’t remember if I cried
When I finally knew my brain was fried…
I took the rules and looked inside,
The day my ethics died.

So, hey, hey, NJSBA
Your committee has no pity for us lawyers today;
When black and white start to fade into gray
We ask, “Do you really mean what you say?”
“Do you really mean what you say?”

Oh, I’m the king of slip and falls
My suits make safer lawns and halls
(At least my wallet tells me so.)

My client, Mick, is lame and sore
Since he hit his head on a banker’s floor
And his injury has left him kinda slow.

Now his father has me change his will
To take out Mick and give him nil;
I know its Dad’s estate—
But doing this to Mick I hate!

Then there’s the day when Mick pulls out his gun
And points to strangers in the sun
He says, “I’d like to shoot them, one by one!”

The day my ethics died.

And I am singing,

Hey, hey, NJSBA
Your committee has no pity for us lawyers today;
When black and white start to fade into gray
We ask, “Do you really mean what you say?”
“Do you really mean what you say?”

Crying, lying, everything I’m trying
But Mick is nuts, there’s no denying
I do what he says and we’re dead.

This guy hears commands from Outer Space
And that strange expression on his face
Tells me something has pulled loose inside his head.

He’s pushing theories that won’t fly
And making arguments that I
Would never use in court…
Perhaps I should abort!

Or instead, before his fate is sealed
A guardian can make him yield;
I should have found a better field
Before my ethics died.

So now I’m singing,

Hey, hey, Mister VSBA
Your committee has no pity for us lawyers today;
When black and white start to fade into gray
We ask, “Do you really mean what you say?”
“Do you really mean what you say?”

Then, surprise! Just as I’m feeling sick
A settlement is offered Mick…
A deal like this won’t come again…
So come on Mick, be prudent, don’t be slow!

Drop the claim and take the dough
I’m sayin’, as your lawyer and your friend!

But Mick says no, it’s not enough
I argue, beg, and then get tough:
“You take it, or I’m through!
I’ll quit unless you do!”

Then as a last resort, I shout out, “Hey!”
“The Space Lords dictate what I say!”
And Mick says, “Really?! Then okay!”
The day my ethics died.

So I was singing

Hey, hey, NJSBA
Your committee has no pity for us lawyers today;
When black and white start to fade into gray
We ask, “Do you really mean what you say?”
“Do you really mean what you say?”

When the check arrived for Mick to take
He admitted that his pain was fake,
And I just groaned and turned away.

I tried to learn from CLE
But I fell asleep so rapidly
Though the man there gave me credit anyway.

And in the court the judges screamed
The juries drooled and the clients schemed
But nothing really mattered
My ethics all were shattered.

And the three things that inspired me
Justice,
Love, and a
Giant fee
Just seemed to be a mockery
The day my ethics died.

We started singing…

Hey, hey, NJSBA

Your committee has no pity for us lawyers today;
When black and white start to fade into gray
We ask, “Do you really mean what you say?”
“Do you really mean what you say?”

[SING ALONG!]

Hey, hey, NJSBA
Your committee has no pity for us lawyers today;
When black and white start to fade into gray
We ask, “Do you really mean what you say?”

Questions… Continue reading

A Poll On “Fiery But Mostly Peaceful” Because “I Gots To Know….”*

The mainstream news media generally has humiliated itself with its “mostly peaceful protests” gaslighting forthe past three months, but CNN launched itself into self- parody with the classic chryon above. It quickly spawned social media mockery like this…

..and this…

and is sure to inspire more. I wish I was more adept at computer graphics; there are several scenes I’d love to use.

So I have to ask…

______________________

*Classic pop culture reference. What’s the film and the situation? (This should be easy.)

 

Sunday Ethics Apparitions, 8/16/2020: Triceratops? What Triceratops? What IS A Triceratops?

1. From the Ethics Alarms cultural literacy files. I remember this re- tweet by acclaimed novelist Joyce Carol Oates from 2015; I can’t believe I didn’t post on it then. (Pointer to Ann Althouse for reminding me of it today):

Now,  I would like to believe that Oates was joking (I’m not sure about Tilley), but she is not known for madcap humor. Apparently “Jurassic Park,” Steven Spielberg  and popular culture are beneath her, and she was so focused on literature in school that dinosaurs completely missed her attention. I regard this as being estranged from one’s culture, and I regard that as irresponsible.

2. Question: If Twitter is taking down tweets involving hate speech, why is unequivocal hate like this permitted? Robert Trump, the President’s younger brother, died yesterday. The President wrote,

“It is with heavy heart I share that my wonderful brother, Robert, peacefully passed away tonight. He was not just my brother, he was my best friend. He will be greatly missed, but we will meet again. His memory will live on in my heart forever. Robert, I love you. Rest in peace.”

Yet the hateful, vicious “resistance” couldn’t rise to a moment of bipartisan decency. The hashtag #wrongtrump, is the second highest trending on Twitter, with more than 80,000  tweets last I checked. Among the the ghouls were journalist David Leavitt., ” who tweeted, “What did he promise the devil for the Grim Reaper to take the #wrongtrump ???” (5.7 thousand people “loved” the sentiment), and Bishop Talbert Swan, president of the Springfield, Massachusetts, branch of the NAACP (and a pastor, which will perhaps help illuminate my attitudes toward organized religion), who wrote “Dear Grim Reaper, You took the #wrongtrump.” That one got 10,000 hearts.

These are mean, bad people with dead ethics alarms. Continue reading

HBO Max Adds A Disclaimer For Morons Onto “Blazing Saddles”

You know: morons.

HBO Max thinks people are so stupid and shallow that they must have  “Blazing Saddles” explained to them, lest someone—one will do–think it’s intended to advance “systemic racism” rather than to ridicule it. I do not believe in hating people, but it takes every bit of principle and energy I can muster not to hate both the political correctness dictators who  believe in “trigger warnings,” and the hoards of dim bulbs and sheep-human hybrids who appreciate them. I’m still looking for the complete text of the introduction HBO Max has slapped on Mel Brooks’ masterpiece, but I know enough.

It is intoned  by University of Chicago professor of cinema studies and TCM host Jacqueline Stewart, who also delivered the disclaimer added to “Gone with the Wind.” I like Stewart, who is smart and knowledgeable, but I would have liked her better if she refused to participate in this insulting exercise.

“This movie is an overt and audacious spoof on classic Westerns,'” Stewart says. This, writes Kyle Smith in the New York Post, is to “set things up for anyone who might be clicking on the Mel Brooks comedy thinking they’re in for Swedish drama about the lingonberry harvest.” “It’s as provocative today as it was when it premiered back in 1974,” she says. No, tragically, it is more provocative. Thanks to the racial politics of censorship and ruthless power-seeking that has metastasized on the Left in the George Floyd Freakout, professors are losing their jobs and being “cancelled” for mentioning the word that Blazing Saddles uses repeatedly as a punchline. Any professor who analyzed the use of racist language in “Blazing Saddles” would risk being called a racist by the student body. Continue reading

Ethics Batting Practice, 7/21/ 2020: Baseball Zoom Hangover Edition.

Isn’t that only TWO feet??

Last night’s Smithsonian Associates presentation on baseball and American culture went well, I guess. Presenting on Zoom is like acting in a closet: no connection to the audience, no way to gauge what is working and what isn’t, or whether the invisible viewers are engaged. It did give me  a chance, during the section on baseball cheating, to read one of my favorite passages from Philip Roth’s baseball allegory/satire,”The Great American Novel.” Roth’s narrator, mad sportswriter Word Smith, tells the sad tale of the legendary “Spit” Baal, a master of the spitball, the mucous-ball and other trick pitches aided by surreptitiously applied substances. After such adulterations of the ball were banned in 1920, Baal found his career in tatters, since he could no longer use his signature pitch. (In the real world, the National league and American league allowed acknowledged spitball specialists to continue to throw the pitch legally under a grandfather clause, but Roth’s fantasy  is about a third major league, wiped from history and record books in the Fifties following the discovery that it had been infiltrated by Communists.) One day, again seeing his dry pitches clobbered and realizing that he could no longer get batters out legally, “Spit” has a psychotic break on the mound that ends his career in spectacular if unsanitary fashion:

And so before twenty thousand shocked customers  including innocent children — and his own wide-eyed teammates, the once great pitcher, who was  washed up anyway, did the unthinkable, the unpardonable, the inexpiable. He dropped the flannel  trousers of his uniform to his knees, and proceeded  to urinate on the ball, turning it slowly in his hands  so as to dampen the entire surface. Then he hitched  his trousers back up, and in the way of pitchers,  pawed at the ground around the mound with his  spikes, churning up then smoothing down the dirt  where he had inadvertently dribbled upon it. To the  batter, as frozen in his position as anyone in that  ball park, he called, “Here comes the pissball, shithead — get ready!”

For years afterward they talked about the route that ball took before it passed over the plate. Not  only did it make the hairpin turns and somersaults  expected of a Baal spitter, but legend has it that it  shifted gears four times, halving, then doubling its  velocity each fifteen feet it traveled. And in the end,  the catcher, in his squat, did not even have to move  his glove from where it too was frozen as a target .Gagging, he caught the ball with a squish, right in  the center of the strike zone…

1. So this graph would seem to indicate that the news media is scare mongering, right? Continue reading