I Ask Again: “Is There Any Justification For A State Censoring Vanity Plates?” And The Answer Is The Same…

In 2018, Ethics Alarms questioned the wisdom and ethics of a state denying permission for drivers to have whatever vanity plates their little vain and often juvenile hearts desire. I happen to live in the state with the most vanity plates of all, Virginia, which not only seldom exercises government power over license plate speech, but also makes vanity plates extremely cheap…and, of course, being so close to Washington. D.C., the state has more than its fair share of narcissists.

What I wrote in 2018 still holds, unedited:

Utah, for examples, bans vanity plates with profanity, “derogatory language,”  drug references,  sex talk, references to bodily functions, “hate speech,” targeting a particular group, or advocating violence advocates, as well as alcohol references and the number combo “69.” Ethics verdict: None of their business. These are words and numbers, and the state is declaring content and intent impermissible. When I see a car with an obnoxious vanity plate, I’m grateful. This is useful information. Racist or vulgar plates translate into “I am an asshole, and want you to know it!”

Thank you, sir! I appreciate the heads up.

Last time, the post concentrated on the plate censorship by New Hampshire and Utah. Now we have access to the banned words and numbers in Illinois, which include, for some weird reason, “BIDEN.” It takes a lot of gall for the state that plasters “Land of Lincoln” everywhere to tell drivers they can’t have the name of Abe’s current successor on their cars. Also banned:

Ooooh...I’m so scared! And this one…

AAAAIIIIII! Now I’m REALLY scared! Take it away! TAKE IT AWAY!

The Illinois Secretary of State is empowered by law to refuse misleading plates or those which create “a connotation that is offensive to good taste and decency.” The state currently has a “Inhibit List,” a compilation of more than 7,000 phrases that won’t be put on a vanity plate. Here are just the As and Bs. And what’s the matter with…

…I wonder? Mentioning beer is in bad taste? Does Illinois still have a Prohibition hangover?

And how did “Brandon” manage to avoid the list? The whole, silly, slippery slope thing is here. Continue reading

And Now For Something Completely Stupid: The Unethical Satire Of Joe Matthews

Joe Mathews is co-president of the Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy. He has written an op-ed piece arguing that California should “abolish parenthood.” The usually astute people at Legal Insurrection (if someone can explain why  all of those annoying breaks are in the title, please do) apparently think he’s serious; I don’t, but it doesn’t matter. If your satire is so inept that nobody can tell it’s a joke, then it is more hoax than satire, a deliberate lie to make people feel dumb who believe it so you can mock them afterward for being gullible.

This thing by “California Joe,” as he calls himself on-line, is worse than that: in this environment of near-complete progressive derangement, his absurdist piece is like a flaming match tossed into a dry forest. That’s wildly irresponsible.

Joe will doubtlessly defend his satire as “Swiftian,” but there was never any danger that the English would start eating children to solve poverty, over-population and hunger. That’s because Jonathan Swift’s satire was funny, as competent satire is supposed to be, and because the British of his era were not insane. “California should abolish parenthood, in the name of equity” is not funny, and it is not far enough removed from other truly terrible, totalitarian ideas being advanced by Woke World that the author can be confident that his gag won’t find its way into a movement. Remember too, that the state taking children from parents has been a totalitarian strategy in the Third Reich, Soviet Russia, and Red China. Continue reading

“Don’t Look Up”: Insulting, Arrogant, Incompetent…But Revealing!

Now we have an all-star movie to graphically illustrate the critical life-skill principle that bias makes you stupid. It is “Don’t Look Up,” the creation of once-clever writer-director Adam McKay, who was responsible for some of the funnier Will Farrell movies before he decided that woke politics was his destiny. He recruited a glittering list of outspoken Hollywood progressives (Leonardo Di Caprio, Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, Jonah Hill, Tyler Perry, etc.) to mouth the script of his insufferably smug satirical allegory about “climate change denial.” Did anyone involved with this movie actually think anything in it was funny? I find that difficult to believe. It is so obvious from the start that we are in for a politically motivated rant by people who just aren’t anywhere near as smart as they think they are, including McKay.

The tell is that the main character is played by DiCaprio, is one of Tinseltown’s most prominent “We’re all going to die!” climate change hysterics, so you know what’s coming from the second you realize what he’s doing. See, Leonardo plays a scientist who figures out (with a crucial assist from graduate student Lawrence) that a big comet is hurtling toward a direct collision with the Earth, and that all life will be wiped out as a result. The certainty is 100%, and there is a little more than six months before it’s dinosaur time for the human race. Aha! The actor is joining McKay to make an analogy between an unequivocal existential threat, the familiar “huge space object is about to destroy the planet’ plot behind blockbuster films like “Sudden Impact” and “Armageddon,” and the materially different problem of global warming, which whatever happens is definitely not going to destroy life on Earth or human civilization. It is also a theoretical threat far, far from “100% certainty,” though people like McKay won’t accept that, and believe anyone who does is a moron determined to kill us all.

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EARLY Morning Ethics Warm-Up. 12/6/2021: Christmas, The Great Stupid, Virtue-Signaling And A Fake Olympics Boycott

Contrary to all predictions, we got our 8 ft, real, live Christmas tree, and it didn’t cost any more than last year. The hero was 40-year neighbor Ted West, who grabbed what we needed at his annual church Christmas tree sale which sold out in less than two days.

It was between Bing and Johnny Mathis for the Christmas season musical kick-off. It had to be Bing.

1. When taste alarms don’t work…Here’s a mall Christmas display.

Crappy Tree

How do these kind of things slip by?

2. Speaking of slipping by… The Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled that a jury room in Giles County named after the United Daughters of the Confederacy and decorated with a Confederate flag as well as a portrait of Jefferson Davis mandated the reversal of a jury conviction of a black defendant for aggravated assault. The defendant objected on the grounds that the jury could not hold fair deliberations in such a room. Though the the trial court disagreed, but the appellate court threw out the verdict, concluding that …[b]ecause the defendant established that the jury was exposed to extraneous information or improper outside influence and because the State failed to sufficiently rebut the presumption of prejudice, the defendant is entitled to a new trial.”

I guess they have really suggestible juries in Tennessee. I cannot imagine my deliberation on a a jury or on anything being influenced by the name of the room I was in or what was hanging on the walls. Prof. Volokh notes,

Juries have deliberated in this room for more than four decades. Presumably, every black defendant convicted in that courtroom can now object and secure a new trial. The Court did not address this issue. And other courts in the state, and probably throughout the south, may have similar deliberation rooms, or even courtrooms. If these opinions catch on, countless convictions will be vacated.

The Ethics Alarms verdicts are that a) it is ridiculous that the jury room wasn’t purged of Lost Cause propaganda decades ago, and b) the court’s ruling is irresponsible virtue-signaling. Continue reading

What Is The Ethical Response To Marcus Lamb’s Ironic Death?

Lamb

Marcus Lamb, the evangelical founder of the Texas-based Christian television network Daystar, died on November 30. In an example of extreme cosmic irony/justice/retribution/satire, the cause was a virulent case of infection from the Wuhan virus. The previously healthy (though he had diabetes) 64-year-old was unvaccinated, and indeed was a vocal antivaxxer. Lamb, his wife (they were a Jim and Tammy-style team) and other Daystar broadcasters have been opposing the pandemic vaccines, presumably influencing many of the more than 108 million households the network reaches via cable TV providers to do likelwise On May 10, for example, the Lambs claimed that the vaccines “killed your immune system.”

“We want to warn you, we want to help you, we want to give you an alternative,” Lamb said. The alternatives he recommended were ivermectin, budesonide and hydroxychloroquine, all drugs that have not been proven to be effective or safe in the treatment of the virus, and, naturally, prayer.

Well, as Old Lodgeskins memorably says in “Little Big Man,” “Sometimes the magic works, sometimes it doesn’t.”

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“The Twelve Lies Of Rittenhouse”

Sadly, this is how my mind works and has always worked, if you can call it “working.” Once I wrote in the previous post that my mention of twelve lies in regard to the Kyle Rittenhouse case suggested a Christmas song parody, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head until I wrote it. Fortunately, there were more than twelve lies to play with, or the challenge would have been impossible.

Here it is; do with it as you choose. The video above is provided so you can sing along: Continue reading

Depressing Dispatches From “The Great Stupid”

moronic-idiot

I wish I could post each of these separately, but I already used up the extra hour today…

Perplexing Statement of the Week

“I understand one stab, 2 or 3 or 5, but 40 times, that’s like hate.”

That’s Jose Aguirre of Phoenix, pointing to the spot where his neighbor, Rodolfo Garcia, was brutally stabbed to death on Halloween morning. This gets Inigo Montoya’s attention:

Of course, his comment does embody the warped logic of hate crime laws, which we now should recognize as one of the early victories of those who want race and color to confer special advantages in society. I think the word Jose was looking for wasn’t hate but anger, as fury, at least as explained repeatedly by the profilers on “Criminal Minds” when they encountered a death by overkill, is the approved diagnosis with death’s like Garcia’s. I will assume that anyone who tries to stab me to death one, two, three or five times doesn’t like me very much. And frankly, those extra stabs after I’m dead won’t bother me at all. Hey, go crazy, man! It’s your time and energy you’re wasting!

A Minnesota community is confused.

What a surprise.

The city council in the Minnesota city of International Falls voted unanimously last week to prohibit dressing its sort-of famous statue of Smokey the Bear  in seasonal attire during teh year as the local tradition has been for decades. Smokey will no longer don earmuffs in the winter, or fishing gear in the summer, or the wags responsible will face fines.  No,  the iconic anthropomorphic bear cannot sport any  garb other than his traditional blue jeans, belt, buckle and “campaign” hat, with his shovel in hand.

Thank God they dealt with THAT crisis! Continue reading

Joke And Jury Ethics At The Kyle Rittenhouse Trial

chicken_ft-scaled

Weird, man.

In Kenosha, Wissonsin, where Kyle Rittenhouse is standing trial for murder after he shot and killed two protesters during the riots following the shooting of Jacob Blake, an alternate juror was dismissed for making a joke. The juror, a retired white man, said to a court police officer as the officer escorted him to his car, “Why did the Kenosha police shoot Jacob Blake seven times? Because they ran out of bullets!”

HAR! That’s being called a bad joke in the news media: actually, it’s a classic formula joke in the tradition of “Why does a fireman wear red suspenders?,” “Why did the chicken cross the road”? and “How do you know a politician is lying?” (because his/her lips are moving!). Nonetheless, the officer reported the joke to Judge Bruce Schroeder, who called on the juror to explain to him and the lawyers what the joke was and what he meant by it. The juror confirmed that he made a joke but wouldn’t repeat it. That got him kicked off the jury.

Observations:

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Ethics Alarms Officially Designates Trangender Activism An Ethics Train Wreck [Updated And Expanded]

dc-dave-chappelle-closer

An ethics train wreck is an ethics-fraught situation or event that manages to make virtually everyone involved, on all sides of the issues, behave unethically or express unethical positions. I should have identified the Transgender Activism Ethics Train Wreck much earlier, of course: I was asleep at the switch.

The tipping point that prompted this is the Dave Chappelle Netflix special, “The Closer,” the latest in a series of stand-up concerts by the talented, often perceptive and intentionally politically incorrect comedian. (I haven’t watched it yet, but I will, possibly tonight.) The show is under attack by LGTBQ activists because Chappelle jokes at the expense of transgender individuals, and this is, they say, hate speech. As I said, I haven’t seen this concert, but I have seen others, and Chappelle has targeted trans people before. I can’t say his anti-trans material isn’t sometimes funny: a lot of his jokes provoke the dual “I can’t believe he said that!”/ “Ha! Oh, no, I hate myself for laughing!” response. This is because he is good at what he does. Nevertheless, I regard such jokes as punching down. Chappelle should be better than that.

I also have two transsexual friends, one a former neighbor, the other a young man I have known since he was a child. I find nothing funny or ridiculous about either of them.

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Thank God It’s The Friday Ethics Warm-Up For The Weekend, 10/8/2021, Dedicated To Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow

olearyhero

Mrs. O’Leary’s cow may be the most unethically maligned animal in U.S. history. On October 8, 1871, something caused flames to spark in the Chicago barn of Patrick and Catherine O’Leary. The resulting two-day conflagration killed 200-300 people, destroyed 17,450 buildings, left 100,000 homeless and caused about $4 billion of damage in today’s dollars. While the fire was still raging, The Chicago Evening Journal reported that it all started “on the corner of DeKoven and Twelfth Streets, at about 9 o’clock on Sunday evening, being caused by a cow kicking over a lamp in a stable in which a woman was milking.” Then a verse to a popular song was added; pretty soon it was the only verse anyone remembered:

Late one night, when we were all in bed,
Mrs. O’Leary lit a lantern in the shed.
Her cow kicked it over,
Then winked her eye and said,
‘There’ll be a hot time in the old town tonight!’

There was never any convincing evidence that a cow started the blaze. The O’Learys had five cows, and they didn’t have names. It’s not even a sure thing that the fire started in the barn, but Mrs. O’Leary was a Catholic woman and an Irish immigrant, and Chicagoans were eager to have a scapegoat, or rather scapecow. One prominent historian who has studied the inquest transcripts believes that the true culprit was an O’Leary neighbor named Daniel ‘Pegleg’ Sullivan, who hobbled into the O’Leary barn to smoke a pipe, which then fell into a pile of wood shavings and subsequently started the fire. Nonetheless, Catherine O’Leary was ostracized, and became a recluse. In 1997, the Chicago City Council officially exonerated Mrs. O’Leary and her cow, which did just about as much good for Mrs. O’Leary as for the cow.

1. A new book shows that I have not lived in vain! Yesterday, a line from a depressing movie called “Kodachrome” sent me into one of my funks. During one of the many arguments between a dying artist and his middle aged son who hates him, the father (Ed Harris) sneers that he may have been a neglectful father, but at least he would leave something of importance when he died, unlike his son, a failed rock band recruiter for a record label. By purest luck, today I received a complimentary copy of “Reginald Rose and the Journey of 12 Angry Men,” a fascinating and thoroughly researched account of how the TV screenplay and the film came to be the iconic works they are. Author Phil Rosenweig also tells the weird story of how Rose lost control of the stage version of his work, and how for years the only script one could legally perform was a hack adaptation of the movie by a writer who didn’t understand it. Well, I’m part of that weird story, as is my old theater company, “The American Century Theater,” which became the first professional theater in the U.S. to present the screenplay on stage. Many were involved in the success of that production, including my wife,Grace, who produced the script by meticulously typing the screenplay from a recording of the movie (this was before the internet), and NPR critic Bob Mondello, who traveled by bus, in the rain, to a converted school auditorium to see the production, which he gave a sensational and much circulated review. There were many twists and turns after that, but eventually Rose’s version of “12 Angry Men” became the play most theaters produce. He got the respect he deserved, the endurance of the play, which is a genuine classic (I directed it four times) is assured, and yes, I was part of the reason why. Rosenweig, who interviewed me, accurately relates my role in the off-stage drama. You can find the book on Amazon, and here.

Now I can die in peace.

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