Category Archives: language

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/21/2019: Smollett And His Friends

Good Morning.

(Be honest: how many of you once thought this song was sung by The Beatles?)

1. Jussie Smollett hoax notes:

  • The actor is in custody, is being charged, and the Chicago’s Police Superintendent just gave a withering speech condemning him, asking rhetorically what kind of black man uses a noose as a prop for a false hate crime accusation. It also appears that Smollett had previously sent himself a fake hate crime letter.

Has Smollett wrapped up “Asshole of the Year”? Only in the Hollywood Division, would be my guess, but the year is young.

  • Speaking of contenders, stop making me defend Adam Schiff. The House’s #1 Trump-Hunter deleted this tweet…

Now he’s being criticized by conservatives for trying to send his embarrassing embrace of Smollett’s facially absurd story “down the memory hole.” I don’t blame anyone for deleting stupid social media posts, especially public figures. Why give your enemies a graphic club to bash you with…forever? Of course, a public statement that he was wrong, rash and inflammatory would be appropriate, but this is Adam Schiff we’re talking about. Watch him spin when the Mueller report turns out to be a dud.

  • Here’s part of a Boston Herald editorial:

As Jussie Smollett’s account of his alleged assault falls apart, it is important to note that politicians, the media and influential voices did their best to fan the flames of outrage, based on nothing but the dark premise that conservatives and Trump supporters are evil….It was a flimsy yarn from the outset, which only became more precarious with each passing day. That didn’t stop those most deeply invested in the narrative of Evil Trump to jump into action.

Presidential hopefuls Cory Booker and Kamala Harris each labeled the supposed attack a “modern-day lynching,” with Harris adding that, “We must confront this hate.” Kirsten Gillibrand tweeted, “This is a sickening and outrageous attack, and horribly, it’s the latest of too many hate crimes against LGBTQ people and people of color. We are all responsible for condemning this behavior and every person who enables or normalizes it …” Joe Biden tweeted, “What happened today to @JussieSmollett must never be tolerated in this country. We must stand up and demand that we no longer give this hate safe harbor; that homophobia and racism have no place on our streets or in our hearts. We are with you, Jussie.”…freshman congressman, Rashida Tlaib, tweeted, “The dangerous lies spewing from the right wing is killing & hurting our people.”

… Hollywood notables also reacted as expected. Director Rob Reiner tweeted, “The horrific attack on Jussie Smollett has no place in a decent human loving society. Homophobia existed before Trump, but there is no question that since he has injected his hatred into the American bloodstream, we are less decent, less human, & less loving. No intolerance! No DT!”

The media has comported itself badly as well. Almost immediately after getting the Covington Catholic story so wrong, many in the news industry immediately accepted the Smollett story as true…. a Washington Post writer named Nana Efua Mumford wrote this: “If Smollett’s story is found to be untrue … The incident would be touted as proof that there is a leftist conspiracy to cast Trump supporters as violent, murderous racists. It would be the very embodiment of ‘fake news.’ And that reason, more than any other, is why I need this story to be true.”

In other words, Trump supporters are violent, murderous racists. That dark premise is a lie, fake news and untrue. Let us hope one half of the country can correct their horrifically jaded view of the other half before we lose ourselves.

Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Journalism & Media, language, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Quotes, Social Media

The District Of Columbia Bar’s Proposed New Anti-Discrimination And Harassment Rule

In May of 2018, I wrote about the ABA’s new anti-discrimination and harassment rule, 8.4 g, which has been heavily criticized, and, in Tennessee, declared unconstitutional. Here, again, is the text:

“It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to… engage in conduct that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is harassment or discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or socioeconomic status in conduct related to the practice of law. This paragraph does not limit the ability of a lawyer to accept, decline or withdraw from a representation in accordance with Rule 1.16. This paragraph does not preclude legitimate advice or advocacy consistent with these Rules.”

Undeterred (and as I predicted), the always “woke” District of Columbia Bar is charging ahead with a version of the rule, and asking for comments from members (like me) on its proposed version, which would replace the current, much narrower anti-discrimination rule currently enforced, Rule 9.1. Here is the D.C. draft:

D.C. Rule 9.1 (Nondiscrimination and Antiharassment)

It is professional misconduct for a lawyer, with respect to the practice of law, to engage in conduct that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is harassment or discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, family responsibility, or socioeconomic status. This Rule does not limit the ability of a lawyer to accept, decline or, in accordance with Rule 1.16, withdraw from a representation. This Rule does not preclude providing legitimate advice or engaging in legitimate advocacy consistent with these Rules.

Hmmmm. Continue reading

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Filed under Gender and Sex, language, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Rights

Oh, No! Ebonics Again!

A court reporter in Philadelphia heard a witness say, “He don’t be in that neighborhood,” but transcribed it as, “We going to be in this neighborhood.” Yes, that’s the opposite the opposite of what the speaker meant, and  a soon-to-be published study finds that Philadelphia court reporters often make errors transcribing sentences that are spoken in what the New York Times and some linguists call “African-American English.” I call it bad English, and once again the claim is being made that it’s everyone else’s fault when people can’t talk.

Here’s a jaw-dropping statement from the Times article: “Decades of research has shown that the way some black people talk could play a role in their ability to secure things like employment or housing. The new study, scheduled for publication in June in the linguistic journal Language, provides insight on how using black dialect could also impact African-Americans in courtrooms.” Ya think? I confess when I hear anyone, black or white, express themselves with a sentence like “He don’t be in that neighborhood,” I tend to think that

  • Such an individual is not well-educated
  • Such an individual is not well-read
  • Such an individual is unlikely to think very clearly
  • Such individuals may not be very bright, not necessarily because he or she speaks in such a manner, but that because they lack the common sense to know that doing so will not leave a positive impression.

In short, it is not my fault if someone else can’t speak clearly, and claiming that a grammatical and syntactical dogs breakfast like “He don’t be in that neighborhood” is acceptable because a lot of people talk that way is a rationalization. More Bizarro World reasoning from scholars,

“People who speak African-American English are stigmatized for so doing,” said Taylor Jones, a doctoral student in linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the study’s authors. Mr. Jones added that there was nothing improper or broken about the dialect that some African-Americans inherited over generations, but negative stereotypes have influenced the way people hear or perceive it.

“If you’re taught that these people speak incorrectly, then it’s very easy to say, ‘Well, they don’t make any sense; what they’re saying is wrong,’” Mr. Jones said.

Those who argue that “He don’t be in that neighborhood” isn’t incorrect are essentially pointing us toward a cultural Babel where anyone can make up and adopt whatever dialect they choose, and insist that everyone else acceptand decypher it. That’s no way to run a business, a nation, or society. Clarity in language is essential, and must not be shrugged off as one more matter of personal choice. We have to communicate, after all. Continue reading

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Filed under Education, language, Law & Law Enforcement, Research and Scholarship, U.S. Society

Why I Won’t Be Using Frank’s Red Hot No Matter How Good It Is

I know, I know. I’m like King Canute trying to command the seas, or Grandpa Simpson, shaking his fist and shouting at clouds.  I don’t care. If the culture and societyare going to allow America to be coarsened beyond all reason, at least I’ll be able to say that I wasn’t complicit.

All of my posts on this topic are basically the same; I know it. Here are a few…

[T]he Kraft Heinz Company’s newest frozen meals brand, Devour, has been advertising its products with a TV ad in which a boss catches his employee becoming sexually aroused by his lunch, to which he applies a sexy spank with his fork. The ad’s tagline: “Food You Want to Fork.”

Kraft says the ad is aimed at men aged 25-35, so I guess that’s okay then. Everyone knows that demographic is made up of assholes—is that the theory?—and the best way to please them is to make the kind of juvenile sexual innuendo that we had in naughty songs like “Shaving Cream” about when I was 12. It’s so hilarious when people use a word that sounds like a dirty word in a context where it is obviously intentional, but don’t really say the word, because, see, its, like, not polite.  Got it. My sides are splitting.

…Here is what Ethics Alarms said in response to Heineken’s gay-themed vulgar ad about “flipping another man’s meat”:

‘There is no justification for polluting television and the culture with such ick, and it is irresponsible and disrespectful to TV audiences to do it…the useful and natural filter we used to have on language has been shot full of holes by too many high profile boors to mention, although the fact that one Presidential candidate is one of them doesn’t help.”

On the general topic of giving up any efforts to keep public discourse within civil boundaries, a January 2016 post concluded,

Does everybody want to live in a society where everyone from executives, pundits and actors to nannies, athletes and bank tellers are routinely spewing cunt,fuck, suck and motherfucker like Samuel L. Jackson on a bad day? That’s where we’re heading, That’s where we’re heading, if enough people don’t have the guts and common sense to say, and fast,”Oh, stop it. Learn to speak like an adult.”

Wonderful Pistachios uses “nuts” as a sexual innuendo, Booking.com uses “booking” to code “fucking,” and K-Mart thinks it’s funny to use “ship” to suggest “shit,” because who doesn’t want to think about shit? We make our own culture in the end, and if we want to live in a cultural pig sty, then that’s where we will live. Apparently no one cares, or not enough of us, anyway.

In 2015,  a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups commercial featured the tags “Women want like to make it last…Men are done in seconds…Typical.”  I wrote,

“Who decided that gratuitous sexual innuendo is inherently hilarious and appropriate in every context, at every moment? Well, no one yet. Again, it is the boors in ad agencies and clods in corporate boardrooms who are pushing us down this uncivil, impolite, needlessly sleazy path.  We can remind them that there are limits dictated by taste and decorum, or we can just shrug it off, part of the irreversible ratchet process called “defining deviancy down.”

Two years later, Volkswagen has Dean Martin crooning about “The Birds and the Bees” (Dean’s version above is better, a joy)  while we see a VW bouncing up and down as the couples who own it engage in vigorous sexual intercourse.

Now Frank’s Red Hot is being praised for it’s new, catchy slogan, originally uttered by an elderly actress (because old people being vulgar is always hilarious, for some reason): “I put that [shit} on everything.” Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Humor and Satire, language, Marketing and Advertising, U.S. Society

Martin Luther King Day Ethics Warm-Up: The Hate And Hypocrisy Edition

It seems wrong, I’ll agree, to concentrate on hate on a day we put aside to commemorate the civil rights leader who managed to accomplish so much by explicitly rejecting hate, despite how much of it was aimed at him and his cause. I think it’s  hypocritical for American society in its current state to pretend to celebrate the life of Dr. King, when they are in the process of rejecting–enthusiastically rejecting–so many of his ideals. It was hypocritical for our society to pretend to celebrate Christmas, too, now that I think about it.

1 You want to see hate? THIS is hate. Blogger James Bovard collected photos from the Women’s March. The civil rights marchers had a lot more to be angry about, but somehow, thanks to Dr. King’s leadership, they managed to avoid displays like these..

But my favorite, I think, is this one… Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/11/2019: Triplets, Tongues, Feet, And Screeches

 

Good Morning!

1.It’s time to play… Champerty! I’m beginning my morning by explaining to an outside litigation funding entity that they really don’t have to worry about champerty laws as long as their loans are handled property. Champerty is an ancient common law crime that made it illegal for a third party to buy into litigation and to profit from the transaction if the litigation succeeded. Some states still have anti-champerty laws, but they are 1) pretty much dead letters and 2) don’t apply to legitimate litigation financing, where a loan is repaid whether the litigation succeeds or not, and the amounts repaid do not change if it does. In legal ethics, champerty becomes an issue when a lawyer or law firm “sells” a share of the legal fee to a third party. That’s fee-splitting with a non-lawyer, and strictly forbidden.

Champerty is often mentioned as a set with two other common law crimes, Maintenance and Barratry. Maintenance, Champerty and Barratry are among my favorite potential triplets names, along with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar; Clotho, Lachesis, and Atroposand (The Fates);  Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, and, of course, Moe, Larry, and Curly.

2. The Good Illegal Immigrant, again. In the wake of the wall dispute and the shutdown, the New York Times is ramping up its frequency of heartstrings-tugging tales of  illegal immigrants so lovable, industrious and virtuous that only a monster would oppose their permanent enjoyment of the fruits of illegally obtained citizenship. One such article this week began,

“Tomas Guevara fell in love with Ruth Ayala years before they met. Her brothers — like Mr. Guevara, Salvadoran immigrants living outside Washington — talked about her at church. She was hardworking and kind, they said, devoted to her family and her faith. Then Mr. Guevara saw Ms. Ayala’s photo; her big brown eyes, her warm smile. He decided to give her a call.”

Awww!

Later in the article, we have this sentence: “In 2001, he swam across the Rio Grande.”

The article raises many questions for me. Why was someone like Tomas eligible for “temporary protected status”? If the claim was that El Salvador was so dangerous that he could not be sent back there, why did he keep visiting that country, meet his wife there, and have his child there? Naturally, there was a program, the Central American Minors program begun in 2014, that allows the children of parents with temporary protected status to apply for permanent residency as refugees. Tomas’s wife was somehow eligible too.

This is what “chain migration” means, in case you wondered. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Around the World, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, History, Journalism & Media, language, Law & Law Enforcement, Race

Authentic Frontier Gibberish, And Why Academia Shouldn’t Be Trusted

Christina Hoff Summers tweeted out this quote from gender theorist Judith Butler:

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Filed under Education, Kaboom!, language, Research and Scholarship