Tolerating The New Racism

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How long will it be before fair social critics, principled elected officials and ethical Americans firmly and decisively say “enough”?

Freed from the restraints of common sense, fear of hypocrisy and language by the George Floyd Freakout as well as the resulting Black Lives Matter Great Terror, writers, educators and politicians are openly engaging in racist speech and assertions without, apparently, fear of condemnation. After all, it is easy to tar any critics as racists themselves, because the new, acceptable racism is targeting whites. They think being characterized as monsters, murderers and habitual oppressors by virtue of the color of their skin is cruel and dehumanizing, the fools! Don’t they know it’s true?

I reached my limit regarding this Orwellian farce even before the ugly death in Minnesota of a career criminal from a likely drug overdose was exploited to justify riots, property destruction and the demonization (or intimidation) of anyone who couldn’t claim to be “of color.” Surely others unjustly vilified are reaching their limits as well. I hope so. History’s record of what happend to groups that meekly accept denigration and blame-casting in the vain hope that it will all “blow over” is not encouraging.

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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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Sunset Ethics, 9/30/2020: Conflicts Of Interest, Sexual Harassment, Movies And Lies

1. Conflicts of interest on my mind. I narrowly averted a disastrous conflict of interest yesterday out of pure moral luck, so the topic is much on my mind; I’m still distracted by the near miss. Professionally, it was the equivalent of almost being picked off by a bus.

NPR Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg reacted to the death of Justice Ginsburg with an essay on her 48-year friendship with RBG, saluting Ginsburg’s “extraordinary character.” That’s funny: Totenberg never told NPR’s listeners, nor did  NPR, that she had a personal relationship with the Justice, despite being charged with covering the Court and critiquing its decisions.  Kelly McBride, NPR’s public editor and senior vice president of the Poynter Institute, threw a metaphorical ethics foul flag,

“In failing to be transparent about Totenberg’s relationship with Ginsburg over the years, NPR missed two opportunities,”she wrote on the NPR website. “First, NPR leaders could have shared the conversations they were having and the precautions they were taking to preserve the newsroom’s independent judgment,” McBride said. “Second, having those conversations in front of the public would have sharpened NPR’s acuity in managing other personal conflicts of interest among its journalists.”

Ginsburg, who officiated at Totenberg’s wedding in 2000. Nonetheless, the correspondent,  who wears her progressive bias on her sleeve as it is, denied that the conflict compromised to her journalism, telling  the Washington Post that NPR’s listeners benefited from ther friendship because it gave her greater insight into and Ginsburg’s  thinking.

And that justifies keeping the relationship secret from listeners how, Nina?

2. From the “When ethics alarms don’t work” files: Lawyer Phillip Malouff Jr. of La Junta, Colorado, was censured for a series of episodes of unprofessional behavior and sexual harassment.

In November 2016, Malouff  winked at a magistrate judge and said, “When you get back from your vacation, I better be able to see your tan lines.” When he visiting the same magistrate’s chambers to discuss scheduling matters, he  said, according to the female judge,: “Ask your husband a question for me when you get home tonight. Ask him what it’s like to have relations with someone who wears the robe. It has always been something I’ve wanted to do, but there have never been any women judges until now.”

Malouff  was informed that his comments were unprofessional and a violation of the Colorado Judicial Department’s anti-harassment policy. Ya think?

In July 2019, Malouff asked a judicial assistant to check whether the mother in a parental rights hearing had an outstanding warrant. When the assistant replied, “She is good.” Malouff  responded, “Her husband told me that she is good.

Wink wink, nudge nudge. Continue reading

Now I’ve Actually SEEN “Cuties,”So I know What I’m Writing About…

What does Barbara Streisand have to do with “Cuties,” you ask?

And, from my perspective, I have been taught, once again, that I should not rely on the opinions of others. Why is that such a difficult lesson to process? I bet I’ve “learned” it a thousand times, and yet here we are.

I initially wrote about pundit Rod Dreher’s angry assessment of the Netflix hit (it is one of the most streamed productions in its history) in this post. I think it was clear that I hadn’t seen “Cuties” myself, but I should not have written that he was disgusted “with good reason.” Veteran commenter Humble Talent provided Ethics Alarms with his critical assessment of “Cuties” in his Comment of the Day; it was negative as well. Having now watched the film with my wife last night (I regarded the session as work, not recreation), I understand what Dreher’s perspective was, and  I cannot say that Humble’s critique is “wrong.”

I disagree with both of them, however.

My thoughts on “Cuties”:

1.  I did not enjoy the movie. I would not watch it again. I would watch “1918,” “Parasite,”The Circle“…even “JFK,” “Ghost” and “La La Land,’  all movies I felt were at best disappointing and at worst ridiculously over-hyped, before I would sit through “Cuties” again. (I would rather watch “Cuties” than revisit “The Deer Hunter,” but then I would rather have my fingernails  pulled out than revisit “The Deer Hunter.”)

2. That doesn’t not mean I think “Cuties” is a bad movie. It’s a very good movie, for the audience it was made for. (“Ghost” is not a good movie, and anyone who thinks so is a tasteless sap.) This isn’t just a “chick flick,” it is a flick that men should be warned not to see, and possibly banned from trying.

3. As a man, I felt like a voyeur watching these semi-pubescent girls try to navigate their emerging sexuality and the corrosive influence of the culture. It’s not that I’m uninterested in this aspect of a reality I didn’t experience, it’s just that…ick. My wife, on the other hand, who grew up with three sisters, kept asking, “So what was supposed to be so objectionable about this?”

4. If art is supposed to convey truth, “Cuties” succeeds, I suspect. Of course, just because a story is true or embodies truth doesn’t mean it needs to be made into a movie. This precise topic has been dealt with before, but never so directly, at least in any movie that has been widely publicized.

5. I agree with Humble’s complaint that the director—a woman, of course—focused the camera on the girl’s bodies as they gyrated and twerked to the verge of salaciousness. I’m sure she would have a good answer for why she made this choice, and why it was artistically valid, but it was still a troubling choice.

6. I thought the girls were all excellent, and several were remarkable. That does not mitigate one of my ethical objections to the film, which is that juveniles were given this kind of material to absorb and experience. It doesn’t matter that they performed it well, and it doesn’t matter that the movie could only be made with pre-teen actresses. Nor will it change my view if they all grow up to be well-adjusted and happy adults: that’s moral luck. The actresses were below the age of consent, and should not be asked to/ compelled to perform such material. The parents who consented for them are irresponsible and unethical, just as Dakota Fanning’s parents were unethical to allow her to be in a  graphic rape scene in “Hounddog,” just as Brooke Shields’ parents were unethical to allow her to appear as a pre-teen prostitute in “Pretty Baby,” just as Linda Blair’s parents were unethical to allow her to play the possessed girl in “The Exorcist.” I  may ask child performer advocate Paul Peterson to author a guest column on his view of “Cuties.” I think I know what he will say.

7. One of the major complaints about the film is that it will appeal to pedophiles. That’s an unfair reason to criticize a movie: the fact that sick people will like it for the wrong reasons. I refuse to believe that pedophiles are the intended audience, nor that either the director or Netflix were seeking to entertain men who have a sexual fixation on little girls. I’m sure “Seabiscuit” titillated some people who fantasize about having sex with horses.

8. The runaway success of “Cuties” is as fine an example of “The Streisand Effect” as we are likely to find. The only reason a film like this, focusing on a Muslim pre-teen coping with her family stresses by becoming obsessed with sexually provocative dancing that is rampant among girls just slightly older, becomes an cultural phenomenon is if it is controversial. Critics like Dreher guaranteed that many more people would watch “Cuties” than the subject matter would normally draw. It’s not titillating or enjoyable to watch 11-year-olds get into sexually provocative costumes and make-up and act like go-go dancers in a cage. It’s creepy, and it’s supposed to be creepy. But Dreher and the other would-be conservative cultural gate-keepers made sure that the pervs would find “Cuties” and settle down to watch with their lotion handy. Good job, everybody!

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

Saturday Ethics Wind-Up, 8/29/2020: Bias Makes You Stupid, Stupid Makes You Incompetent, Incompetence Makes You NBA Commissioner, And My New Dog Makes Me Happy…

“Good eeevening!”

Many TV series from the black and white era seem hopelessly dated today, almost unwatchable. The Westerns hold up well: “Gunsmoke” is still excellent. “The Rifleman” is smart, ethical, and terrific. Of the dramas, “Perry Mason” and “Peter Gunn” among others still work. “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “The Andy Griffith Show” at their best, which was often, are brilliant. “The Twilight Zone” is probably the most acclaimed show from that period, and I love many of the episodes, but the duds, and there were quite a few, seem even duddier today. To be honest, “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” which ran from 1955 to 1965, may hold up the best of all.

I thought about the show this week, after the story came out about the woman who was delivered to the funeral home and about to be embalmed when they found out she was alive. Now THAT’s incompetence! But it also echoed a famous  “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” episode, in which Joseph Cotton played a man  involved in a bad traffic accident that leaves him so paralyzed–eyes open, mouth in a rictus of horror, as Stephen King likes to say—that when help arrives they think he’s really dead.  Cotton narrates his plight in real time, as we hear the desperate man’s thoughts. He tries to signal using his little finger, the only part that works, and the medics move him so he’s on top of his hand. They are zipping up the body bag when…well, you should see the episode.

Another classic is when a young Steve McQueen plays a compulsive gambler whose car breaks down in front of crazy Peter Lorre’s home. Lorre bets Steve he can’t light his lighter ten times in a row. If he can, Steve gets Lorre’s car. If the lighter fails before flame ten, Steve loses a finger. Lorre stands over McQueen’s tied down left hand holding a hatchet. You could not possibly guess the ending. 

1. “Well,” as Elaine would say to George on “Seinfeld,” “That’s because you’re an idiot.” In an interview with Mediaite, Don Lemon said that CNN is not biased. The CNN anchor said in part,

I don’t really understand how people will say CNN is biased and focuses on the negative of Trump.How is being factual, bias? How is taking evidence and someone’s own words and their own actions, and their own policies, and just presenting it back to the public on television or whatever medium, whatever journalistic medium you happen to be in, how is that bias? …

As head-exploding as that statement is, it is only remarkable in that it is such a guileless indication that someone prominent in a profession where objectivity is essential literally doesn’t know what bias is, and is incapable of recognizing it.

Bias makes you stupid, but it is also true that being stupid—and Lemon is a very stupid man—makes it easier to be biased. Continue reading

Ethics Warm-Up, 8/26/2020: Impending Zoom

This, as some of you might recall, is the logo for the old PBS kids series, the lively cast members of which are now middle-aged and arthritic. i don’t like to think about it…

Ugh.

I’m hoping to get this posted while I’m simultaneously preparing for a three-hour legal ethics seminar for CLE credit sponsored by the D.C. Bar. Zoom seminars are grueling, and they remove my major asset, which is facilitating lively discussions about various ethical dilemmas.  Participants just don’t talk, and for all I know they are watching porn.

Incidentally, if you haven’t seen “Host,” you should. It’s a horror film about a Zoom meeting that goes really, really wrong. And its less than half as long as the seminar I’m about to do.

1. And speaking of horrorWhat the hell?

This is D.C. Comic’s new, politically correct, non-sexually objectified, woke Wonder Woman. Why can’t a plus sized woman in mom jeans be a super-hero, the artist asks.  Well of course she can, just as a fat ,flabby, bald , half-shaven, acne-suffering man can be Spiderman, if he gets bitten by the right arachnid. There is nothing wrong with idealized heroes, however. No matter how much the feminists try to brainwash little girls, Fat Barbie is never going to be a thing.

I hate to be conspiracy-minded, but chunky, A-cup Diana Prince reeks of Maoist cultural brain-washing. It’s suicidal virtue-signaling by D.C., who are deliberately alienating WW’s teenage  male fans, who will not get excited about a Wonder Woman movie starring Rosie O’Donnell, no matter how progressive that is. Continue reading

Ethics Escape, 8/24/2020: The “Not Watching The GOP Convention” Edition

The fact that Bill Clinton was going to speak at the Democratic National Convention was sufficient to justify my personal boycott of that event, and the fact that Scott Baio (“Happy Days,” “Charles in Charge,” “Joanie Loves Chachi”) is speaking at this convention is enough to to keep me away from the Republicans. I assumed that Scott was a speaker the last time because the Republicans were shunning Trump, forcing the nominee to scrape the bottom of the barrel, but he’s the President now. I refuse to accept that there aren’t better choices than Scott Baio available. He’s not only a washed up actor, he’s a washed up actor whom other actors never liked when he wasn’t washed up. He couldn’t even get along with Dick Van Dyke! Baio starred in one of the most degrading reality shows yet—that’s saying something—in which he visited all of his old girlfriends who he had abused when he was a star, admitted how horribly he had treated them and begged for forgiveness, resulting in about half of the women excoriating him on camera. Baio also has been accused of sexually assaulting one of the teenage girls Charles was supposed to be in charge of. Nice.

“the best people…”

1. I don’t understand this story at all, but I do know that the people who run the Susan B. Anthony museum are grandstanding jerks.  Last week President Trump pardoned suffragist Susan B. Anthony, who died in 1906, for her conviction in 1872 for voting before it was legal for women to do so. I wrote about it and rated the pardon a cynical move even for Trump, and a transparent sop for  feminists. Then, based partly on the completely unproven theory that  Anthony would not have wanted to be pardoned, and partly on the now familiar efforts of “the resistance” to deny the President the opportunity to engage in the most benign uses of his legitimate power without being attacked for it,  the leaders of the Susan B. Anthony Museum declined the pardon on her behalf, and the news media dutifully reported that the order had been declined.

The museum has no more power to decline a Presidential pardon for Anthony than I do. Continue reading

Friday Ethics Round-Up, 8/21/2020: Democratic National Convention Hangover Edition

No, John Wayne doesn’t speak Spanish in “Red River,” but this was the only clip I could find of its iconic “Yahoo!” sequence. This may be the best Western ever; I don’t know, I go back and forth on it. Amazingly, Howard Hawks never won an Oscar…but then neither did Orson Wells, Alfred Hitchcock, or Cecil B. De Mille.

1. Now this is uncivil and unethical political speech (Pointer: Tim Levier):

No, it’s not justified by “tit for tat,” but the ugly, ad hominem abuse heaped on President Trump by the Democrats this week was hardly better.

2. Oh, it’s Friday; why not check in with Paige Spiranac? You remember Paige, right? I posted about her here. She’s not much of a professional golfer, but she is now a “social influencer.” She has power and influence because, let’s be frank, she looks like this, and makes sure everyone knows it:

Now she has a viral ethics tweet about slow golfers:

That’s slowLY, Paige. Mustn’t enable those “dumb blonde” jokes.

This has actually sparked a controversy in social media, though there shouldn’t be any question that excessively pokey golfers are being rude and inconsiderate. The rationalizations being offered by defenders of slow play are, sadly, illustrative of the ethics skills of too much of the public. For example:

That’s a dumb comment. Golf is a leisure sport. You are meant to enjoy the sport with friends and family and take time while doing it. Especially if you’re not playing for millions.”

Continue reading