Friday Ethics Potpourri, 9/24/2021: On PBS, Boeing, A Political Hack Law Dean, And Caring

Lawn sign

Many thanks to reader and commenter Jeff for bringing that lawn sign to my attention. It’s available here. I wish I had thought of it; one of these days I’ll get around to making a “Bias Makes You Stupid” T-shirt as an Ethics Alarms accessory. I would never post such a sign on my lawn for the same reason I object to the virtue-signaling signs in my neighborhood: I didn’t ask to my neighbors’ political views thrust in my face, and I don’t inflict mine of them. However, if a someone living in a house on my cul-de-sac inflicted a “No human being is illegal” missive on their lawn where I had to look at it every day, the sign above would be going up as a response faster than you can say “Jack Robinson,” though I don’t know why anyone would say “Jack Robinson.”

1. Roger Angell on caring…It’s September, and the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees start a three game series tonight with nine games left to the season. It could well determined which of the two teams will go on to the post-season, with a shot at the World Series. The encounter brings back a flood of memories, wonderful and horrible, about previous Sox-Yankee battles of note, including one from 1949, before I was born. I worked with a veteran lawyer at a D.C. association who was perpetually bitter about all things, and all because the Red Sox blew a pennant to New York that year by choking away the final two games of the season. For me, moments like this are reassuring and keep me feeling forever young: as I watch such games, I realize that I am doing and and feeling exactly what I was doing and feeling from the age of 12 on. Nothing has changed. Roger Angell, one of my favorite writers, eloquently described why this is important in his essay “Agincourt and After,” from his collection,”Five Seasons”:

“It is foolish and childish, on the face of it, to affiliate ourselves with anything so insignificant and patently contrived and commercially exploitive as a professional sports team, and the amused superiority and icy scorn that the non-fan directs at the sports nut (I know this look — I know it by heart) is understandable and almost unanswerable. Almost. What is left out of this calculation, it seems to me, is the business of caring — caring deeply and passionately, really caring — which is a capacity or an emotion that has almost gone out of our lives. And so it seems possible that we have come to a time when it no longer matters so much what the caring is about, how frail or foolish is the object of that concern, as long as the feeling itself can be saved. Naivete — the infantile and ignoble joy that sends a grown man or woman to dancing and shouting with joy in the middle of the night over the haphazardous flight of a distant ball — seems a small price to pay for such a gift.”

A small price indeed.

2. PBS may be a progressive propaganda organ, but the facts will out. A streaming service offers the channel’s documentaries for a pittance, and they are a reliable source of perspective and enlightenment. One that my wife and I watched this past week was about the development of the FDA and other federal agencies that protected the public and workers. When workers at manufacturing plants making leaded gasoline started dying of lead poisoning, the government scientists’ solution was to just ban the product. General Motors and Standard Oil fought back and overturned the ban, assuring Congress that they could make leaded gas safe to produce, and they did. This was a classic example of why we must not let scientists dictate public policy: leaded gasoline transformed transportation and benefited the public. The scientists’ approach was just to eliminate risk; they didn’t care about progress, the economy, jobs or anything else. Science needs to be one of many considerations, and when scientists have been co-opted by partisan bias, as they are now, this is more true than ever.

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Friday Ethics Wars, 9/17/21: More Harvard Craziness, Woolly Mammoth Ethics, And The Importance Of Hiring A Competent Hitman

Death Star2

1. Fair Harvard, you continue to be an embarrassment. This is a candidate to make it into my “why I’m boycotting my reunion” note for the Class book: Giang Nguyen, executive director of Harvard University Health Services, sent a campus-wide memo telling students to follow these rules while eating and socializing in the dining halls. (I learned more eating in the dining halls and in late night snack sessions than I did in my classes):

“Eating and drinking together are a cornerstone of human social interaction, but there are ways to interact that minimize the time spent unmasked and in close proximity,” Nguyen wrote.

Among his requests to students:

  • Follow the “Quick Sip Rule” when drinking. Lower your mask, take a sip, and then promptly cover your mouth and nose. A straw can make this more efficient.
  • Do not linger with your mask down. If you wish to slowly savor a hot beverage, do it away from others.
  • Consume and cover! Consume your meal and immediately mask up when done.
  • Conversation, checking your phone, and other activities should be masked, even when you are in a designated indoor dining area.
  • If you are taking your time between bites (for conversation, for example), put your mask back on.
  • Dine in small parties of 2-to-4 people.
  • Avoid table-hopping.
  • Consider dining consistently with the same small group of people rather than a different group at every meal of the day.
  • Keep your close contacts to a minimum.
  • Limit each interaction to under 15 minutes.
  • Plan events that don’t involve eating, drinking, or removal of masks

My advice to the author of such a “request” were I a student today: “Bite me. Then put your mask on.” Harvard has a 94 percent vaccination rate among its students. As of this week, its test positivity rate is 0.18 percent.

2. Fake Woolly Mammoth ethics. This article managed to go on at great length about how a new company is planning to “de-extinctify” Wooly Mammoths and start new herds in Siberia as if it all made perfect sense. They’ve fooled private investors into giving them $15 million for the project: this is a scam, whether they know it or not. As far as the Times piece goes, it rates an ethics foul for never once mentioning “Jurassic Park.” Come to think of it, the article should have mentioned “The Producers.” Jerry A. Coyne, Ph.D, and Emeritus Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, explains just how absurd the project is:

“What they are doing is making a genetically modified Asian elephant by inserting into its genome a maximum of sixty mammoth genes that they think differentiate the modern species from the extinct one: genes that involve hairiness, cold tolerance, amount of fat, and so on. What they’d get would be a genetic chimera, an almost entirely Asian elephant but one that is hairier, chunkier, and more tolerant of cold. That is NOT a woolly mammoth, nor would it behave like a woolly mammoth, for they’re not inserting behavior genes…Further, a lot of other genes differ between a mammoth and an Asian elephant. What guarantee is there that the inserted mammoth genes would be expressed correctly, or even work at all in concert with the Asian elephant developmental system? But it gets worse. Since you can’t implant a transgenic embryo into an elephant mom (we don’t know how to do that, and we would get just one or two chances), [the group] has this bright idea…’make an artificial mammoth uterus lined with uterine tissue grown from stem cells.’

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Now Featured In The Left’s Attack On Freedom Of Speech: Doctors Censoring Doctors

Gee, why would officious authoritarian egomaniacs who think they are God try to do something like that?

The New York Times reports that medical groups are agitating for state boards to discipline physicians spreading “misinformation.” The Federation of State Medical Boards, which represents the groups that license and discipline doctors, recommended last month that states consider suspending or revoking medical licenses of doctors who share false medical claims.

The American Medical Association says spreading misinformation violates the code of ethics that licensed doctors agree to follow. “”Misinformation” is defined by Ethics Alarms as opinions that do not comport with the majority opinion in the profession, with the added qualification that such non-conforming opinions are considered especially worthy of censorship if they offend the political Left, which is where the AMA hangs its metaphorical hat.

The medical association, like its allies, are increasingly unashamed aspiring totalitarians. In this post from April, I wrote about how the AMA issued a statement that it was “deeply disturbed” and “angered” by a recent Journal of the American Medical Association podcast that “questioned the existence of structural racism.” Though JAMA supposedly has editorial independence from the AMA, the association forced JAMA Editor-in-Chief Howard Bauchner to ask for the resignation of podcast host and deputy editor Dr. Edward Livingston because his statements and tweets were “inconsistent with the policies and views of AMA” and “structural racism in health care and our society exists and it is incumbent on all of us to fix it.”

“Structural racism in health care and our society exists and it is incumbent on all of us to fix it” is what the medical profession now calls a “fact.” What the medical profession’s censors are really after is lockstep ideological conformity, using the power to take away the means of contrarians to earn a living as a bludgeon. The Times article would be amusing it it wasn’t so ominous. How can a doctor or a journalist call anything said about the Wuhan virus and its friends “mis-” or “dis-” information, when so many “facts” have been promoted to the public by health experts and then been retracted, reversed, qualified or otherwise contradicted? Dr. Fauci admitted that he deliberately lied to the public about whether masks protected the public from infection. Do you think any state broad will try to take his license away? No, because he’s one of the good doctors, and his misinformation is a means to a just end.

I am pretty certain that any effort to silence medical professionals who espouse controversial opinions will be struck down even by liberal judges, and that the medical groups advocating censorship know it. What they are really trying to accomplish is prior restraint, intimidating non-conforming doctors into keeping quiet by raising the specter of discipline. It’s the ethical equivalent of extortion.

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Shameless Self-Promotion Dept: “Legal Ethics Serenade”

mike-messer

Tomorrow at 9 am, I’ll be launching the latest ProEthics musical CLE (Continuing Legal Education) seminar for the New Jersey State Bar. It’s called “Legal Ethics Serenade,” and is being zoomed. As with my other musical presentations, the great Mike Messer accompanies himself on guitar and occasionally other instruments as he belts out parodies of rock and pop classics retooled to raise complex legal ethics issues. Mike has been my muse for more than a decade. This time, he’ll be doing versions of “I’m a Believer,” “Oh Darling,” “Hello Mary Lou!,” “50 Ways to leave Your Lover,” “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing,” “Why Don’t We Di It in the Road?,” Elvis’s “Are You Lonesome Tonight?,” “You Were Always On My Mind,” and “Take Good Care of My Baby,” all followed by legal ethics musings by me, and, I hope, lively debate.

If any readers are New Jersey lawyers in search of ethics credits, the information is here.

We now return you to our usual programming…

Evening Ethics, 8/19/2021: Those Were The Days…

Ah, those heady days when the U.S. felt ethically justified in toppling governments it didn’t approve of, and “nation building” was still considered practical and virtuous. Today marks the anniversary of the U.S. overthrowing the government of Premier Mohammad Mosaddeq and reinstalling the Shah of Iran in 1953, The Shah was a torturing, oppressive autocrat, but he was our torturing, oppressive autocrat for 26 years, a dependable anti-Communist ally of the United States until a revolution ended his rule in 1979. You should know the rest. Wonder why Iranians aren’t crazy about the U.S.? Today is one big reason. Also on the ethics regrets list is the release of the West Memphis Three on this date in 2011. I wrote about that one here. An excerpt:

“In an ethical system, prosecutors would have made certain the wrongfully convicted men were freed, without any further adversary action. But this was not an ethical system. Instead, prosecutors insisted on a bizarre plea deal in which the Memphis Three agreed to take an Alford plea, a strange, dishonest and much criticized guilty plea in which a defendant essentially lies to avoid an otherwise unavoidable unjust punishment. With an Alford plea,  the prisoner or defendant asserts he or she is innocent, but acknowledges that the prosecution has sufficient evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and thus acknowledges legal, though not actual, guilt.   Prosecutors insisted that all three men plead “guilty” in this fashion in order to agree to release them with time served. The judge accepted the deal. Now Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley are free, their lives all but ruined by 18 lost years, thanks to a rotten system. The news media for the most part didn’t bother to explain why the terms of their release was just one more gratuitous assault on their existence by Arkansas legal hacks.”

I’m sorry today reminded me of this case. It still upsets me to think about it.

1. Here’s evidence that the current complaints of antiracism propagandists is a crock: Denzel Washington. I’ve been watching a lot of his movies lately, and a comparison with Sidney Poitier is unavoidable. Poitier was the ground-breaker, the black man who became a genuine movie star in a majority white market, and more than that, did it by holding up the racism and discrimination in American culture for all to see. Nonetheless, he was limited by his race. Poitier always played character’s whose race was central to their roles in the plot. He never played a villain: like many stars, like John Wayne, Cary Grant and Clark Gable, he regarded his career as a continuous work exploring a particular archetype in all of its facets. For Poitier, it was that of the outstanding black man as an outsider in American society. In Poitier’s amazing year of 1967, he was in three hit movies: “In the Heat of the Night,” “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?,” and “To Sir, With Love.” All three featured Poitier as a black man thrust into a biased white environment, and gradually earning respect and some measure of equality. Today the #1 black star is Denzel, and he doesn’t have to play such sanctimonious roles. Race plays a part in many of his movies; he has even played black civil rights activists, like Malcolm X and Hurricane Carter. Washington, however, in part because of Poitier’s work, often plays parts that were written for white actors, and nobody cares. He isn’t afraid to play flawed characters and even brutal ones, like in “The Equalizer.” Washington’s success, and the versatility and range he is allowed to explore in his movies, would have been impossible in Poitier’s prime years. His body of work is proof of how far American attitudes toward race have advances and how unfair and dishonest the Black Lives Matter/ Critical Race Theory narrative is holding that the Jim Crow culture still rules America.

Denzel is also better than Poitier, although it is fair to say that Poitier never had the option of being as versatile as Washington. If Sidney Poitier is cinema’s Jackie Robinson, Denzel Washington is its Willie Mays.

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An Old Defense Lawyer Unburdens His Conscience In A Book, And It’s Unethical

Pointing-Finger

A shocking story in the New York Times has the legal ethics world buzzing. I just added the issues to an ethics seminar I’m preparing for this month; I wrote a song parody about it, in fact. For some reason, a Times reporter finally found out about a self-published memoir by criminal defense lawyer Peter De Blasio that came out about a year ago. The book, “Let Justice Be Done,” reveals among its other tales of his legal career the truth of his most famous case, and one of his most successful. DeBlasio had convinced a jury to acquit his client, Dominic Byrne, of kidnapping in the sensational Samuel Bronfman Jr. abduction case in 1975, though the evidence pointing to his guilt was overwhelming.

What made DeBlasio’s defense strategy work was the testimony of the mastermind of the kidnapping plot, a spectacularly talented liar named Mel Patrick Lynch. He took the stand and claimed that the 21 year-old Seagrams heir had planned his own kidnapping, and that he, Lynch, was the young man’s gay lover. Lynch was unshakable under cross examination even though his elaborate story made no sense. Realizing that the jury was buying the tale, and that the prosecution was unprepared to discredit it, DeBlasio exploited the story to persuade the jurors that the dimwitted Byrne was innocent of kidnapping, though he would be convicted of extortion. In the end, both Byrne and Lynch served less than four years in prison.

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Still Not Scared? How About THIS…?

During a closed meeting on this week, Attorney General Merrick Garland met with 35 state supreme court chief justices to urge their cooperation on limiting evictions. Garland praised the Michigan Supreme Court for giving tenants more time to apply for rental assistance by directing courts to stay eviction proceedings for up to 45 days. The AG also saluted the Texas Supreme Court for helping tenants facing lawsuits by sending them notices with assistance options.

The 35 justices should not have accepted Garland’s invitation (or was it a command?) Those who did accept should have ostentatiously walked out as soon as his purpose became clear. To call the meeting inappropriate is itself inappropriate: this was a straight up violation of the separation of powers, and a breach of professional ethics for everyone involved. Garland works for the President: he’s part of the executive branch. He’s also a litigant or a potential one in the matter he was discussing. The is an ex parte communication, as he well knows.

For the White House’s agents to strong-arm, or attempt to, members of the judiciary to allow the President’s party to pursue an unconstitutional policy is one more step to undo the structure of American democracy. This is a pure IIPTDXTTNMIAFB (“Imagine if President Trump did X that the news media is accepting from Biden.”). Creeping autocracy! Democrats and their puppet media would scream. Defying democratic traditions and weakening institutions! Except, you see, Donald Trump never did anything like this, and if he did, I assume all those good Democrats and progressives among the justices would have used the opportunity to call for impeachment, and the Republican chief justices, having respect for the Constitution, would refuse to attend.

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Observations On The “567 True-False Question Multiphasic Personality Inventory”

Scoring test

The first observation is that I am amazed that I never heard of this thing before very recently. I am pretty certain that I never encountered it in my psychology course in college, nor in my criminal law courses in law school, nor in the ridiculous number of movies and TV shows I have watched that would seem to be natural places for the test to be referenced. The large and seemingly random holes in our knowledge of the world makes each or us less competent to deal with life, and ethics, to a great extent, is a matter of life competence. I should have learned about this a long time ago, and I don’t know why I didn’t.

The 567 True-False Question Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), for those of you who don’t know already, is apparently the most widely used and researched clinical assessment tool used by mental health professionals to help diagnose mental health disorders (above is an excerpt from list of problems it is designed to flag and the number of questions that allegedly identify them). It has been used since the late 1930s, and has been revised and updated several times to improve its validity.

As you review its details here, you will immediately see the relevance to ethics. There are many scales used to evaluate the responses to the test, which takes 30-50 minutes to complete and involves the subject answering “true” or “false” to each of 567 questions. The survey may be used to assess hypochondria, psychosis, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, hysteria, sexual identities, paranoia, schizophrenia, introversion, and to identify psychopaths. There are also sub-scales that measure “the test taker’s belief in human goodness, serenity, contentment with life, patience/denial of irritability, and denial of moral flaws.”

I don’t have a lot to say about the test, which more or less speaks for itself. It reminds me of several things, like those trick questions they used to ask you when you checked your luggage at airports before 9/11: “Did anyone pack your suitcase for you? Did you accept anything from a stranger before you came here? Are you carrying any explosives or weapons?” How inept a hijacker did someone have to be to answer “Yes! I mean no! Damn, you caught me!” to that last one? A lot of the questions are like that. They are a bit cleverer, in that the whole reason there are so many questions is that the incriminating ones are randomly hidden among benign and distracting True-False assertions like ” I think I would enjoy the work of a librarian” and “I like poetry.” You’re rolling along for half the test and getting bored and suddenly you get hit with “It does not bother me particularly to see animals suffer.” Dingdingdingdingding!

The MMPI also reminded me of a bad Elvis Presley movie called “Follow the Dream” that has its climax in a courtroom where Elvis and his con artist father are fighting to keep custody of two twin boys the family adopted. In court, a suspicious psychiatrist gives Elvis’s father a “word association test” to prove whether he would be a fit parent, and the doctor interprets everything he says in the worst context imaginable.

And the test reminds me of what failures the fields of psychiatry and psychology have been since Sigmund Freud was going to save the world a century ago with his new science. If this list is a “primary tool” for metal health professionals, then I have a better understanding of how a Yale psychiatrist could go on MSNBC and insist that Donald Trump should be removed from office based on her assessment of his statements. It also explains how Woody Allen could spend decades in analysis and still be, you know, like Woody Allen.

One final observation, before I leave the rest to you, is that the list suggests that the current “antiracism”/Critical Race Theory/ Black Lives Matters assault on U.S. society and culture may be making African-Americans mentally ill. For example,#71 states, “These days I find it hard not to give up hope of amounting to something.” Being angry is also obviously a marker in the test.

At least now you’ll know about the 567 questions. Here they are:

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As The Previous Post Demonstrates Why We Can No Longer Trust Teachers, Schools And The Agencies That Regulate Them, This Post Shows Why We Cannot Trust Journalists Or Those Who Employ And Train Them…Ever!

The newly tenured celebrity journalism professor at Howard University told CBS News, “All journalism is activism.”

Res ipsa loquitur. This statement is signature significance for a fake journalist who understands neither her profession, nor its function in a democracy, nor a professional’s ethical obligations, not just in journalism, but in any profession. No competent, qualified journalist would ever say such a thing out loud. No trustworthy journalist would even think it.

Yet this “journalist” will be teaching aspiring journalists in college that their chosen profession is the antithesis of what it was designed to be.

Oh! Did I forget to mention her name? It is New York Times Magazine reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones. Consider: journalism departments were fighting over who would get her to corrupt their students. She spurned the offer of an academic chair by the University of North Carolina, which we now know places higher priority on wokeness credentials than on, say, competence, to take the post with Howard.

The culprit responsible for the racist and anti-America fake history exercise called the “1619 Project” went on to tell CBS,

“When you look at the model of The Washington Post, right? ‘Democracy dies in darkness,’ that’s not a neutral position. But our methods of reporting have to be objective. We have to try to be fair and accurate. And I don’t know how you can be fair and accurate if you pretend publicly that you have no feelings about something that you clearly do.”

Combined with her statement that journalism is activism, Hannah-Jones provided smoking gun evidence of the staggering number of facts and concepts she doesn’t comprehend. (Again, she is going to be teaching students, and spreading her ignorance as pearls of wisdom.) Let’s see.

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A “Bias Makes Professionals Stupid And Unprofessional” Update

Trump photo defaced

Perhaps the saddest aspect of the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck and the resulting mass effort to bring down Donald Trump was the corruption of virtually all of our society’s professions, and the vast majority of their members. Educators, psychiatrists, teachers, judges— journalists, of course, though they were already pretty far gone; broadcasters, of course. Entertainment professionals and performers, heaven knows (That’s the Dixie Chicks and their clever and subtle political commentary above.) In addition to theater professionals, two more of my professions have disgraced themselves: lawyers and ethicists. The listserv of a legal ethics organization I belong to was virtually cackling with joy over Rudy Giuliani’s partisan and dangerous interim suspension in New York, while the same group has been notably unenthusiastic about criticizing out-of court hyperbole by anti-Trump lawyers like the recently sentenced Michael Avenatti. (I may have missed some more balanced attention because I dropped out of the group for about 18 months in disgust over its bias.) Here is a tweet by a conservative attorney that was just offered to the group for comment on whether it raised issues of professional misconduct:

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