Category Archives: The Internet

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/20/18: Darrow, Damn Technology And Dunkin’ Donuts

Good Morning!

1. Shameless self-promotion Dept. Once again, I am presenting my three-hour Clarence Darrow and modern attorney ethics CLE program for the D.C. Bar, and later this summer, Virginia CLE will be sponsoring the same seminar in Richmond and Northern Virginia. As always, my partner and collaborator in All Things Darrow is esteemed D.C. actor (and American University law school instructor, and, I am proud to say, my friend) Paul Morella, who has been Darrowing since he premiered my one-man show about the great and flawed lawyer in 2000, for The American Century Theater. His website is here. This is Paul…

Paul is a lot taller, thinner and better looking than Darrow, and unlike Clarence, he also bathes regularly. It doesn’t matter. I can’t recommend his show, which he performs for bar associations and legal groups around the country, more highly, and would feel this way even if I hadn’t written it. Of course, any group that wants Continuing Legal Education credits can also book today’s seminar, which has many of Darrow’s greatest courtroom orations, but also legal ethics commentary from me.

2. Ah-HA! NOW I understand why I’m being sued for defamation!  This is in the “This comes as no surprise” category, but it still explains a lot. The Pew Research Center just released a survey that demonstrates that a large proportion of the public can’t distinguish facts from opinions. The main portion of the study  measured the public’s ability to distinguish between five factual statements and five opinion statements. Pew found

“…that a majority of Americans correctly identified at least three of the five statements in each set. But this result is only a little better than random guesses. Far fewer Americans got all five correct, and roughly a quarter got most or all wrong. Even more revealing is that certain Americans do far better at parsing through this content than others. Those with high political awareness, those who are very digitally savvy and those who place high levels of trust in the news media are better able than others to accurately identify news-related statements as factual or opinion.”

I challenge that last part. It may well be that those who place high levels of trust in the news media could distinguish between fact and opinion in those  ten statements, but it doesn’t change the fact (now this is my opinion, but I still believe it is demonstrably true) that the news media distorts what it represents as facts based on journalists’ biased opinions. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, History, Science & Technology, The Internet, U.S. Society, Workplace

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/19/2018: Double Standards And Greed

Time for a Good Morning song!

1. Life on Facebook. A lawyer friend who should know better posted a comment that began, “You wouldn’t think that posting something like ‘Taking children away from their parents and sticking them in cages is wrong’ would be controversial, but in almost every case where one of my friends has said something like this, at least one of his/her friends feels the need to argue about it…” Later he compared the statement “Taking children away from their parents and sticking them in cages is wrong” to “Torturing kittens is wrong.” I told him that as a lawyer, he should be objecting to and explaining the transparent deceit of “Taking children away from their parents and sticking them in cages is wrong”—a half-truth designed to stifle argument, not attacking those who are correctly pointing out the emotionalism and dishonesty of that tactic.

I should count up the number of lawyers whose comments on Facebook on this issue are pure “Think of the children!” with no substantive legal and policy analysis whatsoever. My friend also made the typical suggestion that only Trump voters—you know: morons—would argue with “Taking children away from their parents and sticking them in cages is wrong” as a fair and conclusive verdict on the current policy.

2. Theranos.  Elizabeth Holmes, founder and CEO of Theranos, as well as Ramesh Balwani, the company’s former president ( and Holme’s love interest, were indicted yesterday on charges of conspiracy and wire fraud. The Theranos debacle is a classic corporate fraud story on par with Enron, if not as wide-reaching.

I missed it. This is embarrassing for an ethics blog, and for someone who thinks he scours various news sources thoroughly enough to catch the major ethics stories. I blame Donald Trump, but I also blame the various news sources in 2015 that chose to report fake news, trivial news, future news and theoretical news rather than give a major corporate scandal the attention it deserved. If I missed the story, and I’m looking for it, what chance do normal people with sensible occupations have?

The civil fraud charges in the case were filed in March by the Securities and Exchange Commission, though the scandal had broken earlier, when the Wall Street Journal published its 2015 exposé.  Holmes and Balwani allegedly raised millions of dollars using false statements about how well the company’s  blood-testing device worked, while using  a contract with the Department of Defense and a partnership between Theranos and the pharmacy chain Walgreens to con pharmacies, doctors and the public. The apparent scam created a Business of Cards that, at its peak, had more than 800 employees and a paper valuation of $9 billion.

There is a book out about the Theranos scandal by the reporter who broke the story… Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Childhood and children, Citizenship, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Facebook, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/18/2018: Moral Luck, Non-Hypocrisy, Hypocrisy, Thomas Jefferson And WKRP

Good morning, Monticello, everyone…

1 The Inspector General’s Report and Tales of Moral Luck:  Stop me if you’ve heard this one: FBI staffer Peter Strzok, working on both the Hillary Clinton email investigation and the Russian collusion investigation, received a text from Lisa Page, Strzok’s co-worker and adulterous lover, that read, “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Strzok replied, “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it.”

 September of 2016, the FBI discovered that Clinton’s illicit emails had somehow ended up on the laptop of disgraced former Congressman. Anthony Weiner, who is married to Hillary’s top aide and confidante, Huma Abedin.  Strzok, we learn in Michael Horowitz’s report, was instrumental in  the decision not to pursue the lead, arguing that the Russia investigation was a “higher priority” at the time.”We found this explanation unpersuasive and concerning,” the report concluded. The laptop was available from September 29 until October 27, when “people outside the FBI” finally forced  the FBI to act on the evidence. “The FBI had all the information it needed on September 29 to obtain the search warrant that it did not seek until more than a month later,” the IG report stated. “The FBI’s neglect had potentially far-reaching consequences.”

“Comey told the OIG that, had he known about the laptop in the beginning of October and thought the email review could have been completed before the election, it may have affected his decision to notify Congress,” the IG report says, and also states,

“Under these circumstances, we did not have confidence that Strzok’s decision to prioritize the Russia investigation over follow up on the [Clinton] investigative lead discovered on the Weiner laptop was free from bias.”

Got that? The IG believes that anti-Trump, pro-Hillary bias led Strzok to delay the Weiner laptop investigation, and it may have backfired, helping Trump and hurting Clinton rather than the reverse. But the fact that moral luck took a hand and foiled his intent doesn’t change the fact that this is strong evidence that partisan bias DID infect the Clinton investigation, and probably the Russian inquiry as well. This makes the media’s spin that the IG report dispels accusations of bias even more unconscionable.

That Strzok’s biased and unethical tactics to help Hillary intimately failed spectacularly doesn’t change or mitigate the fact that a prime FBI staff member was intentionally trying yo manipulate the investigation for partisan reasons.

2. The Web thinks you’re an awful person.  A tease from a “sponsored site” in the margins of my NBC Sports baseball feed  says, “Jan Smithers starred in hit sitcom “WKRP in Cincinnati.” Try not to smile when you see what she looks like now!” Wait…what’s that’s supposed to mean? Is she a circus clown? No, these and similar come-ons apparently assume that normal people love mocking formerly beautiful young stars when they no longer look young. “Heh, heh..well, Jan Smithers, I guess you’re not so hot now, are you? What kind of person takes pleasure in the physical decay of others just because they were once gorgeous?

Actually, the photo of Jan Smithers did make me smile, because unlike, say, Jane Fonda,

…who at 80 has allowed plastic surgeons to make her look like one of the fragile immortal female ghouls who shatter into pieces at the end of “Death Becomes Her,” Smithers (who is younger than me and a decade and a half younger than Hanoi Jane) has allowed herself to age naturally, and by my admittedly biased lights, is lovely still: Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Citizenship, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Love, Popular Culture, Race, Romance and Relationships, The Internet, Workplace

Ethics Dilemma: What Can Be Done About People Like This? [Poll Included]

Hold on to your skulls…

Social media can spread stupidity like a viral plague. Is there anything  ethical and constitutional  that can be done to protect the imperiled children addled  mothers like this may raise?

[Related Ethics Alarms posts here (feeding kittens a vegan diet) and here (dogs).]

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Bioethics, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, Social Media

“Bombshell,” Hedy Lamarr, And The Duty To Remember

I alluded to Hedy Lamarr in an earlier post about my favorite celebrities, those who manage to be outstanding in multiple diverse fields at once. The glamorous cult actress is a prime example, being known publicly for her pulchritude and in much more rarefied circles as a brilliant inventor. I had been waiting for the release of the documentary–produced by Susan Sarandon!—about Lamarr, called “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story” ever since a friend and commenter here told me that it was in the works. Now it is on Netflix, and I watched it. You should too. I’ll just jot down some loosely connected thoughts about the ethics lessons of Lamarr’s life.

  • The sexual exploitation of young women in films may have been worse in the past than it is now, but Lamarr’s life is a reminder of how excruciatingly slowly cultures change. She was made infamous as the star of a sensational sex film in  Germany, shown naked, and also in an apparently explicit sex scene when she was too young (19) and naive to know what the director was doing.

The episode literally shadowed her life. Yet half a century later, very young actresses like Drew Barrymore and Dakota Fanning were similarly abused by directors, the main difference being that public attitudes now make the resulting stigma less permanent.

  • Antisemitism was sufficiently pervasive in the U.S. that Lamarr denied her Jewish heritage for much of her life.

Living a lie is not an ethically healthy existence, but Lamarr had few reasons to trust that she would be accepted for who she was….fewer than most, on fact.

  • There are few more vivid examples than Lamarr of a brilliant woman who rapidly learned that she had to rely on the favor of men based on her physical charms to have any chance of succeeding. Yet it is a bargain with the devil, for the price is not being taken seriously. The suppressed resentment and anger Lamarr reveals in interviews is palpable.

Sometimes I think it’s a mircale that women didn’t rise up and slaughter millions of men while they slept. They deserved it.

  • Hedy Lamarr is primarily remembered now as a running joke in “Blazing Saddles.”

Think about that. Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “When Businesses Have No Principles, No Courage, And The Community Likes It That Way”

Toxic woke is a specialty…

The bizarre episode in Portland, Oregon, in which two bakery employees were fired for following store policy because their doing so upset a black activist, and the establishment is so self-righteously “woke” that her demands were deemed sufficient to make injustice mandatory, has received almost no national publicity. I presume this is because it illustrates the worst of progressive logic, group preference, and hubris to a nauseating extent. Almost as awful as the Back to Eden bakery’s mistreatment of its employees are the addled statements of its owners, which betray an increasingly common (I wish I could write “rare”) certitude of a standard-issue social justice warrior’s virtue, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Here is johnburger2013’s fascinating analysis of this mess in his Comment of the Day on the post,When Businesses Have No Principles, No Courage, And The Community Likes It That Way….

This story is fascinating on so many levels, from all angles: legal, business practices, ethics, public relations damage control, and a whole host of other areas. Thankfully, geometry and nationalized medical care were spared.

From the outset, it seems kind of dumb to deny a patron pastry at 9:06 p.m. because of a rigid application of store hours. This is a bakery and the business of a bakery is sell baked goods. Any sale of a baked good is a good sale, no?

Yet, if the bakery declares the store hours, the employees should not necessarily be punished for enforcing that policy. Otherwise, you would have people coming and going at all hours and the employees would have to stay beyond their shifts, which may result in hardships on them and others the employees depend on. For instance, if a child is at daycare, there may be an additional fee payable to the daycare because the employee arrived late to pick up the child. Termination of the employees for enforcing the store’s hours seems cruel, harsh, and unfair to the employees.

How this situation spiraled out of control is truly amazing. At first, I thought the fired employees posted about it; then, I learned the Lillian, the Perpetually Aggrieved, posted videos she took from outside the bakery on her Facebook feed, which then went viral. Many Facebookers banded together in a quasi-online lynch mob and filled the bakery’s Facebook page with love letters and messages.

The owners, dreaming of gluten free cookies, awoke to a public relations nightmare. One of the owners contacted Lillian via Facebook Messenger to try to apologize and resolve the problem (without knowing the real facts); though well-intentioned, he stepped into a virtual hornets’ nest. He then tried to make further amends by writing a preliminary statement, which failed miserably. His response: a 3400 word statement, which he subsequently deleted. Here is a link I found on a site called “The Way Back Machine”* that includes the bakery’s initial statement and the update:

https://web.archive.org/web/20180529123148/https://m.facebook.com/backtoedenbakery/posts/10156247917969043

The two statements, taken together are a brilliant lesson in multiculturalism, diversity, virtue signaling, damage control failures, capitulation to The Mob, sacrificing someone for the Greater Good, and the ranking order of privilege and standing in the Grievance Industry.

The initial statement had this little gem:

“Back to Eden Bakery is 100% committed to being a welcoming and supportive environment for all customers who share our values of inclusivity (sic?) and dismantling the white supremacist hetero-patriarchy.” Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Facebook, Journalism & Media, Race

Ethics Observations On The Roseanne Tweet Fiasco

1.  It is possible, after all, to revile Roseanne Barr’s gratuitously vicious “joke” about Valerie Jarrett, and to question the extended reaction to it. I feel especially emboldened, perhaps because you couldn’t have forced me to watch that show or anything associated with Barr had you been credibly threatening to blow up Fenway Park unless I tuned in. One of the ways the enemies of free discourse and thought further their agenda is by setting up these dilemmas, where to even suggest that a genuine miscreant’s punishment has exceeded reasonable bounds is to risk shunning and other serious cultural consequences—it’s the Cognitive Dissonance Scale again. “See, then we make them defend someone who would tweet something like that, and we’ve got em! Then they look like racists too! Bwahahahahaha!

2. No, I don’t think ABC and Disney were looking for an excuse to cancel “Roseanne” 2 because it was perceived as pro-Trump. The show was making money, and corporations place money above politics. However, there is no doubt that a conservative show has less margin for error in today’s biased media environment. It was up to Roseanne to understand that and moderate her conduct accordingly. This recent post is relevant.

3. I was not aware, until ethics alarms reader  Sue Denim pointed it out here, that Barr may have physiological reasons for her lifetime addiction to ugly humor: Continue reading

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