More Evidence That Most Americans Don’t Grasp The “Freedom of Speech” Concept….

A Utah brewery has lost its appeal of a North Carolina decision to bar the sale of “Polygamy Porter” in the state,  on the basis that “polygamy is illegal.”

Morons.

Officials  banned  the beer and Wasatch Brewery challenged the policy with the North Carolina Alcohol Beverage Control Commission, which  ruled against it. This is pure speech censorship. Polygamy is illegal, but talking about it, depicting it and drawing pictures of it is not, and cannot be.

Jonathan Turley, who found this ridiculous story, notes that there are other beers with references to illegal acts, like My Favorite Murder beer. However local boards practicing censorship have banned other cheekily named beverages, like “Beergasm,” “Kissing Cousins,” “Daddy Needs His Juice,” and “Wine for the Super Hero.”

I don’t care about beer names, but I do care, as should all of us, about threats to bedrock American rights and values. It is because so many members of the public have been badly educated regarding our Bill of Rights that a board could make such a boneheaded ruling without the members’ First Amendment Alarms going off at an earsplitting level. It is such weak comprehension of what “freedom of speech” means that creates a genuine threat to our democracy, by allowing unscrupulous politicians, unethical scholars and pandering leaders to erode free speech, or attempt to, by assertions that “hate speech” should be made illegal and “dangerous opinions” like skepticism regarding climate change should trigger legal penalties.

“First they came for Polygamy Porter, and I did nothing…”

Let’s Give A Big Ethics Alarms Hello To New Rationalizations 25B, “The Irresistible Impulse,” And 38B, “Joe Biden’s Inoculation”!

These are the 98th and the 99th rationalizations to join the Ethics Alarms List of Rationalizations And Misconceptions, an ongoing project here. I initially didn’t think that the listwould ever reach 100, but now that looks likely, and we have Joe Biden to thank for it. Thanks, Joe!

The strained logic of both new rationalizations were evoked in a recent New York Times article airing the desperate spin attempts by Biden’s campaign staff to try to minimize the significance of their candidate’s apparently incurable tendency to butcher his attempts at communications. While I realize these two mitigating arguments employed by Joe’s team were not being used as rationalizations for unethical conduct (exactly), that is often the use others find for them.

Rationalization 25B, The Irresistible Impulse, or “I can’t help myself!”
Continue reading

Will CNN Have The Integrity To Fire A Partisan, Incompetent, Black, Gay Host?

Of course not. But if it comes to a point where that is the dilemma, attention must be paid.

From Fox News (you wouldn’t expect CNN to report this story, would you?):

The former boss of a bartender who earlier this week filed an explosive lawsuit against CNN host Don Lemon, accusing the newsman of a strange, sexually charged assault, told Fox News he witnessed the incident and corroborated his onetime employee’s claim.

In an exclusive interview, George Gounelas, who managed Dustin Hice at the Old Stove Pub in July of 2018, detailed what allegedly occurred on the night of the bizarre encounter at Murf’s Backstreet Tavern, which is located in the prestigious Hamptons area east of New York City. Gounelas is named in the suit filed by Hice.

Lemon, through CNN, has vehemently denied Hice’s allegations.

“Dustin worked for me as a bartender [and] we went out after work one night. We were standing there and he said, ‘Hey, that’s Don Lemon,’” Gounelas said. “Murf’s is a place you go to drink after you’ve been out drinking. We had just gotten off of work. So that’s why we ended up there, because we worked in the restaurant business. So by the time everything is done, we can only hit a late-night spot.”

Hice approached Lemon to strike up a conversation but the newsman declined, according to Gounelas, who said he and Hice then offered to buy Lemon a drink, which the CNN host also declined.

Gounelas said that a few moments later, Lemon came up to them. “Don Lemon has now come around the corner and is standing face to face with us. There is a beam, a pole, in the place. Don’s standing up against the pole, face to face with Dustin, I turn around and I’m standing right there between the two of them,” Gounelas said. “He’s saying, ‘So you like me? Is that why you’re bothering me?’”

Hice responded, “Nah, man, I just wanted to say, ‘What’s up?’” according to Gounelas.

Gounelas told Fox News he couldn’t recall what Lemon said verbatim, but it was “along the lines of, ‘Do you like me? Is that why you’re bothering me, because you wanna fuck me?’” Gounelas said Lemon appeared “pretty drunk” when he confronted the duo at the wee-hours watering hole.

“He put his hands down his pants, inside his board shorts, grabbed his [genitals], and then came out with two fingers and, like, clipped Dustin’s nose up and down with two fingers asking ‘do you like pussy or dick?’” Gounelas said….

Gounelas said he isn’t sure if Lemon, who is openly gay, was being confrontational or simply flirting. “I guess it’s a little of both. If someone had done that to me, I probably would have punched him. But I think it might have been flirting. I think Dustin was more in shock… If someone was flirting with me like that I’d say, ‘alright man I’m not gay,’” Gounelas said. “I wouldn’t go up to a girl like that. It could be his way of flirting.”

Hice continued to work for Gounelas at the now-shuttered Old Stove Pub for the duration of the summer, where his former boss said the bartender was regularly teased about the incident.

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Shameless Self-Promotion Dept.: My Upcoming Smithsonian Program on Cross-Examination

I don’t know how many Ethics Alarms readers live in the vicinity of Washington, D.C.—I suspect quite a few—but if you do and are interested in seeing me and my sister present a lively two-hour program exploring many of the legal ethics issues that I have tackled here, along with plenty of history, popular culture and trial technique (and are willing to pay $45 for the privilege as well as some take-home materials),  maybe I can meet you on the evening of October 21st.

The event is called “Courtroom Drama: The Art of Cross-Examination,” and here’s description: Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Month: Actor Peter Fonda (1940-2019)

“I believe that one is only truly free when learning, and one can only learn when one is free.”

—-Actor Peter Fonda, Henry’s son, Jane’s brother, and Bridget’s father, who died yesterday.

Memorable ethics quotes come from unexpected places sometimes, and this is a striking example. It’s also important, wise and true. I have never heard or read of anyone putting that thought quite that way.

Fonda’s observation focuses nicely on the roots of today’s existential cultural peril. A vast segment of the population has grown to adulthood with insufficient or defective knowledge, making them easy prey for power-seekers, demagogues and charlatans peddling theories and nostrums that a basic comprehension of history would instantly undermine. Instead of being imbued by their teachers and parents with intellectual curiosity, a healthy and intrinsically American suspicion of authority, and a reluctance to follow mobs of any kind, they lack the intellectual defenses to fend off ideological cant, the most dangerous of which holds that society will only be made virtuous by the unthinking acceptance of approved doctrine. That requires locking in dogma early, and creating a public that is inoculated against learning by being cut off from non-conforming information. Continue reading

First Do No Harm? Ethics Observations On “Dragon Lady”

Richard Hernandez, who now goes by Tiamat Legion Medusa, or just “Dragon Lady,” has spent more than $70,000 on a series of plastic surgeries and body modifications, a process triggered when the former bank vice-president was diagnosed with AIDS.

He/She/It/Them (He prefers it, and I won’t use “them”,) has had 18 horn implants, both ears removed, a partial nose removal (so he would look like Voldemort in the “Harry Potter” movies—COOL!), 32 teeth pulled and six of his remaining teeth sharpened to points, the whites of both eyes tinted green, and his tongue split into a fork. Tiamat has also had his chin altered nine times and nine piercings, among other procedures. He also underwent gender modification treatment.

Next up, Tiamat says, is the amputation “Mr. Bojangles,” his penis, along with having rainbow scales tatooed over every inch of skin, more horn implants, and both eyeballs stained  purple. The long term goal is to be transformed into a “genderless reptile” by 2025.

Good plan.

Observations: Continue reading

Assorted Ethics Thoughts In The Throes Of Insomnia, 8/17/2019: The Foot-In-Mouth Edition

Started as a Morning Warm-Up, then it was a Mid-Day Update, then a Late Night something or other.

1. From the “Steve King is an idiot” files: Rep. Steve King, a Republican from Iowa whose avocation is sticking his foot in his mouth, told the Westside Conservative Club in Urbandale, Iowa that the unborn who result from rape are no less lives that other fetuses, and should not be subject to any “exception” to principled exception to abortion. “It’s not the baby’s fault,” he said.

So far, so good: King is right. Then he had to go and say this:

“What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled those people out that were products of rape or incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that? Considering all the wars and all the rapes and pillages that’s taken place, and whatever happened to culture after society, I know that I can’t certify that I’m not a product of that. And I’d like to think every one of the lives of us are as precious as any other life.”

So when you really think about it, rape and incest are a good things, right, Steve?

That’s certainly how Democrats and progressives took his comments, and to be fair, his infuriatingly ham-handed rhetoric made it easy.  The position that unborn children are just as deserving of life regardless of how they were conceived is a powerful and greatly misunderstood ethical argument. It is not necessary to rationalize rape to make it; in fact, King’s dumb argument just muddles the issue. It’s also bad history and anthropology.

NBC has an article up claiming that King’s words show the “misogyny” at the heart of white supremacy. No, they just show that King is a moron, and we already knew that.

2. Nice. Here’s the title of a Gail Collins op-ed in yesterday’s Times: “How to torture Trump.” Continue reading