Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/28/21: A Missing Part 2, And More…

“Never on a Sunday” was a surprise international hit film in 1960, a romantic comedy starring Melina Mercuri as a choosy Greek prostitute. The actress also recorded the film’s title song, which had a, er, slightly different meaning in Greek, as my mother, who spoke Greek, delicately explained to me at the time. “Kiss,” mom said, doesn’t exactly mean kiss. Nevertheless the song was covered by lots of singers. including the pre-“Downtown” Petula Clark, and was ubiquitous for months. It was also the first song I ever wrote a parody of, #1 of hundreds.

1. It’s comforting to know that the conservative media is trying to be just as unfair to President Biden as the progressive news media (also known as “the media”) was to President Trump. Yesterday i read many stories about how Biden had a complete meltdown during a speech, didn’t know where he was and asked, “What am I doing here?” As you can see for yourself, that’s a false representation. Joe looks vague and unwell, but he merely got lost momentarily reading a list of names. I have said out loud, “What am I doing?” on more than one occasion while speaking.

2. And this is why it’s important to have a conservative Supreme Court: The Supreme Court ruled on February 26 that Santa Clara County may not enforce a complete ban on indoor religious services as part of California’s draconian pandemic measures. (Wait, I’m confused: who are the fascists again?) Earlier, the Court told California that indoor church services could not be banned because of the pandemic, but allowed the state to cap attendance at 25% capacity and to prohibit singing and chanting.

Santa Clara argued that its ban and limitations on any indoor gatherings should be allowed to stand because its restrictions for churches were the same as those imposed on other establishments where people can visit but not gather in groups. The Justices’ unsigned order last week said that the earlier order “clearly dictated” that Santa Clara’s ban could not stand. Chief Justice John Roberts had written at the time,

“The state has concluded, for example, that singing indoors poses a heightened risk of transmitting COVID-19. I see no basis in this record for overriding that aspect of the state public health framework. At the same time, the state’s present determination—that the maximum number of adherents who can safely worship in the most cavernous cathedral is zero—appears to reflect not expertise or discretion, but instead insufficient appreciation or consideration of the interests at stake.”

Showing their insufficient appreciation of the interest at stake—the right to worship—were the three liberal Justices, Kagan, Sotomayor, and Breyer.

3. I was going to post a follow-up to this post about the film “Denial” (hence the “Part I” in the headline) and other issues intervened. (Sorry). To summarize briefly, Part 2 was going to recount my own run-in with Prof. Lipstadt at the time of her defamation trial when she was sued for defamation by a Holocaust-denying British historian in 2005. In my previous ethics website, the suddenly returned Ethics Scoreboard, I gave C-Span an Ethics Dunce award based on Prof. Lipstadt’s account that it had insisted that the Holacuast denier’s arguments be presented on video as a condition of her appearance on its broadcast. I wrote in part,

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ARRGGH!!! NAZIS!!!!!

Conspiracy design

Apparently, vaccinations are needed for Trump Derangement Syndrome. It is not going away despite the exit of Donald Trump. There’s also a significant likelihood that this is just one more manifestation of The Great Stupid, and as we all know, you can’t fix stupid. Or at least there’s no vaccination…

That’s the nifty stage at CPAC above, where conservatives are flocking right now to tell tales of the good old days of child labor, women baking pies while barefoot and pregnant, and the coloreds happily singing in the cotton fields. Or something: all Democrats are sure of is that it’s some kind of evil cult. So now a bunch of conspiracy theorists led by unemployed actress Alyssa Milano, with assistance by TMZ and Snopes, are telling social media that the design is an open admission of the fascist sympathies of the Right.

Milano tweet

ARRGGH! NOOOOOOOOOOOOO! IT’S TRUE IT’S TRUE!!!

Yes, these are the same people Republicans sat back, snoozed, and allowed to out-maneuver them on voting regulations. The GOP is literally dumber than the people who believe things like this.

Observations:

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Ethics Hero: Bluefield (Va.) College President David Olive

Bluefield

The players for Bluefield College’s basketball team had done “a Kaepernick” several times prior to their games in January and February, and after being warned by school officials that this conduct was against school policy and would be punished in the future, the team stayed in the locker room during the playing of the National Anthem in the next game. But on February 9, the Bluefield players decided to defy the college and kneel during the anthem. College President David Olive informed the team’s coach, that “there would be consequences.” There were. He suspended the entire team for the next game, thus forfeiting the contest.

Good. That is exactly what he should have done.

The students were warned, and decided to test the resolve of the college in their arrogant wokeness. Now they know that not everyone backs down.

The players then proceeded to demonstrate the deficits of the American educational system, including, sadly, Bluefield. They argued a double standard, because a pro-Trump rally held near the campus showed that some protests (you know, white protests!) are acceptable to the school, but not theirs. “So it’s OK for everyone to have a Trump rally with Confederate flags, but it’s not OK for us to kneel for our people who’ve fallen,” said one player who has been speaking for the team.

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Our Financial System And Trust

fix

Guest Post by Michael R

The recent House hearing on Wall Street did not actually dig into the scandals that are threatening our financial systems. The blatant manipulation of the stock market by market players has been made clear and people are just ignoring it. The same is true with precious metals trading, with JP Morgan being fined almost $1 billion for manipulating metals the same way the hedge funds manipulated GameStop above. This is after being fined $550 million in 2015 for rigging currency prices. In 2013, they were fined $410 million for price fixing energy In 2019, they were fined for manipulating the currency market. In one 3-year period, they were fined $35 billion for financial wrongdoing. Why is such a company still allowed to dominate key financial sectors? Why is it even allowed to be in business?

Is our entire system ‘rigged’? Look at the feedback loop the Fed is currently in:

A. “We don’t have inflation because inflation would cause the government to collapse under the interest of $30 trillion in debt.”
B. “We have inflation due to unrestrained printing of money, so foreign government dump Treasury bonds that pay little interest and are being devalued by inflation.”
C. Interest on the Treasury bonds increase to attract customers.
D. This can’t happen, so the Fed declares there is no inflation, prints a lot of new money to buy the bonds off the market to make the bond more valuable (because there are fewer of them).
E, This still isn’t enough and only half the bonds are purchased.
F. The fed prints more money to buy the bonds that didn’t sell to keep interest rates from increasing due to inflation from printing

Return to A...
Certainly looks rigged. Cue hyperinflation!

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Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/27/2021: Confusion And Irony

Doomscrolling” is a relatively new term to describe the habit of constantly checking one’s smartphone for bad news. Jeffrey Hall, professor of communication studies at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, has spent over 10 years studying technology use in conjunction with relationships. He says that the mass media is intentionally triggering the habit:

“People tend to have what’s called negativity bias when it comes to information. From an evolutionary perspective, it’s related to the idea that we needed to be more alert to threats. If things are not particularly surprising, we can reside in a very low energy state, but as soon as we see something that’s potentially threatening or worrisome, it piques our attention. The algorithms are picking up on what we engage in, and our attentive processes tend to focus on the more negative information….”

The professor recommends filtering social media as a remedy:

“You can also take active steps to recognize if there are people who are a part of your social network that seem to be fueling your sense of doom and gloom. You may want to consider unsubscribing or muting them. People are very loath to actually unfriend or stop following a person altogether. However, there are ways to not get that content. Oftentimes we’re very upset about content we see, but we don’t do anything to change what we see.”

I dunno, professor! The people on Facebook seem to revel in shared, if imaginary, gloom and doom. Most of them “muted” me when I pointed out that the false narratives about the President being some kind of a traitorous Nazi racist monster trying to end American democracy were media-driven, partisan scams. That should have been good news, and it happened to be true. Instead, my Facebook friends crawled back into their comforting imaginary crisis bubble and, from what I can see, virtually no one there reads any EA posts that I put up. Trump Derangement was (in fact, is) a fad, a pastime, and sort of a club that eventually metastasized into a mindless mob.

1. On the question of canceling artists of bad character…A note that on this date in 1936 Shirley Temple, who was all of seven years old, signed a deal paying her almost a million dollars per picture in today’s currency reminded me of this horrible story: when Shirley was an attractive teen seeking to transition away from child roles, she met with MGM’s legendary movie musical chief, Arthur Freed. He exposed himself at the interview, and Shirley’s mother decreed that she would have no further dealings with MGM.

First, how sick to you have to be to expose yourself to Shirley Temple (the term “scumbag” comes to mind)? Second, would that justify refusing to watch and enjoy all of the classic musicals he was responsible for at the studio, like “Singing in the Rain,” “The Bandwagon,” “Wizard of Oz,” “Gigi,” the Mickey and Judy films, “Meet Me in St. Louis,” and many more? How about all of the songs he wrote, including the ones used in “Singing’ in the Rain”? I love that movie, but it is presented as a celebration of Arthur Freed, as is another favorite, “That’s Entertainment!” And the guy exposed himself to Shirley Temple!!!

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Ethics Quiz: Positive Devlopment Or Slippery Slope?

This ad will run on the NBC Golden Globes Award broadcast:

A similar commercial had previously been rejected by ABC.

Cowabunga! Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:.

Is presenting this commercial on a prime time broadcast network a positive development for society?

Or, in the alternative, is it feminist grandstanding by NBC? Will it inevitably lead to graphic male enhancement ads?  If women can be topless in this commercial, on what basis will anyone be able to argue that breast-bearing shouldn’t be routine in entertainment programming?

Quasi-Apology Of The Month: Attorney John Morgan

Screen_Shot_2021_02_24_at_2.35.38_PM.6036aadd5594c

I’m not sure where this falls on the Ethic Alarms Apology Scale.

I admit that I’m never heard of John Morgan, but I am told he is a well known attorney in Orlando, Florida, and like so many trial attorneys, a character. Morgan keeps his name before the public in part by posting self-made videos on Twitter posted ( #Johnin60secs ) videos where he gives spontaneous running commentaries on life in general in the conversational and engaging style that makes him a successful litigator. It is a clever marketing approach: I’m pretty sure it gets around Florida’s strict lawyer advertising rules. For example, in one video he described his head as being “ the size of a watermelon,” which is obviously hyperbole. In a legal advertising, a lawyer can’t me make any false or misleading statement or one that can’t be verified.

But I digress. There is a danger any time anyone, no matter how glib or accustomed to speaking off-script, does so for public consumption, as the late Rush Limbaugh, acres of crushed”shockjocks,” Michael Richards and I, among others, can attest. And so it was that Morgan, in one of his videos, was riffing on fast food franchises, and said about Arby’s,

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In Which I Am Admonished For A Slur, And Am Unapologetic

Former US senator John Edwards speaks 30

An episode today raised echos of a couple of Ethics Alarms topics this week, such as incivility and the use of uncomplimentary words.

Today’s presentation of the musical legal ethics seminar “Ethics Rock 2021” began with my partner Mike Messer singing “Ethics Man,” a parody of Billy Joel’s classic “Piano Man.” It was about the tenth version of that wonderfully adaptable song that I have written. This was today’s chorus (it’s usually a sing-along, but not on Zoom):

Sing us the Rules, you’re the ethics man!
Sing us the Rules today!
We’re stuck in an ethics dilemma here
And it’s your job to show us the way!

I had returned an old verse to this installment because I felt the issue of character and the fitness to practice law was an especially relevant topic. The verse was first written shortly after the John Edwards scandal was exposed.. Edwards, as you may know, never faced any professional discipline from the North Carolina bar despite what I have been told were thousands of complaints, though none were related to his legal practice…

Now John, he was running for President
While running around on his wife
And he fathered a daughter and lied like a rotter
Constructing the scam of his life.
But some lawyers say, “Hey, all that’s personal!
He isn’t unworthy of trust!
Like that guy with the huge student loan he owes
So his bar application’s a bust.”

The last part was a reference to Robert Bowman, a hard-working, honorable law grad denied membership in the New York bar for years because his student loan debt had ballooned due to no fault of his own. (He was eventually admitted.) Bowman was found to lack the character to practice law, while Edwards was (and is) still officially a lawyer in “good standing.” This is a sore point for me; I have said many times that I wouldn’t trust Edwards to mail my water bill, and for the profession to assert that he has the “moral character” to practice law is not just a double standard but a ridiculous one.

Somewhere in my riff on Edwards versus Bowman I used the term “scumbag” to describe the former Senator, and quickly got a message from one of the participants claiming that it was “inappropriate” to refer to Edwards with that slur.

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Delayed Morning Warm-Up, 2/26/21: The Good, The Bad, And The Deranged…

Sorry-For-The-Delay

I just completed my ethics legal seminar, and wow, Trump Derangement runs deep. I kept getting these off topic questions about whether Trump’s lawyer in the impeachment trial was sanctionable for “lying.” Lawyers know better than that: unless you present false evidence (like, just as a wild example, claiming the rioters “killed’ and officer when they did not), advocacy for a client is immune from prosecution, liability or professional discipline. Finally an attendee messaged the group to say, “Can we please stop wasting everyone’s time with these Trump Derangement political questions?”

1. Good! As discussed here, country music superstar Morgan Wallen was suspended indefinitely by his record label and removed from hundreds of radio stations across the country after he used a “racial slur” that no news reporting organization would tell us what it was. OK, I did and will: he was captured on camera saying “nigger” in banter with his friends outside his home, and a malicious neighbor posted the video to social media. Now, I am happy to report, the efforts to “cancel” the singer appear to have largely flopped. The Times reports,

[H]is breakthrough release, “Dangerous: The Double Album” to No. 1 once again. It has held the top spot on Billboard’s album chart for six weeks in a row now, the longest run in the peak position since Taylor Swift’s “Folklore” last summer, and the only country album to spend its first six weeks at No. 1 since Garth Brooks’s “The Chase” in 1992. In its sixth week out, “Dangerous” had the equivalent of 93,000 sales in the United States, including 112 million streams and 10,000 copies sold as a full album, according to the tracking service MRC Data, which is owned by Billboard’s parent company. So far, “Dangerous,” which has 33 tracks in its “bonus” version, has logged just short of one billion streams in the United States.

Meanwhile, a country music station in Knoxville reversed its ban on Wallen’s records after polling listeners, who voted more than 9-1 to have them played again. Other stations are sure to follow, and not because the audience is full of racists who like to use that mysterious word, whatever it is, that the New York Times won’t specify, but because art is distinct from artists, and it is ignorant and foolish to confuse them. Art enriches our lives, and the more of it the better. Unfortunately, there is no correlation between virtue and talent.

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Friday Free-For-All: Open Forum

battle-marvel

Boy, that seven days went fast.

I would be having an open forum now even if we didn’t do this every Friday, because I’m Zooming and ethics seminar to New Jersey lawyers this morning.

Other Bill, esteemed commenter, wrote earlier this week:

So many people in the commentariat so well versed on so many topics. Impressive and enjoyable. Graduate level discussions of all sorts of things.

That’s very true, and I’m proud of it. I may even stop worrying about the fall-off in traffic here this month. When the quality of participation is this high, it doesn’t matter.