My Home Town Finally Makes Good!

We always knew Arlington, Massachusetts would do something special eventually.
 
All the years that my family lived there, poor Arlington, nestled anonymously between Lexington and Cambridge, a hop and a skip from Concord, searched in vain for some way to be famous like the cities and towns around it. Sure, it was (and is) the largest municipality to have a town government, but really, so what? Paul Revere didn’t even ride through Arlington (that was William Dawes) which was then called Menotomy.
 
In the run-up Revolutionary War, our little town—-heck, we couldn’t even say that, because it was a BIG town, though irrelevant…was the site of a shooting skirmish while the British marched through to Lexington and Concord. Arlington’s big event was the massacre of some Minute Men while they hid in the closet in the Jason Russell House, the town’s one historical spot of note. You could see the bullet holes! Cool! Our classes visited the place every damn year.

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Unethical Quote Of The Month: Golden State Warriors Owner Chamath Palihapitiya

“Nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs, okay. You bring it up because you care and I think it’s nice that you care. The rest of us don’t care. I’m just telling you a very hard, ugly truth. Of all the things that I care about, yes, it is below my line.”

—–Golden State Warriors owner Chamath Palihapitiya, in an interview.

This statement, classic signature significance, neatly explains why the National Basketball Association remains metaphorically in bed with the brutal regime in China, why the Biden Administration refuses to hold the country responsible for its role as an international outlaw (and inflicting its virus on our population,economy and the world), and if you change just one word, why the United States allowed Hitler’s Final Solution to proceed as far as it did.

Give credit where it is due: at least Palihapitiya is being honest. As for his fellow owners, we can see that they feel exactly the same way through their conduct, but prefer not to say so out loud. It might cut down on the profits from souvenir NBA jerseys. Continue reading

I Ask Again: “Is There Any Justification For A State Censoring Vanity Plates?” And The Answer Is The Same…

In 2018, Ethics Alarms questioned the wisdom and ethics of a state denying permission for drivers to have whatever vanity plates their little vain and often juvenile hearts desire. I happen to live in the state with the most vanity plates of all, Virginia, which not only seldom exercises government power over license plate speech, but also makes vanity plates extremely cheap…and, of course, being so close to Washington. D.C., the state has more than its fair share of narcissists.

What I wrote in 2018 still holds, unedited:

Utah, for examples, bans vanity plates with profanity, “derogatory language,”  drug references,  sex talk, references to bodily functions, “hate speech,” targeting a particular group, or advocating violence advocates, as well as alcohol references and the number combo “69.” Ethics verdict: None of their business. These are words and numbers, and the state is declaring content and intent impermissible. When I see a car with an obnoxious vanity plate, I’m grateful. This is useful information. Racist or vulgar plates translate into “I am an asshole, and want you to know it!”

Thank you, sir! I appreciate the heads up.

Last time, the post concentrated on the plate censorship by New Hampshire and Utah. Now we have access to the banned words and numbers in Illinois, which include, for some weird reason, “BIDEN.” It takes a lot of gall for the state that plasters “Land of Lincoln” everywhere to tell drivers they can’t have the name of Abe’s current successor on their cars. Also banned:

Ooooh...I’m so scared! And this one…

AAAAIIIIII! Now I’m REALLY scared! Take it away! TAKE IT AWAY!

The Illinois Secretary of State is empowered by law to refuse misleading plates or those which create “a connotation that is offensive to good taste and decency.” The state currently has a “Inhibit List,” a compilation of more than 7,000 phrases that won’t be put on a vanity plate. Here are just the As and Bs. And what’s the matter with…

…I wonder? Mentioning beer is in bad taste? Does Illinois still have a Prohibition hangover?

And how did “Brandon” manage to avoid the list? The whole, silly, slippery slope thing is here. Continue reading

Weekend Ending Ethics Remainders, 1/16/2022 [Corrected]

Back in 2016, when a smooth talking con-artist progressive President was paving the road for the mess we have now, Ethics Alarms posted a review of “Zootopia,” a clever and often very funny animated Disney movie that bombarded its audience with political correctness from beginning to end. The film was supposed to be an ode to harmony, as the fantasy city of Zootopia allowed all animals, predators and prey, to live together in bloodless, violence-free unity. The plot involved the villains attempting to gain power by creating fear of one group by the other. The clear parallel at the time was those bad conservatives promoting Islamophobia in their “War against Terror” and fear of other minorities, like illegal aliens..sorry, “migrants”. Some of the symbolism was amazingly blunt: an elephant running an ice cream parlor refused to serve a fox (one of those minority predators who couldn’t be trusted.) Elephant, get it?

Well, I’m stuck with a Disney Plus subscription for a while, having signed up to watch watch John, Paul, George and Ringo at work in 1969, so I decided to see “Zootopia” again. Its symbolism struck me completely differently six years later. For example, the police in the movie are unequivocally good guys: when was the last time the woke took that position? A line about how fear and dividing society into warring groups suspicious of each other in order for power-seeking totalitarians to seize control no longer seems like an indictment of the Right, but of the Left. The 2016 film was a warning about the danger of stereotyping: who is doing the stereotyping now?

1. Yeah, I know: polls. Still, about those totalitarians among us...A new poll from the Heartland Institute and Rasmussen Reports surveyed 1,016 U.S. “likely voters” on on January 5. The results?

You’re on, Gina!

48% of Democrats, according to the poll, believe that the government should fine and even imprison anyone who questions the Wuhan Virus vaccine’s value on social media, television, radio, or in publications.The poll found 14% of Republicans and 18% of independent voters also saying there should be criminal punishments for criticizing the vaccines, and I would have found that number horrifying if it came from Democrats. The fact that such a large proportion of so-called conservatives believe in punishing free speech is a shock. The 48% for Democrats is simply damning. Who are these people? How did they get this way?

Oh!

Right!

Zootopia!

Fear.

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Comment Of The Day: “More From The Bulging ‘It Isn’t What It Is’ File! Unethical Quote Of The Week: Washington Post Deputy Editorial Page Editor Ruth Marcus

With today’s Comment of the Day, Jim Hodgson weighs in on bad analogies as well as related matters. Bad analogies are a frequent topic here, and The Great Stupid may represent the zenith of bad analogies in our culture—at least I hope and pray it is.

My father, who, like me, was a lawyer who seldom practiced law, maintained that “everyone” should get a law degree, because the kind of critical thinking that law school teaches is no longer available in most colleges. (Once it was taught in grade school). One concept legal arguments rely on constantly are analogies. This is why I found Ruth Marcus employing such a wretched and irredeemable one in the Washington Post so depressing and infuriating. Striking down a vaccine mandate not supported by the law is inconsistent with the Court running its own operations with requirements that those who come into contact with the mostly high-risk Justices have to take very precaution is hypocritical? How? Why? Marcus is a Harvard Law School grad: she was taught better reasoning than that.

I see terrible analogies everywhere. Comparing Donald Trump to Hitler was ridiculous, but comparing the January 6 riot ( when “our government was almost overthrown last year by a guy wearing a Viking hat and speedos,” as Marco Rubio deftly put it) to Pearl Harbor was more ridiculous still, and the Vice President did that, more than once. Was making that idiotic analogy worse than the President calling limits on mail-in balloting the equivalent of Jim Crow laws? Or worse than claiming that enforcing the nation’s borders is “racism”? Actually, this might be a fun parlor game: “The Worst Analogy.”

Here is Jim Hodgson’s Comment of the Day on the post, “More From The Bulging “It Isn’t What It Is” File! Unethical Quote Of The Week: Washington Post Deputy Editorial Page Editor Ruth Marcus”…

***

Misleading analogies and false equivalencies are among the favored tools of today’s “journalists.” The Progressive Left and the media (but I repeat myself) have a clear agenda and it isn’t good for the republic. Forty years ago, I railed against the (comparatively mild) bias of news anchors; nowadays they look almost Fox News-ish by comparison.

Marcus and her ilk aren’t really trying to convince “searchers for the truth,” they are merely reinforcing the beliefs and attitudes of those in the “woke bubble” and reaching out only to the easily swayed. I spend a few hours most days reading a variety of news sources online, trying to get an accurate and more complete view of national and world events and issues than I find from any single source. I know not everyone makes this effort, and I regularly refer friends and family to articles and sources (including E.A.) that I think will improve their understanding of issues and events. Continue reading

AARGH! The University of Michigan Firing Its President Made Me Think About Bill Clinton Again!

Mark S. Schlissel, the president of the University of Michigan, was fired  yesterday after an emergency meeting of the Board of Regents His relationship with a subordinate at the university had been revealed by an anonymous whistleblower who was, ironically, named Linda Tripp. Nononono! I’m sorry: damn flashback again.

The Board easily concluded that Schlissel had violated university policy and behaved “in a manner inconsistent with the dignity and reputation of the university.” His employment was terminated effective immediately, canceling a contract that would have continued paying him his base salary of $927,000 for four more years. The letter to Dr. Schlissel informing him that he was being fired said the complaint had arrived on December 8. “There can be no question that you were acutely aware that any inappropriate conduct or communication between you and a subordinate would cause substantial harm to the dignity and reputation of the University of Michigan,” the letter said.

The month long investigation triggered by the anonymous tip revealed dozens of email exchanges using “inappropriate tone and inappropriate language,” and showed that Dr. Schlissel used official business to carry out the relationship. His conduct was “particularly egregious,” the letter said, because he had taken a public position against sexual harassment, handing out pens to feminists like Bella Abzug after signing into law an anti-sexual harassment…no, I’m sorry, that was Bill Clinton.  Schlissel had only used the occasion of a university provost, Martin Philbert, being accused of sexual misconduct in August 2020 to send a letter to the university intoning that “the highest priority” was to make the university “safe for all.”

Dr. Schlissel, who is married and has four grown children. His wife, in response to the firing, immediately declared his demise to be the result of a vast right wing conspiracy. DANG! There go those flashbacks again!

I vowed a while back not to write any more about Bill Clinton. It was, as a few of you remember, the revolting ethical blindness revealed by Clinton’s defenders during Monica Madness and the even more revolting hypocrisy by passionate feminists who refused to condemn the POTUS’s text-book sexual harassment of a lowly intern (Bill supported abortion, you see, so that gave him immunity) that got me into the ethics blogging trap in the first place.

As an ethicist, I found the rationalizations being thrown out to get Clinton off the hook copious and nauseating, beginning with “Everybody Does It,” Number One, and including the worst of all. #22, “It’s not the worst thing!” Even though Clinton used Monica Lewinsky as his personal inflatable sex doll in his workplace, during work hours, with the knowledge of other subordinates, Democrats and pundits insisted on dismissing this as “private, personal conduct.”

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The YouTube Ethics Dilemma: I Need The Platform, But It’s A Censorious, Partisan Propaganda Machine

I don’t miss Twitter much. I quit the social media platform last year, disgusted with its blatant partisan censorship, its censoring of Donald Trump, and the odd way it flagrantly maintained a double standard in which misleading or questionable progressive tweets were opinions, but misleading or questionable conservative tweets were lies, mandating the tweet-monger’s banishment.

I also had been warning lawyers in my ethics seminars to eschew Twitter at all costs, since, I said with my tongue only slightly piercing my cheek, using it lowered the average lawyer’s IQ by between 15 to 25 points. (I estimated this on the evidence of poor former Harvard Law icon Larry Tribe, whose conspiracy theory tweets and ethics rules beaches on the platform raise the rebuttable presumption that he has entered the Biden Zone…not that this obvious decline has stopped the Washington Post and New York Times from publishing his increasingly over-heated and badly-reasoned op-eds.)

I decided that I should take my own advice and leave Twitter. Besides, my involvement with Twitter in the end consisted solely of issuing links to Ethics Alarms posts, which elicited virtually no traffic or retweets at all. (Except for you, Opal!)

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More From The Bulging “It Isn’t What It Is” File! Unethical Quote Of The Week: Washington Post Deputy Editorial Page Editor Ruth Marcus

“How nice for the Supreme Court. It can take the precautions it deems necessary to keep its workplace safe…If only the court were willing to extend similar protections to the rest of us, in our workplaces. Or to be more precise, not to interfere with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s effort to provide such protections.”

—-Ruth Marcus, long-time WaPo op-ed writer and deputy editor of the Post editorial page.

Marcus’s opinion piece, Boris Johnson in reverse: The Supreme Court gives itself what it bans for the rest of us” is unforgivable, and the Washington Post should be excoriated for publishing such garbage. Why didn’t the editors…oh. Right. Ruth Marcus is an editor. The essay would be inexcusable if Marcus were just a typical op-ed partisan loud-mouth, because it is one of those punditry pieces that makes readers more ignorant than they were before they read it. The Supreme Court didn’t “ban” institutions or employers from making their own rules about Wuhan virus precautions as the headline says. It banned a vaccine mandate issued by OSHA, an agency, it concluded, that had no legal authority to issue one.

But Marcus isn’t any ordinary incompetent pundit. She’s a lawyer, or at least graduated from Harvard Law School: I can’t determine whether she ever passed the bar examination or is licensed to practice. She never has practiced, since she entered journalism rather than law after getting her Harvard JD. It’s no excuse. She knows what the Supreme Court does; most Americans don’t. Why is she writing op-eds that falsely pretend that the Supreme Court “extends” protections over anyone or anything unless it deems that those protections are already guaranteed by law? Marcus “reasoned”…

The court’s 6-to-3 ruling Thursday blocking the Biden administration’s vaccine-or-test mandate is yet another example of the elite playing by one set of rules while applying a different standard to the masses — Boris Johnson-ism, but worse. In that case, the British prime minister partied away in defiance of rules imposed on lesser mortals. In this one, the justices declined to extend the same protections to others that they grant themselves.

Not only are lawyers trained to make better analogies than that, opinion writers are supposed to be able to make better analogies than that no mater what their background and training. If they can’t then they shouldn’t get published. Boris Johnson violated a directive that his government issued for the rest of the population. The Supreme Court hasn’t done anything like that. If has forbidden a government agency from abusing its power by forcing businesses to do what is beyond the agency’s authority to require. No government agency could require participants in a workplace to wear business attire, and SCOTUS would end any attempt to do so, but it wouldn’t be “the elite playing by one set of rules while applying a different standard to the masses” for the Court to continue to enforce its own dress code, by its own choice.

Does Marcus really think it would make any sense at all for the Court to announce, “Since we’ve concluded OSHA shouldn’t be able to fine businesses with 100 workers or more to require employees to be vaccinated, the Court will no longer require lawyers appearing before it, and the reporters in the chamber, to test negative and be masked, except when speaking.” That would be a non-sequitur. Incidentally, those requirements are dumb, since speaking is when the danger of spreading the virus is at its highest. Nor does the Court set any standard for masks, which are mostly for show. Well, never mind: more than half the Court is over 65, meaning that they are at high risk if infected, while the vast, vast majority of workers who would have been effected by the banned mandate are under 65. That’s just another reason Marcus’s analogy is ridiculous.

What is Marcus doing then? She is doing what so many desperate progressives and Democrats are doing now—abandoning honesty, fairness, and responsibility and integrity in a desperate effort to rescue Joe Biden and the unscrupulous Democratic Party from losing power and support, as they so clearly deserve to do. They will do and say almost anything; here, Marcus is attacking the Supreme Court as she attempts to give those spreading the false narrative that the SCOTUS is a “threat to democracy” more ammunition to de-legitimize its authority. She has to know her argument is nonsensical, but she is confident that enough readers are ignorant of law and logic that he op-ed will convince more people than it disgusts.

This is a major betrayal of trust. Deliberate efforts by perceived authorities, experts and professionals to abuse their credibility by deliberately making members of the public ignorant and stupid represents a particularly heinous form of unethical conduct. It is one that Ethics Alarms has flagged frequently, yet I do not have a convenient name for the practice. It is worse than lying, or spreading misinformation. Making the public dumber cripples citizens’ ability to function competently in a democracy, while simultaneously softening them up to be exploited by demagogues. It is a terrible, indeed evil thing to do, and any journalist, politician, elected official, lawyer, scientist or other elite authority who engages in it intentionally is, to quote our previous President in one of his most inspired moments, an “enemy of the people.”

Ruth Marcus, with this disgraceful op-ed, qualifies.

Elon Musk Is Not A Nice Guy, And A Legal Ethics Controversy Proves It

The legal ethics world is all in a fluster over a recent controversy involving Elon Musk, the world’s richest man. This means that readers at Ethics Alarms should be flustering too.

This is the story: An SEC  attorney had interviewed  Musk during the agency’s investigation of the Tesla CEO’s 2018 tweet claiming to have secured funding to potentially take the electric-vehicle maker private. The claim proved to be false, resulting in a settlement that required Musk to resign and also to pay 20 million dollars in fines. In 2019, Musk’s personal lawyer called the managing partner at Cooley, LLP, and demanded that the firm fire the SEC lawyer, who had left the agency to become as associate at the large firm that handles Tesla’s business. The targeted lawyer had no connection to Tesla’s legal work at the firm; the sole reason for the demand was revenge. Musk wanted him to lose his job because he was angry about their interaction at the SEC. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Catch-Up, 1/15/2022: Everything Is Seemingly Spinning Out Of Control!

Watch the spinning circles…you are getting sleepy…sslleeppyy! Now: you are ethical! And a fan of the Boston Red Sox!

Nothing? Well, it was worth a shot.

Today is pretty much a dud in ethics history, with the major exception that January 15 is the birthday of Martin Luther King. Not related to ethics but still a favorite historical landmark of mine, this date also marks the most inherently comic of all disasters, the 1919 Great Boston Molasses Flood, in which a huge tank at the United States Industrial Alcohol Company building burst and caused tons of hot molasses to sloooowly move through the heart of the city in an 8-foot wave, killing 21 people, knocking down buildings, and leaving an unimaginable sticky mess that took weeks to clean up.

Why no disaster movie has been made about the unique catastrophe is a mystery.

1. Here’s an unethical boast...transgender University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, who was born and went through puberty as a male,”compares herself to Jackie Robinson,” according to another member of the University of Pennsylvania woman’s swim team, according to the Washington Examiner. “She said she is like the Jackie Robinson of trans sports.” This shows a flawed understanding of Robinson’s achievement. Lia would be closer to the mark if Jackie infiltrated the segregated sport of baseball by disguising himself as a white player, but even that’s not quite right, since it misses the unfair competition aspect of what Thomas is doing. She is more like the Barry Bonds of trans sports. Continue reading