Ethics Observations On The Great 1 Cent Target Toothbrush Controversy

In Massachusetts, David Leavitt found that Target had mislabelled an electric toothbrush as costing $0.01 rather than $100. When he eagerly rushed to take advantage of the obvious error, a Target checkout employee refused to sell the item at that price, and the store manager backed up the employee.

This set Mr. Leavitt, who says he is a journalist (he appears to be a gaming writer), off into a full-scale social media attack on Target. “This [Target] manager Tori is not honoring the price of their items per Massachusetts law,” tweeted Leavitt, including the young manager’s photo. He then indignantly announced that he had called the police on the Target manager, and said he was prepared to take her and the store to court.

This being social media in the United States of America, where everything, even toothbrushes, is political and a provocation to go to battle,  Leavitt’s vendetta was seen as an unjust  progressive vilification of business, so conservatives rallied to Tori’s defense. The  #TargetTori hashtag was born, and a GoFundMe page raised $28,000 to send her on a well deserved vacation.

Observations: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/2/2020: A Rich Assortment Of Jerks And Assholes To Begin The Year.

 It’s finally Getting Back To Normal Day!

I don’t know about you, but I feel like everything’s been one big, holiday/stress/disruption blur since I enlivened Thanksgiving dinner by keeling over. There should be  law preventing Christmas and New Years from falling on Wednesdays, which effectively kills two full weeks. I’m behind on everything, and I don’t know what I could have done to avoid it…

1. Sigh. This is what we have to look forward to in 2020…Ezra Klein, the Left-biased Washington Post journalist who founded Vox, which he then staffed with all Left-biased journalists, tweeted out the link a nine-month-old Post article stating as fact that counties hosting Trump rallies saw massive spikes in hate crimes compared to counties that didn’t host Trump rallies. By Wednesday afternoon, Klein’s tweet had been re-tweeted  more than 7,000 times and had more than 14,000 likes. It also polluted many Facebook feeds.

Klein didn’t tell his 2.5 million followers  that the article relied on a study that had been debunked months ago by  Harvard University researchers Matthew Lilley and Brian Wheaton.  “The study is wrong, and yet journalists ran with it anyway,” they revealed in in Reason magazine four months ago. That’s four. 4. IV. F-O-U-R.

Lilley and Wheaton tried to replicate the original study—if a study is valid, you can do that.  They discovered that “adding a simple statistical control for county population to the original analysis causes the estimated effect of Trump rallies on reported hate crimes to vanish. “Given how little scrutiny was required to reveal the flaws in the thesis that Trump rallies cause hate incidents, one cannot help but wonder whether its viral status was aided by journalists predisposed to believe its message,” the researchers noted.

Ya think?

Klein’s tweet is still up. It’s false and inflammatory, but it advances one of the key Big Lies (that would be #4), so he is running with it anyway. Do you wonder why those on opposite sides of the partisan divide have different views of reality? This kind of thing is a primary reason.

Enemy of the people.

2. The first “I don’t understand this story at ALL” of 2020:

 In July 2018, Michael J. Reynolds. a New York City police officer, was in Nashville for a three-night bachelor-party trip with six other officers. At one point in the festivities,  Reynolds, who is white, kicked in a black woman’s door in a drunken rage, threatening her (“I’ll break every bone in your neck…”) and her sons while calling them “niggers” and showering them with obscenities. He was arrested, tried, and sentenced to 15 days in jail with three years’ probation after pleading no contest to four misdemeanors, court records show. Nevertheless, he remains an employee of the N.Y.P.D. More than 10,000 people signed an online petition demanding his dismissal and supporting the woman whose home he invaded.

Theories? Never mind unions, due process and mandatory investigations: the incident took place a full year and a half ago. There is no excuse for this. Reynolds apologized and said that he was so drunk he doesn’t remember the episode. Oh! Then that’s OK, Officer! Let’s all forget the whole thing!

As it habitually does, the New York Times reached a false analogy, writing,

The case of Officer Reynolds is again focusing scrutiny on the pace of the Police Department’s disciplinary process. In a prominent example of how it can drag on, five years passed before Officer Daniel Pantaleo, whose use of a prohibited chokehold contributed to the 2014 death in police custody of Eric Garner, was fired and stripped of his pension benefits in August.

Ridiculous. There were legitimate issues involved in Pantaleo’s case that made the proper discipline in his case complicated and controversial. There are no reasons for controversy here. Continue reading

Boxing Day Ethics Boxes, 12/26/2019: The Washington Post, Bad And Not Quite As Bad; Moore’s Racism And Warren’s Lies

Happy Boxing Day!

To be open and honest, for the longest time I thought the name referred to the fact that on the say after Christmas, houses tended to be littered with opened boxes that had previously contained Christmas gifts. The name really refers to the British tradition on the 26th, when postmen, milk men, and servants expected to receive gratuities or a “Christmas box” in appreciation for their labor during the year. It is still celebrated as a holiday in parts of the old United Kingdom, but “Gratitude Day” never caught on in the U.S. Here “Boxing Day,” if anything, refers to the all the boxes mad shoppers are buying in post-Christmas sales.

1.Law suit update! Well, the plaintiff’s latest motion to reconsider the appellate court’s rejection of the plaintiff’s defamation suit against me (for bouncing him off of Ethics Alarms and being mean to him in the process) was rejected. New motion to reconsider the reconsideration coming in 10…9….8…7…

2. A late entry in the Ethics Alarms “Asshole of the Year” title… Michael Moore told Rolling Stone interviewers in part,

I refuse to participate in post-racial America. I refuse to say because we elected Obama that suddenly that means everything is ok, white people have changed. White people have not changed.

Two-thirds of all white guys voted for Trump. That means anytime you see three white guys walking at you, down the street towards you, two of them voted for Trump. You need to move over to the other sidewalk because these are not good people that are walking toward you. You should be afraid of them.

Comments: Continue reading

A Holiday Jumbo! The Non-Racist Confederacy/Nazi Enthusiast

In Billy Rose’s spectacular musical “Jumbo,” Jimmy Durante was confronted by a sheriff as Jimmy tries to tiptoe off with the largest elephant in captivity trailing on a rope behind him. In answer to the officer’s question, “Where are you going with that elephant?”,  the immortal Schnoz answered, innocently, “Elephant? What elephant?”

Sadly, “Jumbo” will never be produced again: too old, too expensive, too politically incorrect (it’s about the traditional circuses that had trained animals, like elephants, in their shows). Nonetheless, Jimmy’s tradition is alive and well, if you can call denying what is obvious to anyone “well.”

In Des Moines, Iowa, William Stark has painted Confederate battle flags and swastikas on pallets around his property, which is next to an elementary school. Nice. Morris Elementary has released a statement denouncing Stark’s display, which the students, who are about 60% black and Hispanic, can see when they come and go from the school, and from the playground.

Stark says he can’t imagine what their problem is. “They don’t know their history, evidently,” he protests. “That’s the only reason I can think of that they can think anything bad about it—they don’t know their history.”

I wonder what history he’s referring to.

Stark denies that there’s anything about his Nazi-Confederacy display that suggests racism, thus entering “Racism? What racism?” into the Ethics Alarms Jumbo log.

“It’s a free country,”  Stark adds. “I’ll put it out there if I want to.”

Verdict: Racist asshole.

Here’s Willy and his “non-racist” artwork:

He does have a Christmas wreath on his door, however….

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/13/2019: Defending Bette, Not Defending Cuba Or The Giant Christmas Penis….

Good Morning!

1. Regarding the President’s military pardons. This story is now a month old, and my post about it got derailed, so let me be brief. The uproar over these pardons was overblown, and yes, by the media. I never read any mention in the various reports, for example, about how Jimmy Carter, then Governor of Georgia,  announced his outrage when Lt,  William Calley was sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering 22 unarmed South Vietnamese civilians in the My Lai Massacre . Carter instituted American Fighting Man’s Day in support of Calley, and asked Georgians to drive for a week with their lights on.  Calley only served seven years of his sentence.

It is important for the military to insist on discipline, and I think President Trump was wrong to interfere with it in these cases. Each of them has a different set of facts, but the President’s statement about the inherent unfairness of training human beings to kill, placing them in deadly situations and unimaginable stress, and then punishing them when their fury and programmed violence erupts in illegal violence and other acts (like posing in a photo with a dead enemy  combatant) has validity. My father, who had been in combat in World War II, regarded such crimes as the equivalent of “battle fatigue.” He hated General Patton for slapping the GI suffering from what we now call Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome in a field hospital, and felt that harshly punishing soldiers for the kinds of incidents Trump’s beneficiaries engaged in was wrong and hypocritical.

Any time any convicted American is pardoned, there are arguments that clemency undermines the justice system. In the end, this is a policy dispute. The military has good reasons to object to such pardons, but President Trump’s decision is defensible, and would probably be considered so if he were anyone else.

2.  Cuba Gooding, Jr. is now in Bill Cosby territory. Seven more women have come forward to accuse the popular actor of sexually assaulting them. This brings the total number of accusers up to 22.

In one court filing, a woman alleges that after she met Mr. Gooding at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, in 2009, he took her to a concert, where he began to kiss her in a secluded hallway as she was attempting to leave. Then he placed his hands on her buttocks, and pushed onto her crotch so forcefully that her tights ripped.  The woman bit Mr. Gooding’s cheek so she could escape. Another woman accused the 51-year-old Gooding of sliding his hand down her pants and grabbing her buttocks at a restaurant in 2011. Yet another accuser says that he grabbed her vagina twice at a restaurant in  in 2016, according  the court filings.

Gooding’s legal team argues that the new claims are from women looking to cash in  due to his celebrity status. maybe, but history and experience suggests otherwise.

Whatever the culture is that gives men the idea that they can act like this and that there is nothing wrong with it needs to be rejected, since it obviously came special delivery from Hell. I would no more have done any of those things, even in the prime of youth, than I would have ridden a pogo stick into church with a wombat on my head. I assumed everyone was raised like that. Continue reading

It Is With Great Reluctance That Ethics Alarms Concludes That As Generally Repugnant And Vulgar The Term “Asshole” Is, Mayor Pete Buttigieg Is One.

If this was just disgraceful pandering, grandstanding, and shameless virtue-signaling, he would only  have proven himself to be a jerk—a big jerk, to be sure,  but still just a jerk. But it is far more.

The new fad contender for the Democratic Presidential nomination is returning thousands of dollars in donations because they came from two lawyers who had the audacity to represent Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as he attempted to defend himself against the contrived  ambush accusation of a sex crime, made in a Congressional hearing  on national television, a ploy designed to destroy his reputation. Buttigieg’s campaign said that it will not accept funds from people who helped secure the justice’s seat on the Supreme Court. You know. Dirty money.

Buttigieg’s campaign had received $7,200 from Alexandra Walsh, and $2,800 from Beth Wilkinson, Walsh’s law partner. Both represented Kavanaugh during his Senate confirmation ordeal. As I have vowed to point out every time some ignoramus asserts that lawyesr must be punished for the character, conduct or beliefs of the clients they represent and are responsible or culpable in any way for what those clients have said or done (or NOT done), it is a core and essential principle of our legal system that such an assumption is not only wrong but dangerous. It threatens the right of every citizen to receive competent legal representation and access to our laws and other rights.

Here, once again, is my favorite ethics rule, from the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct:

(b) A lawyer’s representation of a client, including representation by appointment, does not constitute an endorsement of the client’s political, economic, social or moral views or activities.

Whether the target is Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Elizabeth Warren, Harvey Weinstein’s defense attorneys (also here), Larry Tribe, Gitmo defense lawyers, or Clarence Darrow, Johnny Cochran, Leslie Abramson and other defense lawyers who defend murderers and worse, the false claim that lawyers who take on unpopular, repulsive or guilty clients have done anything less than protected  the Bill of Rights and the rule of law is either rank ignorance or a deliberate effort to reduce the civic literacy of the public.

Buttigieg isn’t a lawyer, but he is very well educated and has a reasonable claim to brilliance.  Thus he knows and understands what lawyers do, but is acting as if he does not, intentionally making the public stupid (or keeping it conveniently as stupid as it already is ) for his own benefit.

Despicable.

But that’s not all. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Fallback, 11/3/2019: Poisoning Children For Their Own Good, And Other Alarming Developments

Whatever time it is…

1. Not exactly a shock, but we now know Ruth Bader Ginsburg lied in her 1993 Senate confirmation hearings. At a Georgetown Law Center event last week featuring both Clintons and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Bill Clinton told the audience that he queried the Justice-to- be about Roe v. Wade before nominating her to the Supreme Court in 1993:

[Ginsburg] knew this perfectly well, that I was under a lot of pressure to make sure I appointed someone who was simon-pure, which I had said I thought was important. But I was fascinated by a—either an article I had read or something I had read on Justice Ginsburg saying that she supported the result in Roe v. Wade but thought Justice Blackmun should have decided the case on the equal protection clause not the right to privacy. And I asked her the question and she talked about it just as if it was any other issue, no affect: “This is what I think, this is why I think it,” and she made a heck of a case.

That’s odd, because one of the written questions she responded to in the process was…

Has anyone involved in the process of selecting you as a judicial nominee (including but not limited to a member of the White House staff, the Justice Department, or the Senate or its staff) discussed with you any specific case, legal issue or question in a manner that could reasonably be interpreted as seeking any express or implied assurances concerning your position on such case, issue, or question? If so, please explain fully.

And the now-revered Ginsburg replied,

It is inappropriate, in my judgment, to seek from any nominee for judicial office assurance on how that individual would rule in a future case. That judgment was shared by those involved in the process of selecting me. No such person discussed with me any specific case, legal issue or question in a manner that could reasonably be interpreted as seeking any express or implied assurances concerning my position on such case, issue, or question.

Yet the former President directly contradicted this, in Justice Ginsberg’s presence.

2. Further lives unborn ethics notes: Continue reading