1. “You’re a coward for not letting me abuse you…” Politico has a useful review of how the White House Correspondents Dinner got to where it was last night…a largely and appropriately irrelevant event brought low by its organizers hubris, conflicts of interest and arrogance. Blaming President Trump for the dinner’s fall, as Politico, Brian Stelter and others have had the gall to do, is ludicrous. Nobody with a shred of common sense would subject themselves to the kind of mean-spirited and personal attack Trump was guaranteed to receive from whichever leftist comic character assassin the WHCD hired to eviscerate the President and his family. Indeed, the President had an obligation to protect his office from having its occupant denigrated in public.
Here is an example of the kind of respect and witty repartee the President, his staff and family could have expected from the night’s entertainment—this is Sandra Bee last night, in her alternative to the dinner, presented on TBS…
“There are so many things you could say about the president: that he’s vicious, vindictive, stupid, unattractive, unloved, and will die alone, but what can we say that Melania hasn’t already said?” cracked Bee. “So tonight, I really want to focus on what a fucking coward he is. Imagine being the most powerful man in the world and you can’t listen to a comedian razz you for five minutes? Barack Obama did it, George W. Bush did it…”
I have to stop here. Bee is lying: neither Obama nor Bush were ever insulted personally in the manner that Michelle Wolf attacked Trump’s staff last year, and would have surely attacked him. When Stephen Colbert was deemed by objective observers to have breached the alleged spirit of the dinner–professional good will and respect—with his partisan attack on George W. Bush in 2006, his much criticized routine was nowhere near what President Trump would have faced. Obama–that’s hilarious. Obama was surrounded by sycophants and worshipers at the dinner; no joke at his expense in eight years was anything worse than gentle needling. More Bee… Continue reading →
(Though any day that begins with the legal gossip scandal-sheet website Above the Law sending me a “media inquiry” as they dig for dirt is not a good day.)
1. In brief. Well I have now received the appellant’s brief in a certain lingering law suit regarding Ethics Alarms. What fun. Anyone who wants to read it is welcome; those who have dealt with pro se submissions will immediately recognize the syndrome, lawyers may be amused, and non-lawyers may be edified. I expect to knock out the reply brief today, which won’t have to be more than a few pages. It’s not like I have better things to do or anything…
2. Speaking of cases that should have been thrown out of court…Reason reports:
In June, an Oakland County sheriff’s deputy pulled Dejuante Franklin over in front of a gas station for a traffic violation. While handing Franklin his ticket, NWA’s “Fuck tha Police” began to play in the background. As it turns out, James Webb, who did not know Franklin, witnessed the stop. He decided on his own accord to turn the song up louder before walking into the gas station store. When he exited, the officer slapped him with a ticket for misdemeanor noise violation, citing that Webb played the song at an “extremely high volume.”
It took 9 minutes of deliberation for a jury to bring in a verdict of not guilty. This was an obvious attempted end-around the First Amendment by the officer, and the judge shouldn’t have let it get to a jury at all.
3. And speaking of abusing First Amendment rights…as well as “A Nation of Assholes,” MSNBC’s “Morning Joe’s” co-host and wife-to-be (don’t get me started on THAT) Mika Brzezinski, called Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a “butt-boy” during yesterday’s show. Why not? After all, CBS lets its on-air personalities call the President a “cock-holster.” Mika wouldn’t have had her filters down, of course, if the culture around MSNBC wasn’t rife with such hate, but she realized mid-show that this wasn’t exactly professional or civil news reporting, and babbled an apology. Too late!
An ethical, professional news station would suspend her, but this is MSNBC, and there are no ethical, professional news stations.
4. Meanwhile, speaking of media bias and unprofessional reporting...A New York Times “fact check” on the contentious meeting among Trump, Pence, Pelosi and Schumer had this amusing note:
“Mr. Trump has long charged that Democrats want open borders, slinging accusations at a higher clip in the waning days of the midterm elections campaign in November. Democrats do not want open borders, evidenced in part by border security legislation that Democrats have supported. What Democrats do not want is Mr. Trump’s costly border wall.”
Oh, that’s a fact, is it? No, Democrats, at least a great many of them, DO want open borders, evidenced in part by their wilful refusal to distinguish between illegal immigrants and legal immigrants, their insistence on signalling through their support for “Dreamers” that bringing children across the border illegally is a virtuous act, their position that illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay in the U.S. as longs as they don’t break any more laws, their constant demonization of necessary border enforcement efforts, and their proposals to abolish ICE. Continue reading →
I’m leading off the day with this topic. My Dad, who would have turned 98 yesterday had he survived that long, would have wanted me to, I think.
The Boy Scouts, he made clear, taught him much of what he learned about being a man, an American, and an honorable citizen. The organization gave a young, physically unimpressive, lonely kid whose father had abandoned him and whose mother was moving between jobs and apartments during the Depression a place to meet the life-long friends who supported each other for more than 70 years, and most of all, to learn basic ethical values. Dad was certain that he might have ended up in jail without the Scouts: he was suspicious of authority, headstrong, and kept his own counsel. He definitely would not have had a family, as he was bitter about his own father’s betrayal. Thanks in great part to scouting, Jack A. Marshall, Sr. was a war hero, a Harvard grad, a lawyer, but most important of all to himself and to me, a loving, supportive, dedicated father.
So, in a way, I owe my life to the Boy Scouts as well. I joined the organization for a while, but outside of having the Boy Scout Law [“A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.”] engraved on my brain for life, it wasn’t my thing. My son never wanted to get involved at all. Yet through my father, scouting was massively influential on the course of my life, and the development of my character.
As you may have heard by now, the Boy Scouts of America is striking “boys” from the name of its flagship program for 11-to 17-year-olds, and beginning in February 2019, will accept girls into its troops. This was the dropping of the other shoe following last year’s announcement that girls could join the younger Cub Scout units. Now young women will be eligible to reach the Eagle Scout rank, the highest achievement of the organization.
Mike Surbaugh, Chief Scout Executive, told the AP, “[W]e’re trying to find the right way to say we’re here for both young men and young women.” Translation:“We’re trying to survive.” The ethical problem such a strategy involves is that when an organization abandons its mission just to stay in business, it has lost its integrity, and should probably just dissolve. The mission of the Boy Scouts since it was founded in 1910 has been to prepare boys “to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.” Preparing boys to be men and girls to be women are both worthy missions, but they are not the same mission, much as radical feminists and cultural revolutionaries would have us believe. Where does a young boy like my father go now to find a male peer group and the guidance of responsible male role models? Your guess is as good as mine, but the answer isn’t the Scouts. Continue reading →
While the Alamo was under siege, the provisional Texas government organized at Washington-on-the-Brazos. On March 2, the convention declared independence and the Republic of Texas was born, at least on paper. The Alamo’s garrison showed its support for independence from Mexico by sending its own delegates to the convention.While they were unaware that Texas had declared independence, the roughly 200 Alamo defenders stayed at their post waiting on help from the settlements. Among them were lawyers, doctors, farmers and a former congressman and famous frontiersman from Tennessee named David Crockett. While the youngest was 16 and the oldest defender was Gordon C. Jennings, age 56, most defenders were in their twenties. Most were Anglo, but there were a handful of native Tejano defenders as well. Legendary knife fighter and land speculator James Bowie was in command before falling ill and sharing duties with Travis. Several women and children were inside the Alamo, including 15-month-old Angelina Dickinson. Just before the final battle, Travis placed his ring around her neck, knowing she would likely be spared. One of the last messages from the Alamo was a note from Travis asking friends to take care of his young son Charles.
The final attack came before dawn on March 6, 1836. As Mexican troops charged toward the Alamo in the pre-dawn darkness, defenders rushed to the walls and fired into the darkness. Travis raced to the north wall but was soon killed. Bowie was most likely killed in his bed, while reports differ as to Crockett’s death. Many believe Crockett survived the initial attack but was put to death by Mexican soldiers soon afterward.
Mexican soldiers breached the north wall and flooded into the compound. The fierce battle centered on the old church, where defenders made a last stand.
BEXAR, Texas, March 6, 1836 — Alas, alas! Forever more, the name of the Alamo shall stand alongside that of Thermopylae in the annals of history as a tale of unmatched bravery to be handed down from generation to generation.
The bastion of Texas Liberty has fallen, and to a man, Lt. Col. William Travis and his fellow defenders — like the immortal 300 Spartans — have been martyred.
After withstanding an unrelenting siege of twelve days’ duration by one of the mightiest armies ever assembled on this continent, the walls of the old mission that had housed Travis (a man as brave as the fabled King Leonidas), Col. James Bowie, the Hon. David Crockett and some 200 other defenders were breached before the sun rose to-day.
Savagery was unleashed therein as a juggernaut orchestrated by the modern-day Xerxes, Mexican Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna, swept over the Alamo….
Since I was a small boy, this episode in American history moved me more than any other. It still does. I first learned about the Alamo when I watched Fess Parker as Davy Crocket, swinging his rifle like a baseball bat at Mexiacn skulls, the last man standing as behind him we could see more of Santa Anna’s soldiers pouring over the wall. We never saw Davy fall—my dad explained that this was appropriate, since nobody is sure how or when he died, unlike Travis and Bowie, and the last verse of the Ballad of Davy Crocket played…
His land is biggest an’ his land is best from grassy plains to the mountain crest He’s ahead of us all meetin’ the test followin’ his legend into the West Davy, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier!
The politics and complexities of the Texas war of independence don’t alter the essential facts: a group of men of different backgrounds, under the command of three prototypical American figures—the pioneer (Crocket), the settler (Bowie), and the law-maker (Travis), all of whom were trying to recover from dark periods in their lives—chose to make the ultimate sacrifice for a cause they believed in fervently enough to die for, in the company of others who felt the same. It was, after all, the perfect ethical dilemma, the choice between an ethical act for the benefit of society and a non-ethical consideration, the most basic one of all: staying alive. They all had the same choice, and rejected life for a principle.
Your professional theater company has limited funds, so it offers its actors an option. They may choose a flat fee for their roles, or get a percentage of the show’s profits, if there are any, on top of a much smaller base fee.
The company just completed an extremely profitable production, the biggest hit your theater has ever had. Nine of the show’s ten cast members chose the percentage of profits option, a gamble, because most of the shows lose money. One, the star, who you know could not afford to gamble, took the flat fee for the role. After the accounting for the production is complete, you realize that every member of the cast will make $1000 more than the star, because of the show’s profits.
Question 1: What do you do?
Give him the extra $1000. It’s only fair.
Pay him the flat fee. A deal’s a deal.
You can weigh in:
Question 2: You remount the production, and the exact same thing happens. The actor chooses the flat fee, the show is again a huge money-maker,,and the rest of the cast will make much more than him because they chose the percentage. Do you give him the extra amount again?
No. Now he’s taking advantage of me.
Yes. Nothing has changed.
As before, the approximately 50 11- and 12-year old boys were astute, serious, thoughtful, and gutsy, and their ethical instincts were superb. Continue reading →
1 Oh, let’s begin the day with Roy Moore, the former Alabama judge and present wacko whom Alabama Republicans voted to represent the GOP in the 2018 U.S. Senate election, thus proving that there are a lot of deplorables in the state. As was completely predictable given his record, Moore recently told his drooling followers (after being introduced by Abraham Hamilton, Alexander Lincoln being unavailable),
“Somebody should be talking to the Supreme Court of the United States and say, ‘What gives them a right to declare that two men can get married?. . . Tell the Congress: Impeach these justices that put themselves above the Constitution. They’re judicial supremists and they should be taken off the bench.”
So Moore believes that he should not have been removed from the bench for putting his personal religious beliefs above the Constitution, but justices should be removed if they interpretation the Constitution in a way that contradicts his religious beliefs. This, he insisted, would ‘solve the problem….such a view would violate not just fundamental principles of judicial review but it would violate the impeachment clause. As the last lead counsel in a judicial impeachment case (in defense of Judge Thomas Porteous), Moore’s view is deeply troubling. As I have previously written, the Good Behavior Clause of Article III was designed to protect the independence of the judiciary and insulate it from political pressures. It was meant as a guarantee of life tenure against precisely the type of threat that Moore is endorsing.
But it’s pointless to make genuine legal and historical arguments against someone like Moore. He’s a theocrat, a fanatic, a bigot and a demagogue. The Republican Party should endorse his opposition and campaign against Moore. This fiasco is their fault, and someone like Moore should be kept out Congress at all costs.
2. Now to someone who is, incredible as it seems, somewhat less ridiculous, this gentleman, Christopher Wilson…
No, that’s not a botched tattoo on his forehead: the blurry words are “fuck” and “sluts”, making the whole, eloquent message, “I’m a porn star. I fuck teen sluts.” This roughly translates into “Look at me! I’m an idiot!” The newspapers that refused to print the blurred words (the police had the mugshot altered) that are essential to the story, meanwhile, are telling us, “We don’t understand our profession.” The story is incomprehensible if the actual words aren’t clear, literally or figuratively. Fox News and the NY Post, for example, say, “The Cincinnati man has the words “I’m a pornstar” tattooed on his forehead” and “another vulgar message” tattooed below.” Since the issue is whether the message on his FACE is going to prejudice the jury in his trial for sexual assault, this is juvenile coverage omitting key information to avoid “giving offense.”
Ethics Alarms to the news media: Grow up.
Turley (again…he loves the tattoo stories) writes,
“The court will be left with a question of whether the tattoo is too prejudicial or whether it is unavoidable as a personal choice of the defendant….Yet, these tattoos contain an admission to the crime at issue in the trial. In the end, a judge could legitimately conclude that this falls into the category as bad choices bringing even worse consequences.”
What? First, the defendant is not charged with fucking teen sluts while acting as a porn star. That conduct could well be consensual and legal. Turley is also wrong that the judge could “legitimately” allow the jury to see his message. In both cases involving a defendant’s prejudicial tattoos, the judges agreed that they had to be made invisible, in one case using make-up… Continue reading →
1 Tales of Moral Luck: Yankee manager Joe Girardi was facing a possible post-season firing for an embarrassing botch during the second game of the American League Divisional Series against the Cleveland Indians. NY had lost the second game, putting them in an 0-2 hole in a best of 5 series, after an Indian batter’s foul tip into the catcher’s glove for strike three and the inning’s final out was mistakenly ruled a hit by pitch, loading the bases. Replay showed that the ball had hit the knob of the bat, not the batter’s hand, but Girardi didn’t call for a replay review even though his catcher demanding one. The HBP loaded the bases, and the next batter hit a decisive grand slam. Girardi made things worse in his post-game comments by spinning and rationalizing, then finally took responsibility the next day. He also admitted that he didn’t realize that managers had two challenges in the play-offs, when they had only one a game during the regular season.
Yesterday, the Yankees completed a remarkable comeback, winning three straight games to defeat the odds-on favorites to represent the American League in the World Series. Girardi’s bad judgment, poor preparation and immediate resort to excuses when he undermined his team’s chances no longer matters. He was saved by moral luck, just as earlier he had been slammed by moral luck. After all, if the next batter in Game 2 has popped up harmlessly, ending the inning without any damage, Girardi’s terrible mistake would have been a footnote to a Yankee victory.
Now it’s a footnote again.
2. WHOA! Didn’t see THAT coming! TWITTER just boarded the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck!
Actress Rose McGowan, one of Weinstein’s victims who reached a $100,000 settlement with the Hollywood serial harasser 20 years ago and who is now on the attack having decided that she doesn’t want to be a Hollywood actress any more, has been using social media to condemn actors and executives who enabled Weinstein, writing in one tweet, “you all knew.” Recently, after Ben Affleck tweeted that the allegations against Weinstein “made him sick,” McGowan called him out on Twitter.:
@benaffleck “GODDAMNIT! I TOLD HIM TO STOP DOING THAT” you said that to my face. The press conf I was made to go to after assault. You lie.
1 I’m giving an ethics talk to a Boy Scout troop this afternoon. Figuring out how to use example that are appropriate to ages 11-14 while avoiding hot-button issues like race, sexual orientation, police, guns and politics in general is a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. What pop culture reference points will work is also a conundrum. What movies are they likely to have seen? In the Sixties, I could have referred to Westerns, many of which routinely embodied ethics lessons. But they also often involved shooting people, and kids don’t see Westerns now. In the Eighties, I might have sent Boy Scouts to episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” which was virtually all about ethics. But Patrick Stewart is just an old guy doing commercials now, and there have been four TV incarnations of the franchise since Data packed it in, not counting the movies. Pixar movies are usually ethics-rich, but a lot of kids will bristle at being presumed to be cartoon fans. Superhero movies? The ones that raise ethics issues usually do so badly, or the issues are too complex—or too dark– for a Boy Scout Troop. Here we see the serious cultural problem of declining cultural literacy and deteriorating cross-generational communications as a result of the loss of common experience. and interests.
Well, it’s early. I’ll figure out something.
One approach I considered was to suggest they practice ethical analysis by reading the newspaper, picking out the ethics dilemmas and controversies that appear, thinking about them and arguing about them. Of course, that was foolish: they would probably ask, “What’s a newspaper?” However this morning’s Sunday Times is a perfect example. I could teach a four hour ethics seminar based on the stories in this edition alone. Look…
2. The baker who refused to sell a cake to a gay couple is back on the front page, thanks to the case winding its way to the Supreme Court. This time, the focus isn’t on Freedom of Religion (in this case, freedom to act like a jackass using your religion as an excuse), but Freedom of Speech. The government cannot compel speech, nor will the law compel specific performance of an artistic nature. The baker claims that his cakes are artistic creations, and he doesn’t have to make them for anyone or anything if he doesn’t want to. The gay couple says that they weren’t asking for him to create an artwork, just to sell them a wedding cake. If the cake is a commodity, then the bake shop should be a public accommodation, and subject to applicable laws. Then the baker has to sell his cakes to anyone. If the cake is an “artistic creation” made specifically for the couple, then the law cannot force the baker to make it, or punish him if he refuses. Art is speech.
I hate these kinds of cases, and I’m sure the SCOTUS justices do too. A cake is sometimes just a cake, and sometimes a work of art. The confrontation should have been handled with ethics rather than law. The baker is a bigoted jerk, that’s all. I think he has a right not to make a cake for a gay couple, but exercising that right is cruel and insulting. Continue reading →