Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 9/26/2020: Having Flashbacks To When Saturdays Were Fun

That’s the late, great, Vito Scotti as “Pasta.” He played Italians in drama, comedies, stage plays, movies and TV shows, but he also played Mexicans and other ethicities  when required.  Was he in “The Godfather”? Of course he was. “Columbo”? Sure. Did he drop in on “Gilligan’s Island,” “I Love Lucy,” and “The Addams Family.” Absolutely. He was on “Batman” twice as one of The Penguin’s henchmen.

And he really was a professional caliber chef. “Andy’s Gang,” meanwhile, was completely chaotic, just as kids like it. No educational value, no political indoctrination, just lots of running jokes and nonsense.

Sublime.

I had a rubber “Froggie the Gremlin” bath toy. “Twang your magic twanger” was a catch phrase for years after “Andy’s Gang” went of the air.

1. Professional incompetence. One almost certain casualty of the lock-down will be live theater, in part because the people who run it, on average, just aren’t very smart. I have been reading about how New York theaters are or will be streaming plays. Morons.

Theater that isn’t shown in a  theater with people sharing the experience isn’t theater, it’s crude TV. The problem has always been to get people into a  theater to experience what is so dynamic and unique about a live performance. If the theater community promotes video versions of theatrical performances as a viable substitute, and that’s exactly what it’s doing, they have surrendered.

Well, at least we’ve probably seen the end of $500 Broadway tickets.

2. Maybe they’ll appreciate Citizens United now. Showtime is featuring an anti-Trump screed disguised as a movie called “The Comey Rule.” I wonder if those who, like all the Democratic candidates for President during the primaries that played to the crowd by promising to get the Citizens United case reversed (as if they could), understand its significance. They condemned the SCOTUS ruling upholding the First Amendment, and  Showtime’s bit of campaign agitprop is exactly what the overturned campaign contribution law would have allowed the government to ban.

Since the film at the center of the original case, however, was a conservative attack on Hilary Clinton, Democrats were (are?) all for censorship. Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Day: Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer

breyer

“The state has a reason? Yeah, it does. Does it limit free speech? Dramatically. Are there other, less restrictive ways of doing it? We’re not sure, but we think probably. . . . Okay. End of case, right?”

—-Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, during oral argument in the case Packingham v. North Carolina, describing how state laws are traditionally seen by the Court as infringing on freedom of speech.

Lester Packingham was registered as a sex offender in 2002 after pleading guilty to statutory rape with a 13-year-old girl (he was 21). He served his time and probation, and then, in  2010, Packingham posted on Facebook to thank the Lord for a recently dismissed parking ticket, writing, “Man God is Good! How about I got so much favor they dismissed the ticket before court even started? . . . Praise be to GOD, WOW! Thanks JESUS!”

Jesus, however, did not stop him from being prosecuted for that message under a 2008 North Carolina law that prohibits registered sex offenders from accessing social media, on the theory that it gives them access to minors.

Packingham appealed the resulting conviction, arguing that the law violated his First Amendment rights. The Supreme Court accepted the case, which could  determine whether access to social media sites like Facebook, Youtube, and others are a fundamental right.

In oral argument this week, observers got the distinct impression that this is where the Court is headed. At least five justices, a majority of the temporarily reduced court, suggested during argument that they would rule against North Carolina and for Packingham , whose lawyer says that more than 1,000 people have been prosecuted under the law.

Reading various reports of what was said, I am stunned by how out of touch everyone involved sounds. The Washington Post story describes Justice Kagan like she’s a web-head because she’s “only” 59.  “So whether it’s political community, whether it’s religious community, I mean, these sites have become embedded in our culture as ways to communicate and ways to exercise our constitutional rights, haven’t they?” Kagan asked North Carolina Deputy Attorney General Robert C. Montgomery, who was defending the law.

Do we really have to ask that question today? The law was passed in 2008, which in technology and social media terms makes it archaic. Legislators can be forgiven for not understanding the central role of social media in American life nine years ago, but in 2017, when we have a President tweeting his every lucid thought (and many not so lucid), how can anyone defend the argument that blocking a citizen from social media isn’t an extreme government restriction on free speech? Laws related to technology should all have sunset provisions of a couple years (a couple months?) to ensure that they haven’t been rendered obsolete by the evolving societal use of and dependency on  the web, the internet, and new devices. Continue reading

Integrity Test For The Angry Left “Resisters”: Why, In Light Of Your Conduct And Rhetoric Since November 8, Is This Analysis Unreasonable?

civil-unrest

The last time Ethics Alarms  highlighted a provocative post by conservative writer Kurt Schlicter, it was designated here as irresponsible. I’m not as certain that his latest is. I wonder if there are Democrats and progressives who can make a substantive argument that he isn’t expressing a legitimate concern. ( Ad hominem arguments not accepted.)

The post is called Straightforward From Here To The Left’s Fascist, Maybe Violent, Endgame.

Here are some excerpts, with my initial reactions:

The Democrat Party, its Media serfs, and Social Justice Incorporated are all outraged because we uppity normals are again presuming to rule ourselves, and their agony is delightful. Less delightful is how, in the process of trying to claw their way back into power, they are incinerating the norms and rules that preserve our political order. That stuff Hillary babbled about honoring the legitimacy of elections? Yeah, no. There’s an invisible asterisk only liberals can see that explains that the norms and rules are void when liberals lose.

I don’t see how this statement can be rebutted. The tone is hostile, but the analysis is accurate.

Think what they will do if they take power again. They are certainly not going to risk us ever being able to repeat November’s rejection. California’s decline lays out their tyrannical road map. When the Democrats took power here, they “reformed” the election laws to lock-in their party, co-opted the “nonpartisan” redistricting process, and changed the ballot initiative system to make sure we will never see another unapproved proposition. They ensured there is no way to stop illegal aliens from voting because they want illegal aliens voting.

Over the top, but not too far. California no longer has a two party system, and has embraced progressive cant as policy even when there is no evidence that it won’t be disastrous, as with the high-speed rail debacle and the commitment to double the minimum wage. Of course, Democrats will take power again. If too many conservatives feel about them like Schlicter does, the conservative “resistance” may make this “resistance” look like child’s play.

Do you think Hillary Clinton or whatever aspiring Hugo Chavez they offer up next is going to protect us from violent leftist thugs, or encourage them? Remember how Obama weaponized agencies like the IRS against conservatives? Multiply that by a thousand. Think about the “hate speech” rules used to silence conservatives on campus; imagine them as federal law. That’s coming, just like in Europe – it’s now a crime in France to speak out against abortion. Do you imagine leftists don’t dream of doing that? No, once back in power they will ensure we will never be able to challenge their rule. One man (or woman or other), one vote, one more time, then never again.

It is, in fact, now illegal to oppose abortion in France. In the U.S. Robert Kennedy III has advocated imprisoning climate change skeptics. The popular progressive, globalist argument that progressives always use to advocate government health care, gun bans, and elimination of capital punishment are easily adaptable to free speech restrictions, and Democratic members of Congress have endorsed those already. The casual shrug the mainstream news media gave to the IRS scandal while the Holder Justice Department refused to investigate it was just as ominous as Schlicter implies. Continue reading

If Anyone Starts Paying Attention To What Bernie Sanders Is Saying, He’s In Trouble

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, gestures as he speaks at the Californi Democrats State Convention in Sacramento, Calif., Saturday, April 30, 2011. Sanders called on Democrats to work together to stop what he calls the GOP's attack on the middle class.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

So far, Bernie Sanders’ major function in the Democratic presidential nomination race is as a gauge of how badly Hillary Clinton is doing. The same function could be served by a wooden spoon or an Elmo doll, but Bernie will do: as Hillary’s machinations and lies about them sloooowly convince even Democrats that she should not be allowed near any office that includes a button labeled “Power,” he rises in the polls. So far, this had not required anyone actually thinking about Sanders himself, but the contents of a recent speech to a throng in Portland, Oregon should be cause for alarm. Sanders managed to announce his willingness to rig the Separation of Powers and eliminate judicial independence as well as his contempt for judicial ethics and his ignorance of how the Supreme Court works, all at once. All of this indicates that Sanders really isn’t qualified to be a U.S. Senator, much less President.

In his speech, to the sounds of cheers, Bernie shouted, “My nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court will in fact, have a litmus test and that test will be that they will have to tell the American people that their first order of business on the Supreme Court will be to overturn Citizens United.” Those cheers are interesting. My guess would be that not a single member of the audience, and quite possibly not even Bernie himself, has read the decision. Most people who turn red in the face and twitch when one mentions Citizens United do so because they think that it stands for the proposition that “corporations are people.”

It actually stands for the rather reasonable principle that the First Amendment protects the rights of people who band together for common purposes, and who wish to use such organizations to express their opinions regarding elections. The decision forbade the government from restricting independent political expenditures by a nonprofit corporation, and by extension to for-profit corporations, labor unions and other associations. Among other things, the law that was struck down in the case allowed the Federal Government to ban books and films based on content. Continue reading

If You Are Going To Make Citizens United A Campaign Issue, You Are Ethically Obligated To Know What The Decision Actually Says

straw man

Here: read the damn thing.

There may have been other Supreme Court decisions that have been more shamefully misrepresented by pundits, activists and demagogues, but I can’t think of one.

The case is back in the news because Hillary Clinton, who  will try for a world record in cynical pandering to the least informed voters if she gets the Democratic nomination, told a group of her top fundraisers this week that if she is elected president, her nominees to the Supreme Court must share her belief that the Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision should be overturned, according to people who heard her remarks. In this she is echoing socialist candidate Bernie Sanders, who has said…

“If elected president, I will have a litmus test in terms of my nominee to be a Supreme Court justice. And that nominee will say that we are all going to overturn this disastrous Supreme Court decision on Citizens United because that decision is undermining American democracy. I do not believe that billionaires should be able to buy politicians.”*

The decision does not say that, or hold that, nor are the implications of the decision intended to allow that. Never mind. Bernie’s ideological leftist supporters don’t care what the decision really is about any more than Clinton does. It’s just a rallying cry against “the rich” and “big corporations.” The slogan is a positive litmus test result for ignorance, or, in Bernie’s case, the willingness to deceive. In Hillary’s case, it is just Hillary being Hillary, trying to keep Sanders from flanking her on the left. Do any of those who cheered her fatuous remarks about the decision know what the decision says? I’m dubious. I don’t even think that’s what they were cheering. They were cheering the symbolic use of the case as class warfare rather than the case itself. In fact, Hillary must be banking on nobody paying attention to the case for a very simple reason. Citizens United was about whether that government could ban a documentary that was critical of…Hillary Clinton!

That’s right, a presidential candidate is going to be on record that the films, books and other communications that criticize her should be illegal. Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Month: Constitutional Scholar Floyd Abrams

This is a long quote, and deserves to be.

You can read it in its entirety here.

Wacky!

Wacky!

The whole quote is the testimony of Floyd Abrams, the renowned Constitutional lawyer who argued Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, before the U.S. Supreme Court, regarding a cynical Constitutional Amendment, S.J.19, ostensibly proposed to change the First Amendment so Citizens United can be overturned, but really as a campaign issue, since the chances of amending the Constitution are nil, and they know it. This proposed amendment is the Left’s equivalent of the despicable flag-burning amendment pushed by Republicans in the late Eighties, just as disingenuous, just as offensive to free speech, equally constricted to appeal to voters who don’t understand what free speech is.

The Citizens United opinion has been blatantly misrepresented by everyone from Occupy Wall Street to the President, and continues to be a source of political deceit by Democrats and their allies in the media, often out of ignorance. If you have friends who are prone to say silly things about “corporations being people” and “billionaires buying elections,” you should tell them to read Abrams’ testimony, and learn some things they should have learned in high school.

Some highlights (there are many more): Continue reading

Congratulations, Sen. Reid: Abusing Government Power To Stifle Political Speech And Participation Works!

 

Nice choice of role models, Harry.

Nice choice of role models, Harry.

From the Washington Post:

“Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid’s relentless attacks on the billionaire Koch brothers are having an unforeseen impact: spurring other wealthy Republican donors to give more money to groups that keep their supporters’ names secret. Several prominent pro-Republican advocacy groups say they are benefiting from a burst of cash as some donors — fearful of harsh public attacks such as those aimed at the Kochs — turn away from political committees that are required by federal law to reveal their contributors.”

What a surprise. Citizen participants in the political process who see others like them engaging in no illegal or unethical conduct. other than taking positions with which the leader of the U.S. Senate disagrees. being called “un-American” and having their reputations and names savaged by him in speech after speech on the Senate floor, decide that it is no longer safe for a citizen to openly contribute to political causes in the U.S.

Democrats who use this development to attack the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, eliminating financial limits on the expressive activities of domestic advocacy groups and legal entities in political campaigns, will reveal themselves as beneath contempt. Reid, primed by President Obama, who has also crossed that line that must not be crossed by using his high elected office to call down the public’s disapproval on private citizens for their political views, has engaged in conduct that deserves the label of “McCarthyism.” Fair Americans, pundits, journalists and politicians of all political stripes ought to be candid and open about who is the ethics villain here. It is not the Koch Brothers, the Supreme Court or the GOP donors who are turning away from transparency. It is the disgraceful Senator Harry Reid.

At last count (in April; an update is needed), Reid had attacked the Kochs by name 134 times, when it is a breach of Senate tradition and a violation of the intent of the U.S. Constitution for a government official acting in his  official capacity to do so even once. Continue reading

The University of Illinois Law School Statistics Scam and the Responsibility of Being a Corporate “Person”

The scandal itself is self-explanatory. The ethical issue I am most concerned with is not, but it is more important than the scandals.

The University of Illinois has confessed that its law school reported and published inaccurate admissions data in six of the last ten years. An investigation determined that the law school reported false LSAT and GPA data for the class of 2008 and the classes of 2010 through 2014, and fabricated the acceptance rate data for the classes of 2008, 2012, 2013 and 2014, as a result of  both overcounting the number of applicants and undercounting the number of admissions offers the law school made. The purpose of all this, of course, was to enhance the school’s rankings to bring it better applicants, which translate into more successful alumni and bigger gifts.

Solely responsible for the deceptions, the school says, was Paul Pless, the law school’s assistant dean for admissions and financial aid during that period, who resigned last week. Naturally, the 114-page report concludes with recommendations to improve the school’s oversight and controls and ensure a “culture of integrity and ethical conduct.”  This will help persuade the American Bar Association, which is looking into the matter, not to punish the law school, since it has now seen the light…having been caught. Pless, you see, was most of the problem. Continue reading

If President Obama Is So Smart, Why Does He Keep Doing the Same Dumb, Unethical Thing?

I have written before, more than once, about President Obama’s astonishingly flat learning curve regarding what is and is not appropriate subject matter for the nation’s Chief Executive to render public opinions about. Without knowing the facts, he has denigrated a local policeman’s handling of a difficult and racially charged situation; he has rendered opinions on state governance matters that are not the federal government’s proper concern; he has warped public opinion by condemning a state law while misrepresenting its provisions. He has criticized citizen critics and media figures by name, something that is almost unprecedented for a president. He has declared corporations negligent or guilty in matters that had not been fully investigated, before any lawsuits or charges had been filed.  He took sides in a purely local dispute over the location of an Islamic center near the 9/11 scene, and he even injected himself into NBA star Lebron James’ free agency, suggesting that he should consider Obama’s home town Chicago Bulls.

Flat, flat, flat. Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: President Obama

“Some of what I’ve heard coming out of Wisconsin, where they’re just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain generally, seems like more of an assault on unions. I think everybody’s got to make some adjustments, but I think it’s also important to recognize that public employees make enormous contributions to our states and our citizens.”

—-President Obama, commenting on Wisconsin’s budget balancing measures, which will include ending collective bargaining by some public employee unions.

"Ladies and gentlemen...The President of the United States!"

This an abuse of power. No doubt about it.

For all his vaunted intellect, the President has displayed a stunningly flat learning curve in acknowledging and respecting the limits of Presidential influence, otherwise known as “sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong” or “shooting of your mouth about something that is none of your damn business.” In less than three years in office, he has… Continue reading