Tag Archives: Clarence Darrow

Ethics Warm-Up, 2/19/19: College Disgrace Edition.

Hello, Readers, and Goodby, Columbus (see #5)!

In case you care: yesterday was about the third time in ten years that I have failed to get at least one post up. I was in New Brunswick, NY, after the three and a half-hour trip from Virginia took over five hours instead of three. I had scheduled a 6:15 am wake-up call, and a room service breakfast at 6:30 in order to prepare for my 3 hour seminar and get a post or two up before I had to check out at 8 am. No wake up call. No breakfast. I was awakened at 8:05 am by Clarence Darrow, aka actor Bruce Rauscher. Somehow we made it to the seminar on time, Bruce was great, the lawyers were happy, but by the time the return journey got me home that night any Ethics Alarms post I attempted would have been in Esperanto.

I’m sorry.

1. Revelation! Hearing Darrow’s courtroom arguments in a different interpretation and pace made me realize that part of his methodology was to gradually convince juries that he was smarter than they were, and that they should just do what he said because he proved he had thought the issues through more thoroughly than they had or could. His genius was that he could do this without appearing to be arrogant or conceited. This is how effective leaders lead, and also how they corrupt, persuading normal people to just surrender their judgment.

I am an advocate of capital punishment, but when Darrow made this argument pleading for the lives of thrill-killers Leopold and Loeb….

What is the public’s idea of justice? “Give them the same mercy that they gave to Bobby Franks.”

Is that the law?  Is that justice?  Is this what a court should do?  Is this what a state’s attorney should do?  If the state in which I live is not kinder, more humane, more considerate, more intelligent than the mad act of these two boys, I am sorry that I have lived so long.

…I had to pause and wonder if he had found the fatal weakness in the logic of the death penalty. I have a rebuttal, but I have thought about the issue a long time, and Darrow wasn’t THAT much smarter than me. But if I were a typical juror (or even a judge, as was his audience in this case), I might be tempted to see the case Darrow’s way.

2.  Once again, the totalitarian instincts of progressives and attempted thought-control on campuses...I believe that this escalating phenomenon will eventually lead to an epic cultural.

Orange Coast College barred its chapter of the Young Americans for Freedom  displaying this banner….

…..at a campus student recruitment fair. The College objected to the banner’s depicting images of two rifles which college officials said were forbidden by a college policy that bars not just firearms but “any facsimile of a firearm, knife, or explosive.”

Obviously, however, such a decision violates the First Amendment. Explains Constitutional law expert Eugene Volokh, “once a university opens up a space where students may display banners, it then may not restrict such displays unless the restriction is viewpoint-neutral and reasonable. It’s hard to see a viewpoint-neutral rationale for banning even sillhouette displays of guns, which no-one would confuse for real guns….even if the rationale is viewpoint-neutral, it’s not reasonable: To be reasonable, a restriction on speech within a government-created forum must be “consistent with the [government’s] legitimate interest in ‘preserv[ing] the property … for the use to which it is lawfully dedicated.'” Nothing about the display of rifle sillhouettes interferes with the government’s legitimate interest in preserving campus property for its normal uses, except insofar as such a display conveys a pro-gun viewpoint to which some people object.”

Of course, the real purpose of the restriction is political indoctrination of students and agenda-driven limitations on advocacy. College administrators who don’t comprehend the Bill of Rights better than this may be qualified to educate trained ferrets, but not human beings less human beings.

The professor also points out that the school’s sports team logo…

…violates the school policy exactly in the manner the banner does, for it includes an illustration of a knife.

Fools and hypocrites—and nascent totalitarians. Continue reading

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They Seem Like Good Ideas…But Not Really. Clarence Darrow Knew Why.

I. The Daily Telegraph officially apologized “unreservedly” to Melania Trump and agreed to pay her “substantial damages” for an article it published last week. Mrs. Trump had sued the paper in British courts.

The paper said its Saturday Magazine cover story “The Mystery of Melania” this month contained false statements, as her lawsuit claimed. It wrote,

Following last Saturday’s (Jan 19) Telegraph magazine cover story “The mystery of Melania”, we have been asked to make clear that the article contained a number of false statements which we accept should not have been published. Mrs Trump’s father was not a fearsome presence and did not control the family.  Mrs Trump did not leave her Design and Architecture course at University relating to the completion of an exam, as alleged in the article, but rather because she wanted to pursue a successful career as a professional model. Mrs Trump was not struggling in her modelling career before she met Mr Trump, and she did not advance in her career due to the assistance of Mr Trump.

We accept that Mrs Trump was a successful professional model in her own right before she met her husband and obtained her own modelling work without his assistance. Mrs Trump met Mr Trump in 1998, not in 1996 as stated in the article. The article also wrongly claimed that Mrs Trump’s mother, father and sister relocated to New York in 2005 to live in buildings owned by Mr Trump.  They did not. The claim that Mrs Trump cried on election night is also false.

We apologise unreservedly to The First Lady and her family for any embarrassment caused by our publication of these allegations.  As a mark of our regret we have agreed to pay Mrs Trump substantial damages as well as her leg

Continue reading

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Gee, Mary, That Sounds Tough, But You Still Stole Millions Of Dollars…

I guess I’m just a hard-hearted bastard.

Last  September, art world luminary and art dealer Mary Boone, whose gallery  have been a prime feature of the New York art community since the Seventies, agreed to plead guilty to charges of filing false federal income tax returns, defrauding the government of millions of dollars. They had her dead to rights: the evidence showed that she used business funds to pay for more than $1.6 million in her personal expenses such as remodeling her  Manhattan apartment, and then falsely claimed those expenses as business deductions, prosecutors said. Then she failed to report on her personal tax forms the profit from her gallery, claiming losses to offset what she had declared as her personal income.

Now it’s sentencing time, and Boone’s lawyers are sawing away at the world’s smallest violin. Facing up to six years in prison, Boone is asking for compassion and minimal sentencing, indeed, her lawyers argue that she shouldn’t go to prison at all. Why? She had a troubled and unstable childhood, apparently. These led to mental health issues, a suicide attempt and drug and alcohol abuse. Most importantly, the poverty of her early life made her fearful that, despite her success, she would end up destitute and dependent upon others.

Funny…I’ve had those same fears at various times during my life. It never occurred to me that this might be a Get Out of Jail Free card.

“Behind the facade of success and strength lies a fragile and, at times, broken individual,” her lawyers wrote in the filing to the court made last month. The Times further reports, Continue reading

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Clarence Darrow’s Reflections On His Birthday

Today I’m going to indulge myself here, as it is Cognitive Dissonance Day, December First, my birthday and the 9th anniversary of my biggest birthday surprise, finding my 89-year-old father, Jack Sr., dead in his favorite chair when I arrived to pick him up to go out for dinner. Even though I know, and knew then, that the end was well timed, exactly as Dad would have wanted, and perhaps even self-willed, it’s a tough day for me, added to the only periodically dawning realization that I’m not going to be around forever myself. Dad was a lifelong iconoclast, loner, idealist, joker, cynic, optimist, hero and seeker of truth, and the best role model any son ever had. After he died, his doctor told me that normal men would have been in bed for months. “All sorts of things were killing him, and he was in a lot of pain,” he told me. “His attitude was ‘Just keep going, and nobody wants to hear old people complaining.'”

But I digress. Here’s today’s first installment of Ethics Alarms self-indulgence, frequent guest here Clarence Darrow’s reflections on his birthday. The SOB called himself an old man at 61. He was a kid!

I have always yearned for peace, but have lived a life of war. I do not know why, excepting that it is the law of my being. I have lived a life in front trenches, looking for trouble.

If I had known just what I was to run into here I would have worn a gas mask. A man is never painted as he is. One is either better or worse than the picture that is drawn. This is the first time that I have felt that I was worse. No one ever gave me a dinner like this before, and I really do not know how my friends happened to take into their heads to do it this time. I am sure it has been pleasant, although in spots more or less embarrassing; still on the whole I prefer the embarrassments incident to this dinner, rather than the ones I often get.

Like most others who reach the modest age of sixty-one, I have hardly noticed it. Still this morning for the first time in more than twenty yeas I felt a twinge of rheumatism, a gentle reminder on this birthday that I am no longer a “spring chicken.” On the whole the years have passed rapidly. Some of them, it is true, have dragged, but mainly they have hurried as if anxious to finish the job as soon as they possibly could. So quickly have they sped that I hardly realize that so many have been checked off, in fact I have scarcely thought about it as they went by.

I have been congratulated a good many times today, no doubt on the fact that I am so nearly done with it all. One scarcely feels as they go along that they are getting–well older. Of course I know my intellect is just as good as it ever was; I am sure of that. Everyone tells me that I am looking younger. I had my hair cut about a month ago; a friend remarked, “It makes you look ten years younger,” so I had it cut again. Perhaps I shall keep on getting it cut. Of course, one more or less doubts the truthfulness of thee old friends, when they say you are getting younger, but at the same time you try to believe them and do not contradict.

Perhaps it would be proper at a time like this to reminisce more or less, but I am always afraid to do it. I am never quite sure whether I might not have said the same things before . Neither am I certain that I shall not say something I had better leave unsaid. If one has lived an active life, as he grows old he finds that he has gathered a large fund of facts and fictions that he should keep to himself; and yet he always feels an urge to tell. Then I have had Tolstoy’s frightful example before me all my days. You know he lived a busy, useful life, getting about all there was out of it, and then after he got–well, past sixty-one, he grew good and began to moralize I presume Tolstoy did not know just what was the matter with him. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Daily Life

Ethics Observations On The CNN/Acosta/Press Pass Ruling

From the Washington Post this morning:

Judge Timothy J. Kelly granted CNN’s motion for a temporary restraining order that will prevent the administration from keeping Acosta off White House grounds. The White House revoked the reporter’s press pass last week after a heated exchange between him and President Trump and a brief altercation with a press aide at a news conference. Acosta, CNN’s chief White House correspondent, is the first reporter with a so-called hard pass to be banned. CNN sued President Trump and other White House officials on Tuesday over the revocation. Kelly’s ruling was the first legal skirmish in that lawsuit. It has the immediate effect of sending Acosta back to the White House, pending further arguments and a possible trial. The litigation is in its early stages, and a trial could be months in the future.

Observations:

  • The ruling is a surprise. For me, it calls to mind once again my favorite Clarence Darrow quote, that “In order for there to be enough liberty, it is necessary that there be too much.” Apparently the judge, as courts have in other First Amendment cases, decided to leave a wide margin of safety around a constitutional right rather than interpret it narrowly, even reasonably narrowly.

I understand and sympathize with that instinct, and perhaps it is the right one.

  • Judge Kelly’s opinion  insisted that there be some basic procedural protections, requiring the White House to state clearly the grounds for revoking the clearance.  The Court did not find an express  violation of the First Amendment and Acosta might still be barred from the White House following appropriate due process.  Kelly said his ruling was “limited” and  temporary until a more detailed explanation and sufficient notice by the White House was established. (Not surprisingly, the White House viewed a tweet as notice enough.)
  • So a vague, traditional but unstated standard of not acting like an entitled jackass during a press conference and debating the President rather than asking questions while refusing to yield the floor is not, absent written standards and procedures, enough to get an unprofessional jerk like Jim Acosta banned. Got it.  It would be nice if previously acknowledged standards of basic respect for the office and the relative roles of the professionals involved were enough to avoid this kind of controversy, but apparently not.

Reflect on this episode the next time CNN or a pundit fusses about President Trump “defying established norms.” Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/20/18: Darrow, Damn Technology And Dunkin’ Donuts

Good Morning!

1. Shameless self-promotion Dept. Once again, I am presenting my three-hour Clarence Darrow and modern attorney ethics CLE program for the D.C. Bar, and later this summer, Virginia CLE will be sponsoring the same seminar in Richmond and Northern Virginia. As always, my partner and collaborator in All Things Darrow is esteemed D.C. actor (and American University law school instructor, and, I am proud to say, my friend) Paul Morella, who has been Darrowing since he premiered my one-man show about the great and flawed lawyer in 2000, for The American Century Theater. His website is here. This is Paul…

Paul is a lot taller, thinner and better looking than Darrow, and unlike Clarence, he also bathes regularly. It doesn’t matter. I can’t recommend his show, which he performs for bar associations and legal groups around the country, more highly, and would feel this way even if I hadn’t written it. Of course, any group that wants Continuing Legal Education credits can also book today’s seminar, which has many of Darrow’s greatest courtroom orations, but also legal ethics commentary from me.

2. Ah-HA! NOW I understand why I’m being sued for defamation!  This is in the “This comes as no surprise” category, but it still explains a lot. The Pew Research Center just released a survey that demonstrates that a large proportion of the public can’t distinguish facts from opinions. The main portion of the study  measured the public’s ability to distinguish between five factual statements and five opinion statements. Pew found

“…that a majority of Americans correctly identified at least three of the five statements in each set. But this result is only a little better than random guesses. Far fewer Americans got all five correct, and roughly a quarter got most or all wrong. Even more revealing is that certain Americans do far better at parsing through this content than others. Those with high political awareness, those who are very digitally savvy and those who place high levels of trust in the news media are better able than others to accurately identify news-related statements as factual or opinion.”

I challenge that last part. It may well be that those who place high levels of trust in the news media could distinguish between fact and opinion in those  ten statements, but it doesn’t change the fact (now this is my opinion, but I still believe it is demonstrably true) that the news media distorts what it represents as facts based on journalists’ biased opinions. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/4/17: Labor Day, Google Being Evil, Antifa, And Hollywood

Good Morning!

1.Happy Labor Day! My dry cleaner has a sign out that reads, “Happy Labor Day! Support Our Troops!” Now, any day is a good day to support our troops, but I strongly suspect that this is an unfortunate example of our increasing cultural and historical ignorance (ignorance that the war on statues and memorials will exacerbate, and that’s the intention). No holiday is more misunderstood than Labor Day, and the news media barely makes an effort to remedy the problem.

Ethics Alarms explained the history behind the holiday in a 2012 post that began,

Labor Day commemorates one of the great ethical victories of American society, and not one in a hundred Americans know it. Labor Day marks the end of summer, and a time for retail store sales, and the last chance to get away to Disney World, but few of us think about the real meaning of the word “labor” in the name, and how it is meant to honor brave, dedicated men and women who fought, sometimes literally, the forces of greed, political influence, wealth and privilege in this country to ensure a measure of safety, consideration, fairness and justice for the hardest working among us.

The post is here.

2. This is traditionally a big movie weekend, but it has already been declared a dud. Hollywood is having its worse summer in more than two decades.  Conservative commentators have speculated that one reason is that Hollywood’s loudly and obnoxiously proclaimed contempt for about half of its potential audience—you know, The Deplorables–has alienated a significant segment of the market. That would be nice, since Hollywood has traditionally been a unifying cultural force rather than a divisive one, and this might shock Tinsel Town into getting off its high, blind horse and doing its job. I doubt it, though.

Astoundingly, the public is not yet sick of super hero movies, one of the few genres that continues to do well at the domestic box office.  I wonder when the public will figure out this is partially political indoctrination by the Hollywood Left too: super heroes don’t use those evil guns. They just kill people with their innate powers, or, as in the not-bad NetFlix/Marvel series “The Defenders,” in ridiculously long, drawn-out martial arts combat sequences that resemble ugly dancing more than real fighting. Some of the heroes are bullet proof, however.

The flaw in this anti-Second Amendment propaganda is that real people do not have super powers, and there aren’t any super heroes running around protecting them. Continue reading

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