Tag Archives: Clarence Darrow

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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Filed under Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Rights

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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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, History, Science & Technology, The Internet, U.S. Society, Workplace

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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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Rights, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President, U.S. Society

First Parmesan Cheese, An Now This: A Judge Bends Over Backwards To Let The New York Times Escape Its Abuse of Journalism Rights

Oh, we knew Palin had nothing to do with this wacko, but it sure felt good to stick it to her anyway…

Federal judge Jed S. Rakoff  has dismissed Sarah Palin’s defamation lawsuit against The New York Times, ruling that she had failed to show that the Times  defamed her in its June editorial stating that she was responsible in part for the Tucson shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others by the deranged Jared Loughner. Rakoff’s  ruling argued that the statements in the Times editorial were ambiguous (where have I heard this before?), and thus did not qualify as “provably false,” resulting in insufficient evidence that the Times had written the story with “actual malice.”

“[I]f political journalism is to achieve its constitutionally endorsed role of challenging the powerful, legal redress by a public figure must be limited to those cases where the public figure has a plausible factual basis for complaining that the mistake was made maliciously, that is, with knowledge it was false or with reckless disregard of its falsity,” Rakoff wrote.

Right. Except that to write what it did, the New York Times Editors had to be unaware of what the Times itself had reported regarding Palin’s alleged culpability for the shooting. The Times reported, in great detail at the time, that the claim that Palin’s website had inspired Loughner was completely without merit.

A newspaper’s editors impugning a public figure by blaming her for multiple murders and the attempted assassination of a Congresswoman without checking its own reporting doesn’t qualify as “reckless disregard of its falsity”? If that isn’t reckless disregard, what is? Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights

What Clarence Darrow’s Dayton Statue Stands For

Apparently about a third of the population of Tennessee still doesn’t buy Darwin’s Theory of Evolution (according to a 2015 Pew Research Center study) so it should not be too much of a surprise that in Dayton, Tennessee,  site of the famous 1925 Scopes Trial, a newly erected statue of Clarence Darrow in front of the historic red brick courthouse where the trial took place was met with some protests. At a County Commission meeting in the town,  resident Ruth Ann Wilson suggested that bronze Darrow might unleash a plague or a curse. “I rise in opposition to this atheist statue, all right?” she said. “This is very serious, folks.”

No, that isn’t serious, but the persistence of ignorance both generally and about the issues battled over in 1925 are.  Another resident, Brad Putt, is quoted by the New York Times as saying,  “People around here know that if you have a court case, you have to have two sides,” referring to the fact that there has been a Williams Jennings Bryan statue standing in front of the courthouse  since 2005. “You can’t have Optimus Prime unless you have Megatron. You’ve got to have a yin to the yang.” Well, that’s not quite right either, depending on what Bryan and Darrow symbolize. If the idea is to have the most famous opposing counsel in U.S. legal history facing off, okay, that’s fair. If he is saying, as I think he is, that science and religion must counter and balance each other, that’s nonsense. Continue reading

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Filed under Education, History, Law & Law Enforcement, Quotes, Religion and Philosophy, Research and Scholarship, Rights, Science & Technology, U.S. Society

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/22/17

1.  I’m trying to get this up while I prepare for a new legal ethics seminar, teaming once again with the brilliant D.C. actor Paul Morella who has toured the country in the Clarence Darrow one-man-show he and I collaborated on more than a decade ago, using Darrow’s career and courtroom oratory to analyze modern legal ethics.  Readers here have encountered a lot of those Darrow-related discussions already. For once, I’m grateful most lawyers don’t frequent this blog.

2. This now viral photo of the faces of CNN’s talking heads and analysts at the moment they realized that the Democrats had lost the Georgia Sixth District special House election that was hyped to be the beginning of a surge to the Left rejecting Donald Trump…

…and this one…

…are more than just gags. They are smoking gun evidence of the stunning lack of professionalism in journalism, and especially CNN. If there was any sensitivity or commitment to ethics on that set or in that production chain of command, every one of these arrogant hacks would have been told, “I want poker faces up there at all times. Objective and fair news reporting includes body language and facial expressions. Your attitudes warp your reporting. If anything about your demeanor betrays your personal preferences or political biases, you’re getting suspended. Got that? This isn’t a cheerleading squad.

3.  This warrants its own post, but today will be a squeeze, so I’ll focus on the astounding chutzpah of  that race’s loser here and now. Losing Georgia Six Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff was interviewed by NPR’s Rachel Martin, and this exchange resulted: Continue reading

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