Tag Archives: competence

Ethics Observations On “The Green New Deal,” Part II : What’s Going On Here?

In retrospect, waiting a couple of days before completing the Ethics Alarms analysis of the “Green New Deal” was a propitious decision. The results of the ethics, integrity and IQ tests that this fiasco represents can clarified considerably. The key question to begin most ethical analysis is “What’s going on here?” Well..what is?

1. Incompetence. The Ethics Alarms reader poll asking which of the provisions of the GND would, by themselves, mandate rejecting the leadership and judgment of any public figure endorsing them showed about 58% choosing “all of them,” with the infamous “providing economic security for all who are unwilling to work” coming in a distant second. I erred terribly in not providing a positive option for readers who see nothing wrong with Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s batty manifesto. Ethics Alarms gets 3000-4000 visits a day, and surely some readers must have flunked this test. After all, Democrats are counting on a large segment of the population being similarly obtuse. This is my own bias at work. There are some episodes involving ethics where I really cannot comprehend how anyone with all their faculties and raised a U.S. culture can possibly reach a different ethics verdict that I have. Ethics is hard, but it isn’t THAT hard. The fact that there are, apparently, progressives and useful idiots who can read the screed without giggling is itself ethics alarms-worthy. The culture, including crucial components like education, journalism, and the world of politics, is failing our society by allowing warped perceptions and unethical values to take root. If this were not true, no elected official would dare propose a document like the Green New Deal.

2. Dishonesty and deception. It sounds like a mad conspiracy theory, but it is difficult for an objective observer not to conclude that the GND is part of a long-term plan of propaganda and indoctrination to replace American democracy with a leftist totalitarian regime. The kinds of measures being promoted in the GND—forget for a moment that most of them are literally impossible—cannot be achieved through democratic means, except in the broad sense of the public voting to give dictatorial powers to the government. The process flows from eco-fascism, which employs fear-mongering about an inevitable environmental catastrophe to provide justification for sacrificing individual liberty in the pursuit of “safety.” This is, as readers of world history knows, the traditional trade-off sold by totalitarian regimes. Yes, it is true that the quality of life and personal freedoms of the American public would both be severely constrained by the car-less, plane-less, nuclear energy-less, combustion engine-less, money-less and cow-less future that the socialist Democrats propose, but the alternative, we are told, is death and destruction. Academy Award-winning actress Ellen Page ranted on Stephen Colbert’s alleged late night comedy show (It is a partisan propaganda program with jokes) that “We have been told…that, by 2030, the world as we know it, that’s it. That’s it!” Colbert, who has the undeserved reputation as a truth-teller and sage, nodded sympathetically, saying that “until the water started swamping Manhattan, or just washes away Mar-a-Lago,” the public and media wouldn’t take the existential threat seriously. “You don’t want to think such terrible things are going to happen!”

Oh sure you do, if it will give you leverage to gain power over the nation. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Environment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics

A Quick Poll On The Green New Deal

I can’t resist.

Which of the following features of the proposal/manifesto, all by itself, should be sufficient to disqualify from office any politician who endorses it?

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Filed under Environment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Leadership

“Miracle On 34th Street”…An Ethics Companion: Introduction

As with most holiday movies, but perhaps more than most, the entire concept of digging into the ethics of the plot of “Miracle on 34th Street”  can be criticized as beside the point. The movie, at least the 1947 original, is a classic; it works dramatically and emotionally, it makes people feel good, and it has held up over time. That’s all a Christmas movie is supposed to do, and if it does it without really making sense or avoiding ethics potholes along the way, so what?

I sympathize with this view. However, our ethical standards and ethics alarms are affected by what we see, hear, like and respond to. If popular holiday movies inject bad ethics habits and rationalizations into our character, especially at a young age, that is something we should at least be aware of by the tenth or eleventh time we watch one of them.

One ethical aspect of “Miracle on 34th Street” that must be flagged at the outset is competence. The film is so effortlessly engrossing and convincing that it is easy to forget how easily it could have failed miserably. Actually, it is also easy to remind oneself: just watch any of the attempts to remake the film. There have been four of these, starring, as Kris Kringle, Thomas Mitchell, Ed Wynn, Sebastian Cabot, and Richard Attenborough. That’s a distinguished crew, to be sure. Mitchell was one of the greatest character actors in Hollywood history. Wynn was nominated for an Academy Award (for “The Diary of Ann Frank”) and Attenborough won one, Best Supporting Actor Award in 1967 for “The Sand Pebbles.” Cabot wasn’t quite in their class, but he was a solid pro, and looked more like Santa Clause than Mitchell,  Wynn, or Richard Attenborough. None of them, however, were as convincing as Edmund Gwenn. He made many movies—all without a white beard— and had a distinguished career in films and on stage, but even audience members who knew his work had a hard time reminding themselves that he wasn’t Kris Kringle while they watched the movie. I still have a hard time. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Popular Culture, Professions

Is Continuing Legal Education A “Farce”?

Continuing legal education, or as it is fondly called, CLE, began being a staple of bar membership in most states by the 1980s. The theory is that the law is always changing and new developments in case law and practice resources are essential for lawyers to know about, so in order to keep practicing in good standing, lawyers should be required to take a set number of training hours to keep up with current techniques and information. The practice is also designed to emphasize the law’s position as a self-regulating profession with exemplary dedication to excellence.

AND the new system allows the bar associations to require the purchase of a product the associations themselves develop, provide, and most important of all,  charge for.

Most lawyers, it is fair to say, loathe mandatory CLE requirements. They resent the time and expense, and generally feel that having to take the courses is an insult.

Yesterday a Virginia lawyer named Paul Sherman—he might even have attended some of my courses!–laid out on Twitter his brief that CLE course are a “farce that do nothing to protect the public and impose big social costs.: Right wing blogger and law prof Glenn Reynolds endorsed the screed, calling CLE a scam. I teach about 45 CLE seminars a year on legal ethics, and I’ve spoken on the subject to the CLE providers association, so this obviously piqued my interest.

Here is Sherman’s argument (and by the way, Twitter is a ridiculous platform for extended commentary):

Since I’ve just finished my last Continuing Legal Education class of the year, allow me to say that these requirements are a farce that do nothing to protect the public and impose big social costs. For those of you who aren’t lawyers (who know this already), allow me to explain.

To continue practicing law in the Commonwealth of Virginia, I am required each year to take 12 hours of continuing legal education (4 of which must be live) by Oct. 31. Collectively, Virginia lawyers lose more than 290,000 work hours to CLE every year. Almost every lawyer I know satisfies these requirements in the same way: by buying whatever CLE courses are cheapest, regardless of subject. This is not at all surprising, because competent lawyers already stay on top of developments in their practice areas.E.g., I exclusively practice constitutional law, but this year I took CLE courses in international taxation, asset protection planning, independent contractor compliance, etc. None of these have anything to do with my practice, and the VA Bar does not care!

Consider also the direct and indirect monetary costs. Let’s say CLE packages cost $100. According to the National Consumer Law Center, in 2015-2016, the average attorney in Virginia charged $358/hr. That means the cost of these requirements is almost $4,400 per attorney. The total cost for all Virginia lawyers is about $106 million. Yet, of that, only $2.4 million ends up in the pockets of CLE providers. The rest is just value that has been destroyed. Even if we assume (with extreme generosity) that lawyers would voluntarily pay for 6 hours of relevant CLE each year, you’re still losing $50 million in value per year (which is almost exactly Virginia spends on indigent defense annually). In short, we would all be better off if Virginia ended this farce, abolished mandatory CLE, and instead required every Virginia lawyer to send an extra $100 to the Bar and/or to set $100 on fire.

This seems to have touched a nerve, so let’s make this an actual thing. Contact your state bar (mine is @VAStateBar) and tell them to end the shakedown. #EndMCLE!

Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

Unethical Quote Of The Month, And Also KABOOM!: Pope Francis

“Because of our sins, the Great Accuser always takes advantage – we read in the first chapter from Job – he roams looking for someone to accuse… he is accusing us strongly, and this accusation becomes persecution as well. …And there is also another type of persecution, of continuous accusations to dirty the Church: the Church must not be dirtied. The children yes, but not the mother, and the mother defends herself from the Great Accuser with prayer and penance. That’s why I asked to pray the Rosary, Our Lady, Saint Michael the Archangel. It’s a difficult moment because through us, the great accuser wants to attack the mother. And you don’t touch a mother”.  

—- Pope Francis, addressing the closing session of a synod of bishops at the Vatican yesterday, claiming that the Catholic Church has been persecuted through accusations related to the clerical child sex-abuse scandals that have undermined the credibility of the papacy and church hierarchy.

I’m really mad at my head for exploding over this. Surely it isn’t a surprise, not after the ongoing accountability-ducking and finger-pointing the Pope and his Church have been engaged in while innocent children are buggered by priests worldwide. Yet somehow I did not, and apparently my head did not, believe that the Pope would be so callous, tone-deaf and, frankly, stupid as to play the victim card when it is not only invalid but guaranteed not to work. “How dare anyone accuse us of covering up child abuse when we have been covering up child abuse for decades, and probably centuries! How dare anyone imply that the Church is accountable when its priests molest children and its leadership choose to protect the molesters instead of the victims!” This is essentially what the Pope is saying (it sounds different in Italian), and he really seems to be oblivious to how awful it not only sounds, but is. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Kaboom!, Leadership, Religion and Philosophy

Mid-World Series Hangover Ethics Warm-Up, 10/27/2018: Mike Tyson, Intimacy Coordinators, And The Blackface Teacher Principle

This is how my morning began…

1. To get this out of the way..I watched every  second of every inning on last night’s longest post-season baseball game in history, as any loyal, ethical baseball fan is obligated to do. It was worth it, too, even though my team lost. The game was the sports equivalent of The Odyssey, “War and Peace,” “King Lear,” “The Ring Cycle,” “The Ring Trilogy,” “Nicholas Nickleby” or “The Seven Samurai,” a complex morality and adventure tale that had suspense, disappointment, wonder, exhilaration , humor and tragedy, heroes and villains. Such games reward all of the time and suffering a fan puts into following baseball seriously. It is worth the investment.

Ironically, this epic occurred shorty after the Wall Street Journal published a truly ignorant and idiotic opinion piece called , “Our Insane Ideas to Save Baseball/Baseball has problems. There aren’t enough hits. There are too many pitchers. The games take too long. So we bullpenned our solutions. Are you ready for Strike Four?”

It is a wonderful example of the incompetent variety of criticism I call “Wanting to change what you haven’t taken the time to understand.” I get it: the authors don’t like baseball, and barely pay attention to it., or, in the alternative, they are just seeking clicks. In any event, you can’t argue with people who say that the problem with opera is that it’s too often in a foreign language, or that the problem with hip hop is that it isn’t music, and shouldn’t, or that the problem with our democracy is that people can say things that upset other people. And you shouldn’t argue with them. They don’t respect the topic enough to be educated about it.

2. Of course, baseball games ARE too long, and the overwhelming reason is TV ads, which add about a half hour to every game, and more to post-season games. The disgusting response of Fox is to stick 10 second commercials into a split screen during the game, like between batters. Here’s a slugger walking to the plate in a tense situation, and half the screen is devoted to a quickie plug for “Ralph Breaks The Internet.” I hope fans are burning up social media attacking this greedy new form of broadcast pollution.

3. How is this possible? In a #MeToo Mad era when simply being accused of sexual assault without proof is deemed by even lawyers who should know better as sufficient justification to inflict serious and permanent consequences on the accused, Mike Tyson is the star of an animated TV show, is cast in movies, and is now shopping a TV show, based on the ex-boxer’s life as a marijuana grower and marketer, starring him and called “Rolling With the Punches.” Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Popular Culture, Race, Rights, Social Media

Ethics Observations On The Megyn Kelly “Blackface” Fiasco

You know, one could make a strong argument that the misadventures of a richly compensated  morning TV host is not worth thinking about, arguing about, or even paying attention to. The problem is that in trivial events vital enlightenment often reside. We ignore the Megyn Kelly mess at great risk. There are many ethics lessons there.

The Megyn Kelly fiasco started long before her self-immolation over the now-radioactive topic of Halloween costumes, but let’s begin there. In case you missed it (that is, you have a life), Kelly was using her special segment of the “Today Show” to moderate a round-table discussion of how, as she put it,  “the costume police are cracking down” on Halloween costumes. The former Fox News host and Donald Trump irritant decided to emulate the President and blunder into a political correctness minefield.

“What is racist?” she mused. “You do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface on Halloween, or a black person who puts on whiteface for Halloween. Back when I was a kid, that was O.K., as long as you were dressing up as a character.” Then she talked about the travails of Luann de Lesseps, a member of the cast of the Bravo reality show “The Real Housewives of New York,” who was criticized for dressing up as Diana Ross, complete with skin-tone.  Megyn found the criticism  passing strange.

By the end of the week, Kelly had issued a tearful on-air apology and others on social media. She had been condemned by “Today” colleagues and NBC News chairman Andrew Lack, went even further at a midday staff meeting, saying,“There is no other way to put this, but I condemn those remarks.There is no place on our air or in this workplace for them.”

Then NBC announced that “Megyn Kelly Today” was cancelled, and so was Kelly’s 19 million dollar a year employment, subject to the result of negotiations between her lawyers and NBC’s.

Observations: Continue reading

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