Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/8/2020: War, Defamation, Bias, Abortion…What Fun.

ARRGH!

Another day, another “crisis”…

Current reports indicate that Iran regards its casualty free missile strikes last night as a sufficient “tat” for the killing of their master terrorist “tit.” If so, the “ARRGH! WORLD WAR III!!” anti-Trump hysterics were, as usual, wrong, and just embarrassed us, nothing more.. Meanwhile, Iran is refusing to hand over the black box of the Ukrainian airliner that just coincidentally crashed right around the time the missiles were flying. The fact that so many Democrats have allowed their brains and loyalty to rot to the extent that they defend  this awful place in order to attack their own nation’s President is all we need to know about the trustworthiness of their party.

1. Wrapping up the Golden Globes’ ethics issues…Michelle Williams is getting predictable hosannas from her acceptance speech at the Goldden Globes, in which she thanked abortion for her success. She said she wanted a life “carved by my own hand” and “wouldn’t have been able to do this without employing a woman’s right to choose.” The New York Times called these words “potent.” I call them deceitful. I’ll praise an equivalent speech when the woman has the integrity and courage to thank the human being who involuntarily gave up his or her chance to carve out a life with their own hand. The use of “choice” as euphemism for “I get to kill someone who stands in my way” is self-deception.

2. Thinking about Trump’s threat...The President backed down from his threat to target Iranian cultural cites in retaliation for any attacks on Americans after being informed that this would be a war crime under international law. I confess, I did not know this was prohibited, and I am not certain what to think about that. I knew the destruction of ancient architecture and important cultural cites became an issue for the Allies in World War II, but this has yet to make sense to me. The whole concept of the “nice” war is ethically incoherent. The idea of war must be to win as quickly as possible, minimizing deaths and chaos on both sides, especially one’s own. If the prospect of losing a nation’s treasured cultural structures is a deterrent to war, then to say that has no “military value” is simply not true. If you can’t tolerate risking your cultural treasures, don’t get into wars.

The values involved in this controversy are also incoherent. In “The Monument Men,” George Clooney’s sort-of accurate account of the special forces whose job was to track down and rescue great artworks stolen by the Nazis, the question is asked repeatedly, “Was retrieving this painting or statue worth sacrificing a human life?” I have no problem voting “Sure!” If the question is changed to refer to a thousand lives, or 10,000, I’m not so sure. Continue reading

CNN Settles With Nick Sandmann

Nick Sandmann and CNN agreed today to a settlement in the teen’s defamation lawsuit as a result of the news media’s demonization of him and his fellow students after a videoed confrontation with Nathan Phillips, a Native American activist, outside the Lincoln Memorial. Sandmann and his schoolmates had participated in the  March for Life in Washington, D.C., and the news media reported that the video showed boys wearing MAGA caps harassing Philips. Narrative: Racist young Trump supporters abuse an elderly Native American. Sandmann was singled out because a still photo appeared to show him smirking in a condescending manner at the  man.

Another video and eyewitness accounts demonstrated that Phillips was the obnoxious aggressor, pushing into the school group waiting for its bus and beating hisdrum inches from Sandmann’s face, while the boys were subjected to racist  taunts from members of the Black Hebrew Israelites.

Eventually some journalists and  public figures  had to recant their public characterization of Sandmann as a smug racist, but not before he had become a public villain. Even his school, acting solely on press reports, condemned him.  Some journalists refused to admit that they had been wrong–wearing a MAGA cap was proof enough of bad character— or that Sandmann and his friends had been wronged.

Sandman’s lawyer, L. Lin Wood,filed a $250 million suit against CNN for sending into “millions of homes” the “idea that [Sandmann] was part of a mob…yelling racist slurs.” Still pending are similar suits on Sandmann’s behalf against NBCUniversal and  the Washington Post. Continue reading

Ethics Heroes: The Appeals Court For The Commonwealth Of Massachusetts

I am not honoring the appeals court that just upheld the lower court judgment in my favor in a two-year old (and probably not over yet) frivolous lawsuit against my for defamation by an angry ex-Ethics Alarms commenter. The court’s decision rejecting the plaintiff’s appeal was dictated by precedent and black letter law, as was the decision in the original case. It took no special courage or integrity to hold so, and in fact any other result would have evinced rank incompetence.

No, I am awarding the court Ethics Hero status after receiving today its  published opinion in case n. 18-p-1605, where the judgement of the lower court judge was affirmed. It is officially a summary decision, and thus not binding precedent, since the usual details a full appellate opinion would contain are missing. However, in the eight page opinion affirming the lower court dismissal of the complaint, the judges are impressively restrained, respectful, and thorough. They manage this despite the fact that the lawsuit was doomed from the beginning, without merit or law on its side. The persistence of the plaintiff has wasted taxpayer money (and mine) and occupied time the judges needed to address more serious and legitimate matters.

Nonetheless, the fact that a pro se litigant is able to receive more than perfunctory handling of even a complaint this misbegotten and trivial speaks well for our system, and very well for the judges. Despite all the attacks claiming that our system only caring about ‘justice for the rich,” a pro se litigant seeking justice (as he saw it) and using confused, garbled and outrageously long documents to that end,  cannot deny that his case and arguments were ignored. He lacked the financial resources to hire a lawyer to pursue them (though I wonder if any lawyer would have accepted the representation) and represented himself—rather badly, but still, he took his best shot. Continue reading

The Last Ethics Warm-Up of 2019…And I Finally Figured Out How To Get Ethics Alarms Links On Facebook

Ethical New Year!

1. Boy, am I slow. You can link to an Ethics Alarms article by using the Twitter link that every post has. This link works on Facebook, where EA has been banned with no explanation: I just tested it. So an interested reader clicks on that link, and is taken to a tweet that contains the Ethics Alarms link.

From now on, all posts will include the Twitter link to the post at the end.

2. Don Imus. The infamous “I-man,” Don Imus, died last week. He was one more example of the inherently unfair standard that shadows “shock jocks,” who are paid to be improvisational, outrageous, irreverent, and brave, but if they make one miscalculation and go too far (and what “too far” is changes quickly), their careers can end overnight. So it was that Imus and his on-air acolytes made demeaning and racially inflammatory comments mocking a college women’s basketball team, and Imus never recovered. That was even before social media mobs had reached their current strength. Imus was on AM radio and simulcast on TV; no shock jocks dare to do his act under such conditions now.  They wouldn’t last a week. From his Times obituary: Continue reading

Spurious And Vindictive Litigation Ethics: An Update On The Ethics Alarms Defamation Lawsuit

As I predicted yesterday, upon being informed that the plaintiff’s motion to reconsider the rejection of his appeal of the trail court’s rejection of his defamation suit had also been rejected, the now-banned Ethics Alarms commenter filed a petition for “futhur Appellate review” with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

The argument presented is an extension of his appellate brief, which erroneously relied on Milkovich v. Lorain Journal Co., 497 U.S. 1 (1990), a Supreme Court case that is not germane to this one. The plaintiff isn’t a lawyer, though he is inexplicably confident of his legal analysis skills, which is unfortunate for both of us, as well as the poor judges and clerks in Massachusetts who have to waste their time and the State’s money dealing with these flawed motions and appeals.

The reason there was no defamation and could be no defamation is that my opinions of the plaintiff and his motives, harshly expressed as they may have been, were based entirely on what he had written on the blog and an email to me that I quoted, as well as the plaintiff’s own blog, to which I included a link. The core of defamation, be it libel or slander, is alluding falsely to or asserting some undisclosed event or conduct that a reader or a listener has no way of knowing whether it is in fact true or not. That was indeed the situation in Millkovitch, where  a newspaper columnist’s account of a brawl at a high school wrestling match reported that one of the teams’ wrestling coach, Millkovitch, had incited the riot and lied about it. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/4/2019: Ethics Alarms Threats, Lawsuits, Censors And Foes

Good morning!

I’m hoping that I can get back on a more regular schedule soon, and I want to express me thanks for everyone’s patience with the unexplained gaps in commentary and the “warm-ups” that have been turning up ad odd hours of the night.

1. Ethics Alarms defamation suit update! The banned Ethics Alarms commenter whose feelings I hurt received notice that his appeal of the trial judge’s rejection of his absurd defamation claims was rejected, as was his motion to file a non-conforning brief, and his motion for sanctions against me as a Massachusetts lawyer.  Within minutes he had filed a motion for reconsideration. This, of course, requires me to file a response. It is vengeance by pro se abuse, of course, and wildly unethical, but I assumed this was what I was in for.

2. More “Welcome to my world!” notes. A Democratic  candidate for Congress in Michigan whom I referenced as an aside in this post in June about one of Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s dumb tweets invaded my in-box last night to ask that I take down the post, saying in part,

I am sending this email to you to formally request that you remove my name from this website. As you are aware AOC has received a number of death threats.  I am a candidate running for Congress in Michigan and I recently had someone shoot a bullet through the window of our headquarters.  We are in the process of getting security however your decision to place my name on a website with someone who is constantly in danger [is] extremely dangerous to my safety and the safety of others. I have contacted the police & I am also in the process of contacting the FBI.  I will be certain to point out your website.

To which I said, in essence, “Bring it on.” I don’t respond well to threats, especially stupid ones. This party really does have a problem with free speech, doesn’t it?

3. Here’s why I don’t belong to the American Bar Association…President Trump’s Ninth Circuit judicial nominee Lawrence VanDyke was called arrogant, lazy, ideological and an anti-LGBTQ bigot in the American Bar Association’s official evaluation of his qualifications for the post. This was based on accusations against the nominee from unnamed associates, sniping at him from the shadows of anonymity.

“Absolutely outrageous and couldn’t be further from the truth,” protested Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt. VanDyke served as state solicitor general under Laxalt, Others interviewed by the ABA for the reports said that their positive recommendations were greeted with perfunctory indifference by ABA personnel. Joseph Tartakovsky, Nevada deputy solicitor general for three years under VanDyke, said his ABA phone interview lasted  seven minutes at most, during which “it was clear to me that she was going through the motions.” Tartakovsky said he was “surprised and dismayed” when he read the ABA’s critical letter, as he  gave VanDyke a strong recommendation, saying he was an “exceptional lawyer” and “born to be a judge.”

I don’t know anything about VanDyke, who could be a legal genius or a judicial hack. I do know the American Bar Association has long been dominated by Democrats and progressives, and is among the many professional associations that has disgraced itself and its members by tacitly allying itself with the “resistance.” The ABA has been incapable of objective assessments of the qualifications of judicial nominees for decades, and should not be trusted with the assignment.

4. Facebook ethics, or what passes for them. Facebook honcho Mark Zuckerberg upset his troops when he announced that his social media platform would not fact-check political ads and censor them for being “false.” Facebook had been using the biased and untrustworthy PolitiFact and Snopes as fact-checkers, so obviously his was the right decision. His minions, however, have been vocal in dissent, even recruiting Hollywood Hard-Lefty Aaron Sorkin to write an “Open Letter” of protest.

I obviously have some experience with Facebook’s objectivity in deciding what information should be published or not, since Ethics Alarms has been banned from the site without any explanation. These people can’t distinguish “facts’ from opinions they don’t like, especially when the opinions contradict the agendas of the Axis of Unethical Conduct (Democrats, “the resistance,” and the mainstream media). Sorkin claims that he fears for children believing that “Kamala Harris ran dog fights out of the basement of a pizza place while Elizabeth Warren destroyed evidence that climate change is a hoax and the deep state sold meth to Rashida Tlaib and Colin Kaepernick.” but the sooner kids learn how to sniff out garbage, the more competent adults they will be. Who is Sorkin kidding? He knows it isn’t the crazy stuff he wants Facebook to smother: he doesn’t want ads that argue that Democrats have been trying to overthrow a President without winning an election, because when you are conducting a disinformation campaign you don’t want any opposition.

 

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 9/22/2019: Five Ugly Ethics Stories (Sorry!) [Corrected]

A pleasant Sunday…

as long as I don’t read the newspaper or watch the Talking Heads…

1. Before I finish a long post about the most recent contrived Brett Kanavaugh smear by the New York Times, ponder this quote from the Times review of “The Education of Brett Kavanaugh”: “[The authors] come to a generous but also damning conclusion, which is that Blasey Ford and Ramirez are believable and were in fact mistreated by Kavanaugh as teenagers, but that over the next 35 years he became a better person.”

Ugh. The conclusion is “damning” because it relies almost entirely on confirmation bias: Blasey Ford’s own lawyer revealed that her motive in using her “recovered memory” against Kavanaugh was to discredit any future anti-abortion opinions he participated in as a member of the court. The accusation by Ramirez isn’t, apparently, even believable to Ramirez herself, since she says she isn’t certain that the Mad Penis-Dangler was Bret Kavanaugh. Why then, do the authors find the claims “believable”? Oh, because they want to believe them, of course; they work for the New York Times, and they certainly weren’t going to get their book promoted by their employer and snatched up by its readers if they concluded, as objective reporters would, that there is no more reason to believe Justice Kavanaugh did these things than there is reason to believe he didn’t.

The real ugh is this, however: if even these biased analysts conclude that the accusations, even if true, do not have any relevance on the grown man who was nominated to the Supreme Court because they relate to a minor who existed 35 years ago—and who has, as most children do, grown up—then the episodes that their book focuses upon literally don’t matter, shouldn’t have been brought into Kavanaugh’s hearing,  and should not be used now to denigrate and discredit him.

2. From “Social Q’s,” a glimpse of what a malfunctioning ethics alarm is like. Prompting the frequently appearing question in my mind, “How does someone get like this?” was the query into Phillip Gallane’s advice column from a woman who threw herself a birthday party, directed guests not to bring gifts but to make a donation to a charity she supports instead, and was annoyed that some brought gifts anyway. She asked if it would be inappropriate to send the gifts back with a disapproving note so they “would listen” to her “next time.”

I know what I would do “next time”…

3. Hey, sounds great, Facebook! Why wouldn’t everyone trust your judgment? Facebook announced  a series of changes last week to squelch hate speech and extremism—meaning what Facebook and its allies consider such— on its platform in a letter to the chairman of a House panel. Facebook said it would prevent links from the fringe sites 8chan and 4chan from being posted on its platform—you, know like it blocks links to Ethics Alarms!  Then it explained how it would develop an oversight board of at least 11 members to review and oversee content decisions—like the decision that a wide-ranging ethics blog that has no political affiliation or agenda, written by a professional ethicist of some note, doesn’t meet the Facebook “community standards.”

In other, unrelated news regarding the obstacles being thrown in my path, the Appeals Court in Massachusetts finally alerted me that it was taking “under advisement” the request for an appeal of the rejected frivolous defamation suit filed about two years ago by a banned commenter here whose boo-boo I wounded.

(I am not concerned.) Continue reading