Tag Archives: First Amendment

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/16/2018: “Ozark,” Slandering Irving, And Language Showdown At Taco Bell [UPDATED!]

Good Morning!

1. Call me an old ethics fogey, but I don’t think these kinds of TV series are culturally healthy. I’ve been watching the Netflix series “Ozark,” and hating myself for it. The show is well acted and even has its ethics dilemmas, but like “Breaking Bad,” which was obviously its inspiration, there are no admirable characters, and the “heroes” are criminals. In the Golden Age of TV, there were unwritten (and sometimes written) rules that shows could not rationalize, trivialize or romanticize illegal, immoral or unethical behavior, and needed to reaffirm positive values. In “Ozark,” “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul,” the latter’s spin-off, as well as “House of Cards,” and “Shameless,” among others, there are virtually no admirable characters at all. I have been watching “Ozark” in part because I like the actors, in part because there’s nothing I want to watch anywhere else except baseball, and, yes, in part because of voyeurism. Still, it makes me want to take a shower, and I fell that the increasing tendency of Hollywood to portray everything and everyone as corrupt makes a “the ends justify the means” rationalization seem like a matter of survival.

2. Post-mortem slander, again. This is a recurring theme here: a famous person is deliberately misrepresented in a dramatic depiction, and legally there is nothing that can be done about it. The First Amendment protects the practice, but it is still wrong, it still leads to public misconceptions, and it still sullies the reputations and legacies of important figures in history who deserve better.

In a recent one-man show Off- Broadway about American song-wrting legend Irving Berlin, writer-performer Hershey Felder portrays Berlin in his dotage as ” a miserable fossil so twisted with rage and zonked on Nembutal that he shooed away carolers who came to his Beekman Place window to serenade him with ‘White Christmas’,”  shrieking “They don’t deserve it,”  meaning the gift of his iconic song. That’s not what happened, however; not even close, according to the Times review of the show:

When he was 95, Berlin not only let those carolers into the house on Beekman Place but also kissed and hugged them and (according to some reports) poured them hot cocoa. “This is the nicest Christmas gift I ever got,” he said.

UPDATE: I relied on the New York Times review for this comment, and not for the first time, trusting the Times to play straight may have been a mistake. Reader Eric Herrault has a very different view, and I am appending his comment here:

In a website however that discusses ethics I think it is important to call attention to the real serious problem here. The quoted “review” in the New York Times of The BERLIN piece, was some kind of personal grudge hatchet job against the performing artist. This brainless reviewer does not describe the show I saw, or in fact the show at all. This is easily provable by seeing the show itself, or having a look at every other New York outlet, major and minor. Nowhere does anyone suggest this twisted and bizarre take on Irving Berlin. The one place it is suggested however, is by the reviewer himself, as he links to and then lauds a review of the book As Thousands Cheer about Berlin, that calls Berlin terrible things and worse. And yet, somehow this neanderthal supports that utter nonsense. The show is full of joy and laughter from beginning to end, with a sad feeling lived too long and the world having passed him by. The ethics violation here is that this disturbed reviewer (for whatever reason) is allowed to write in the first place.

Continue reading

12 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, language, Popular Culture, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President, U.S. Society, Workplace

Ethics Dunce State: California (Who Else?)

We don’t need further evidence that the Golden State has jumped the ethics shark, has general contempt for the Bill of Rights and is in thrall to Alinskyite “ends justify the means” rationalizations, but here it is anyway. California state lawyers tried to defend in federal court an old law, California Penal Code §26820, which read:

No handgun or imitation handgun, or placard advertising the sale or other transfer thereof, shall be displayed in any part of the premises where it can readily be seen from the outside.

Now, don’t ask me how a law like lasted as long as it has; the thing is 95 years old. But it’s embarrassingly unconstitutional. That’s prior restraint by definition. If a first year law student, or a well-educated college student (if thee are such things), reads that law, the First amendment alarms have to start ringing. Why wouldn’t California just repeal such a law, quietly, so as not t embarrass the state? Why wouldn’t California, like a state with some integrity that supports  core U.S. values, just concede to the Court that the law is a dud, and not oppose the claim that it is illegal? I think we have to assume that is because the culture of this particular state has rotted through. It doesn’t support core U.S. values like the freedom of speech, which might be the most vital of them all. Continue reading

17 Comments

Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Marketing and Advertising, Rights, U.S. Society

Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 8/29/2018: Amazingly, There Are More Important Ethics Developments Than How Long The White House Flag Was At Half-Mast…

Gooooood Morning!

1 It’s not just bias–ignorance also makes you stupid, Part I. On Fox News this morning, they were breathlessly talking about the importance of stopping the publishing of those evil blue-prints of 3-D printable guns. Why, last year, a plastic gun got through TSA security, and it was loaded! And those 3-D printed guns are cheaper than ever! (nobody mentioned that making a 3-D gun that shoots is still incredibly expensive.)

The report was like science fiction, and the woman in a protesting group who said that these guns needed to be stopped NOW! should have had her head wreathed in tin foil. Did Fox discuss the First Amendment issues? No. Did Fox explain that anyone can make their own gun without a 3-D printer? No. Did Fox explain anything relevant to the actual case? Of course not. Did Fox point out that the judge who just issued the injunction admitted that his action abridged speech? No, not that either.

And no, the other news networks weren’t any better.

2. California is ending cash bail. Good. It may backfire, but a statewide experiment somewhere is needed. Bail may be a necessary evil, but the long-time criticism of the system as being biased against the poor has validity, if not a solution. Not every idea Jerry Brown has is bad, just most of them. My guess is that this will be a PR and political disaster, but hey, I don’t live there. The first time a “non-violent” accused criminal kills someone while on his own recognizance, the someone won’t be anyone in my…oops, I forgot, I have a nephew and a niece in California. Well, they’re rabid Democrats and progressives, so they have consented to the risk, I guess.

Amusing reaction: The bail-bondsmen say that they’ll leave the state if this policy stays. Well, of course. Why wouldn’t they leave? What kind of a threat is that?

3. It’s not just bias–ignorance also makes you stupid, Part II A poll says that a majority of the public can’t name a single member of the Supreme Court, despite a large majority believing that the Court’s decisions greatly affect their daily lives. Worse, most of the public thinks the Court is a partisan body, like Congress, because most of the public doesn’t know the difference between the Supreme Court and an ice cream cones, and virtually none of the public has read a single Supreme Court opinion all the way though in their entire lives. No wonder  the Democrat fear-mongering about Judge Kavanaugh is regarded as a smart tactic. Ignorant people are the easiest to con. Conned people warp our democracy.

That’s why it is unethical to be ignorant. Continue reading

25 Comments

Filed under Citizenship, Education, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Quotes, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, Social Media, Sports, U.S. Society

Ominous Anti-Free Speech Quote Of The Year: U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik

“The Court declines to wade through these issues based on the limited record before it and instead presumes that the private defendants have a First Amend ment right to disseminate the CAD files. That right is currently abridged, but it has not been abrogated. Regulation under the AECA means that the files cannot be uploaded to the internet, b ut they can be emailed, mailed, securely transmitted, or otherwise published within the United States. The Court finds that the irreparable burdens on the private defendants’ First Amendment rights are dwarfed by the irreparable harms the States are likely to suffer if the existing restrictions are withdrawn and that, overall, the public interest strongly supports maintaining the status quo through the pendency of this litigation.”

—U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik, in his preliminary injunction issued today blocking the federal government from allowing publication of the blueprints of 3-D printable guns.

The injunction will stand until final resolution of the multi-state lawsuit seeking to keep the blueprints offline. Lasnik had issued a temporary restraining order in the case July 31, prompting this post, which states the Ethics Alarms position still:

“It sure sounds like prior restraint to me, and I suspect, when this gets to the Supreme Court, which it inevitably will, that will be the conclusion.

This began as one more example of the Obama Administration playing fast and loose with the Bill of Rights. Now, it may well be, as the suit by the states alleges, that the Trump Administration didn’t handle its legal U-turn properly, it being, after all, the Trump Administration. Nonetheless, the government blocking the online publication of information, which is what a blueprint is, when no copyrights, patents or trademarks are being violated or national secrets revealed, seems like a pretty clear First Amendment violation.”

If Lasnik’s langauge about “abridged, but it has not been abrogated” doesn’t send chills down your spine, I guess that means you’re a typical progressive or Democrat these days. The First Amendment says that “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech,” meaning that the judge here admits that his ruling and the law suit are efforts to cut another chunk out of our core national values. But hey, it’s all cool! The ends justify the means, and we all know that guns are bad. That Second Amendment thingy? Once we take down the First, the Second will be a piece of cake.

As was discussed at length in the excellent thread on the previous post, it’s a long, long way, not just from May to December, but also from having the blueprint of a #-D printable gun and actually having a gun. Does the judge full comprehend that? I doubt it very much. If there is one theme that runs through judicial decisions and opinion involving rapidly evolving technology, it is that most judges and too many lawyers don’t understand the technology well-enough to regulate it or make coherent policy.

I still think this is such an obvious example of prior restraint that the Supreme Court will knock it down, especially after Kavanaugh joins the Court, and I hope I am wrong that the anti-Second Amendment liberal wing will unite in dissent, but I believe that is likely.

Sigh.

Ought I to say this? What the hell….

I am increasingly coming to believe that what is really at stake in the upcoming elections is the Bill of Rights, and perhaps our democracy itself.  The “resistance’s” attempt to undo the election of President Trump is just part of a long-term, concerted assault on our institutions, by a growing faction that believes that freedom and liberty are too dangerous to be left in the wrong hands, and must be constrained—abridged, so to speak—by those who know best.

Them.

________________________

Pointer and Source: ABA Journal

37 Comments

Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, Science & Technology

John McCain (1936-2018) And Ethics

Senator John McCain died last night, just a day after the announcement that he had suspended treatment for the brain cancer diagnosed last summer. His passing is an event that must be noted on an ethics blog, even though the Senator was nearly as prominent in his ethical missteps as he was in his moments of principle and heroism.

I think the fairest way to assess the career of John McCain is that he tried to do the right thing, and like most essentially good human beings, was sometimes misled and confused by emotion, bias, self-interest and careless ethical analysis. Senator McCain was an adherent of the common belief that if you know you are essentially good, your gut will guide you through ethical challenges. That belief is erroneous, unfortunately—ethics is harder than that—and sometimes steered McCain tragically wrong. Nonetheless, I have little doubt that if all elected officials had the approach to ethics that John McCain did and possessed the values that guided him, our politics would be cleaner and more trustworthy, and our nation and our culture would be better. Not perfect, for McCain was not perfect. But definitely better.

The reason this is true is that McCain refused to be locked into ideologies and partisan cant. When he thought his party or its leadership was wrong, he was unusually willing to say so, and to act on his words. This garnered him the over-used label of “maverick,” which trivialized a personal ethical code: Don’t do what everyone else—your friends, allies and followers–is telling you to do just because it’s the easier choice. If there was ever someone who rejected the #1 Rationalization, “Everybody does it,” and all of its variations, it was John McCain. That alone made him more ethical than the vast majority of his fellow citizens, and especially his fellow politicians.

I wish I could designate McCain an Ethics Hero Emeritus, but I can’t. He was certainly a hero in wartime, as a prisoner of war who endured great suffering without succumbing to the temptation to ease his own pain by inflicting more on his comrades in arms. His ethical compass failed, however, in many high-profile situations and events.

He blundered into the Keating Five scandal. He convinced himself that betraying the principles of the First Amendment was necessary to limit corruption in political campaigns, an embrace of “the ends justify the means” that despite being foiled by the U.S. Supreme Court, has undermined public support and understanding of the Bill of Rights. Seeking the GOP Presidential nomination in 2000, McCain refused to condemn South Carolina’s official use of the Confederate flag during the state’s crucial primary, then, after he lost, pandered to the left and moderates by announcing that he had been wrong—a sickening example of flip-flopping for a public figure whose trademark was integrity. (The episode marked the end of my illusions about John McCain.) He behaved similarly when his re-election campaigns in Arizona looked daunting, rejecting his own compromise proposals on illegal immigration and taking the same hard-line that his conservative opponents had taken against him. This was pure political expediency, hardly unusual in a politician, but disqualifying for membership in the Ethics Alarms Hall of Heroes. Continue reading

27 Comments

Filed under Character, Government & Politics, Leadership, War and the Military

Comment Of The Day: “Unethical Quote Of The Month: CNN’s Chris Cuomo”

Chris Cuomo  is spewing anti-democractic, anti-free speech, pro-violence garbage on CNN, and none of his colleagues, assuredly not CNN’s fake media watch-dog Brian Stelter or even its once fair and balanced Jake Tapper have shown the integrity to call him on it. Thus, despite my post on the matter, many more voices need to be raised elsewhere lest this irresponsible media demagogue make millions of trusting American almost as dumb as he is.

Here is Glenn Logan’s Comment of the Day on today post, Unethical Quote Of The Month: CNN’s Chris Cuomo:

Re: Cuomo
Cuomo is confusing self-defense and lawlessness. By definition, self-defense is a response to a direct threat or attack. Attacking someone with whom you disagree is never, ever self-defense and cannot be the moral equivalent of it.

“But in the eyes of good and evil, here’s the argument: if you’re a punk that comes to start trouble in a mask and hurt people, you’re not about any virtuous cause. You’re just somebody who’s going to be held to the standard of doing something wrong. But when someone comes to call out bigots and it gets hot, even physical, are they equally wrong as the bigot they are fighting? I argue, no.”

Two questions for Chris: Who gets to define good, and evil? Is he saying the totality of the AntiFa position is good, or just that their hatred of racism is good? We don’t know, because Chris doesn’t tell us. AntiFa stands for many things I think are not good, among them are commitment to violence against those with whom they disagree philosophically, an embrace of destructive leftist anarchy, and a rejection of authority. Is Cuomo willing to pronounce all that good? Or is it just “better than the opposition,” who as it turns out, are on the right side of two of those three things?

Second, who throws the first punch? That’s how you figure out who’s wrong and who’s right. Because instantly, the punchee becomes the defender and the puncher becomes the aggressor and lawbreaker. No matter where you assign moral turpitude, it doesn’t and cannot justify violence in response. Continue reading

38 Comments

Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights

Unethical Quote Of The Month: CNN’s Chris Cuomo

“But drawing a moral equivalency between those espousing hate and those fighting it because they both resort to violence emboldens hate, legitimizes hateful belief and elevates what should be stamped out.”

—CNN’s news anchor turned pundit Chris Cuomo, in the middle of a long justification of the use of violence to suppress speech and political opinion.

CNN cannot be taken seriously as a news organization as long as it continues to employ Chris Cuomo. I have concluded that Cuomo was only admitted to law school because his father was a popular governor of New York. No other explanation makes sense. Even after allegedly completing his three years, he doesn’t comprehend basic law or the Constitution.  He has, for example, advanced public ignorance by stating that “hate speech” is not protested under the First Amendment. On another occasion, he said that it would be illegal for citizens to read leaked classified material available on the web, but that journalists could read it and then tell the public about it.

The man is an idiot. He constantly utters legal and logical nonsense, and with the certitude that only a true idiot can muster. As a journalist he is biased and sloppy; as a pundit he is pompous and unqualified. His latest foray into irresponsible use of the First Amendment was two days ago, when he said, in discussing the often violent counter-protesters to the virtually non-existent white supremacy demonstration in D.C. over the weekend, this, the entire speech from which the Unethical Quote of the Month was extracted:

But I argue to you tonight, all punches are not equal morally. In the eyes of the law, yes. But in the eyes of good and evil, here’s the argument: if you’re a punk that comes to start trouble in a mask and hurt people, you’re not about any virtuous cause. You’re just somebody who’s going to be held to the standard of doing something wrong. But when someone comes to call out bigots and it gets hot, even physical, are they equally wrong as the bigot they are fighting? I argue, no. Fighting against hate matters…Now, how you fight matters too. There’s no question about that. But drawing a moral equivalency between those espousing hate and those fighting it because they both resort to violence emboldens hate, legitimizes hateful belief and elevates what should be stamped out….But fighting hate is right. And in a clash between hate and those who oppose it, those who oppose it are on the side of right. Think about: civil rights activist, were they the same morally as the bigots, as the racist with whom they exchanged blows? Are people who go to war against an evil regime on the same moral ground as those they seek to stop from oppressing the weak?…When you punch me in the nose for being Italian and you say I’m somehow less than, am I in the same moral place when I punch you back for saying that? It’s not about being right in the eyes of the law, but you also have to know what’s right and wrong and immoral, in a good and evil sense.

Continue reading

35 Comments

Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights