Sunday Ethics Decorations, 12/20/20: I’m Sorry, This Stuff Is All Depressing

1. So it’s come to this...the #1 post on Ethics Alarms over the last 365 days is this one, which has been up for less than a month. The bulk of it isn’t even my work. I guess I should be writing a poetry review blog.

2. From the “What were they thinking?” files: David Werking, a Michigan man who was temporarily living in his parents’ home after a divorce, sued them for destroying his pornography collection of videos and magazines worth an estimated $29,000. US district judge Paul Maloney ruled that his parents had no right to throw out his collection. “There is no question that the destroyed property was David’s property,” Maloney said. “Defendants repeatedly admitted that they destroyed the property.”

Werking’s parents said they had a right, as his landlords, to toss out his collection. Where they got taht crackpot idea, I do not know. I would consider the lawyer who took their case unethical, and sanctionably so. Not many cases breach legal ethics Rule 3.1 prohibiting frivolous litigation, but this seems like one to me.

“Defendants do not cite to any statute or caselaw to support their assertion that landlords can destroy property that they dislike,” the judge said. I’m not surprised, since there are none.

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Monday Between Halloween And Scary Election Day Ethics,11/2/2020 [CORRECTED]

I had a conversation with a friend who said she would never speak to anyone so devoid of values and intelligence to vote for Donald Trump (she was bluffing) and then immediately thereafter demonstrated that she was incapable of explaining what was so unbearable about the President beyond generalities, Big Lies, and deflections (when the quality of the President’s advisors are a go-to argument three minutes in, you’ve got nothin’…) Upon cross examination, she could not coherently justify voting for Joe Biden either, except through denial (“He’s not senile, he’s just not as sharp as he used to be, and at that age, who is?” Yes, and that’s why nobody has run for President at that age. And no, Joe did not used to forget who he was running against, what office he was running for, or repeatedly get thousands mixed up with millions) even when it was acknowledged that he was far from the sharpest tack in the package. Finally, she said, “I’d vote for Biden even if he was completely demented.’

And there it is: the rational, informed, analytical Democratic voter. In the end, it’s mostly about hate.

  1. Speaking of dementia…Conservative flame-breathing pundit Kurt Schlichter tweeted that Sean Connery’s last words were “Elect Donald Trump.” Sure, Kurt. Yesterday I learned that 007 had been losing a long bout with dementia. If he was no longer compos mentis, that endorsement really isn’t worth much, and he would have been much more likely to endorse Biden out of comradery.

2. What’s going on here? What are we to make of all of the sudden reports that the President is surging in multiple states? For example, yesterday the Des Moines Register described the poll results showing that what had been a Biden lead was now a 9 point Trump advantage:  “Republican President Donald Trump has taken over the lead in Iowa as Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden has faded…”

There are similar stories coming out of other states, and more than one pollster is now predicting a decisive Trump win. Are pollsters deliberately trying to avoid a catastrophic embarrassment by hedging their bets at the last minute? Are conservative media forces trying to bolster GOP confidence to get out the vote? Are we witnessing another election where the undecideds suddenly all flip in the same direction in the final hours, like in 1948, 1980, 1988, and 2016?

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Waning Day Ethics, 9/17/2020: An Unscientific Endorsement, A Frivolous Lawsuit, And Misunderstood Bomb-Throwers

1. Scientific American embarrasses itself. …like so, so many others. “Scientific American has never endorsed a presidential candidate in its 175-year history. This year we are compelled to do so. We do not do this lightly,” intone the magazine’s editors. Wrong. They are doing it to grandstand, and you can’t be more unserious than that. There is a reason SA hasn’t done this in 175 years—it’s a dumb thing to do. They don’t have any special expertise or perspective regarding national leadership, and scientific acumen is not a qualification for office. The alleged reason for the magazine’s endorsement of Joe Biden is its claim that the pandemic’s casualties would have been less had the President said and done things differently. This is total supposition, of course. “He was warned many times in January and February about the onrushing disease,” SA says, quoting juvenile anti-Trump source Axios. That’s odd, since those crack scientists in the CDC are on record as downplaying the seriousness of the virus, and even minimizing the need for masks.  More: “These lapses accelerated the spread of disease through the country—particularly in highly vulnerable communities that include people of color, where deaths climbed disproportionately to those in the rest of the population.” These people are scientists? The reasons for higher rates of infection among the poor and minority populations are many, and the interaction among them still undetermined. Lower levels of general health,  increased rates of illnesses like diabetes and conditions like obesity, more  crowded housing, a lack of the ability to stay at home—even a persistent rumor that blacks were immune have played a part, and nobody knows what measured would have changed anything.

“If almost everyone in the U.S. wore masks in public, it could save about 66,000 lives by the beginning of December, according to projections from the University of Washington School of Medicine.” Yeah, scientists have been doing really well with their projections in the pandemic, like the projections that 5% of the population would be infected. Since the research and pronouncements of scientists have been a) inconsistent and b) politicized from the start, it is disgraceful for Scientific American to pretend that any clear signals were being sent, or that there is any reason to believe another “projection, ” except as a useful way to attack the President. There is still  a strong argument that rejecting the scientists in favor of following the advice of economists would have placed the nation in a better situation.

The Scientific American endorsement is an example of the politicization of science, and explains why  scientists cannot be trusted. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/31/2019: Some Ethics Notes As I Run Out The Door…

Hello, I must be going…

I got my prep done faster than expected, so I have time for a shorter than usual warm-up…

1.  “When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?” It’s going to take a while for me to go through last night’s debate, which the Red Sox saved me from having to watch live. I can say this right now, however: responsible parties should not permit completely unqualified, publicity-seeking wackos like Marianne Williamson (and, as I argued in 2015 and 2016, Donald Trump) to enter primaries and participate in debates. This is how you get “A Face in the Crowd”; this is how you set up democracy to fail. There will always be a critical number of idiots in the electorate, and parties have a duty to fulfill a critical gate-keeper function to prevent the grifters, con artists, cult leaders and amateurs from using them to warp elections and the government.

Williamson was babbling about “dark psychic forces” and “emotional imbalance” last night.  Democrats should ding her right now, and tell her she is welcome to run under the banner of the Crystal Party, or something similar. Continue reading

Observations On The Bizarre Slavery Photo Lawsuit Against Harvard

It would be nice if this grandstanding lawsuit engineered by professional race-baiting lawyer Benjamin Crump was summarily thrown out of court as the junk it is, but unfortunately, too many judges, when woke sentiment beckons, bend over backwards so far that they can lick their heels.

Here is the gist of it:

Tamara Lanier filed a lawsuit in Massachusetts claiming that she is a direct descendant of Renty and Delia, two slaves who were the subjects of a harsh photo session as part of an anthropological inquiry into the differences between blacks and whites. The images of the father and daughter were commissioned by renowned  Harvard professor Louis Agassiz 170 years ago,  and are now stored in  the ancient Peabody  museum on the Harvard campus. (Full disclosure: I love the place, and spent many afternoons as a kid wandering through the exhibits.)  The lawsuit claims the images are the “spoils of theft,” because as slaves Renty and Delia were unable to give consent to being photographed., and that Harvard is illegally profiting from the images by using them for “advertising and commercial purposes.” By keeping the photos, the lawsuit claims, Harvard has perpetuated the hallmarks of slavery that prevented African-Americans from holding, conveying or inheriting personal property.

Observations:

  • I’m sure—aren’t you?— that Mrs. Laneir came up with this wild Hail Mary lawsuit all by herself. Her lawyer, as I already note, is Benjamin Crump, a legal racial shake-down artist who excels at creating public pressure that forces defendants to pay copious settlement money to his clients who often don’t deserve it. He represented the family of Trayvon Martin, and in so doing poisoned the public narrative so thoroughly that the actual facts of Martin’s death are permanently distorted in the nation’s collective memory. he represented the parents of Michael Brown, ensuring them a big pay-off because their angelic son charged a police officers and got himself shot. Ben Crump helped promote “Hands up! Don’t shoot!,” the lie that is still poisoning race-relations to this day. He’s a mission lawyer, someone who uses the law to pursue an agenda: he is to race relations what Gloria Allred is to feminism. He profits by stirring up discord, whether there’s really an injustice or not.

That doesn’t mean that some of his crusades won’t have merit. I only means that there is just cause for suspicion if he is involved.

  • “It is unprecedented in terms of legal theory and reclaiming property that was wrongfully taken,” Crump says. I guess that’s one way of putting it. It’s unprecedented because no previous lawyer had the gall to try such a stunt, but with Democrats and progressives beating the hollow reparations drum again, he cleverly chose a good time to take a flyer. “I keep thinking, tongue in cheek a little bit, this has been 169 years a slave, and Harvard still won’t free Papa Renty,” said  Crump. Good one, Ben! Except that Renty is long dead, and a photograph isn’t a human being…

Yet give him some credit:  Crump is explaining why this isn’t a technically frivolous law suit. If a litigant and the litigant’s lawyer are arguing for a new legal principle, knowing that under existing law the claim is dead, then the action isn’t frivolous. Horrible and dangerous Crump’s lawsuit is; frivolous it isn’t.

  • Harvard and other universities set themselves up for this by caving to historical airbrushing demands by the students they have helped indoctrinate, such as when Georgetown University established a policy giving an edge  in admissions to descendants of slaves who were sold to fund the school. I would say they have this coming and let them sleep on the bed of nails their laziness and cowardice have made, but therein lies a real danger. Harvard, which of late has been devising and defending one bad progressive idea after another (like discriminating against Asian Americans as Harvard’s own way of helping African Americans get admitted to the college), might just decide to be woke rather than responsible, and let Mrs. Lanier take the photos, thus setting a precedent with endless potential to cause havoc.

I wouldn’t bet against it.

  • Lanier’s (that is, Crump’s) lawsuit is an extension of the Mao/Soviet Union -style historical airbrushing and re-writing tool of social change that  21st Century progressives have adopted as they march inexorably toward beneficent totalitarianism. If we don’t like the laws our ancestors put in place, let’s just declare that  they weren’t laws at all. If applying legal principles that have been in place and effective for hundreds of years doesn’t assist the social change we desire, than suspend those principles. Make the law a subject to “the ends justifies the means” whenever it’s convenient.

I’m sorry to be blunt, but if you don’t comprehend the existential danger inherent in this approach, you’re an idiot.

  • Legal problems? What legal problems? Well, let’s see: 1) Renty’s lack of consent to the photos is irrelevant, because under the laws of the time, he had no right to consent. That may be unfair, and wrong, and cruel, and horrifying, but the way society works is that laws, even bad ones, are valid until they are repealed and replaced. Without that certainty, no law can function, and the rule of law becomes impossible. 2) The theory that Harvard is profiting from slavery because of the value of its photograph of a slave would mean that the owners would be profiting from war crimes because of the value of a photograph like this…

(And no, I don’t think those half-dead Andersonville prisoners were capable of giving meaningful and valid consent to be photographed either.) The lawsuit is designed to open the door to censorship of history and historical records that “offend” anybody. 3) The distant relatives of the subject of a photograph are the real owners of the photograph, not the photographer, and not the individual who commissioned the photograph, even if the original subject gave legally valid consent to be photographed or received compensation for such a photograph if a court at any time in the future deems that such consent was invalid under current law, or the compensation is similarly deemed inadequate.

Brilliant.

4) If this theory prevails, then wouldn’t Ken Burns, and PBS, and everyone who profited from showing Burns’ “The Civil War” be required to pay damages for “profiting” from the use of slave photos similarly taken without consent? Would that segment of the documentary, which is crucial to Burn;s narrative, have to be excised?

  • Then there’s this little problem: it is virtually impossible to determine with any certainty that “Renty” really is Tamara’s Lanier’s ancestor.

Yet Harvard may capitulate anyway—to signal its virtue, to be able to publicly condemn slavery, to be “woke, ” and mostly to avoid pickets in Harvard Yard. Ben Crump is no fool…a race-hustler, sure, but he’s no fool.

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/5/2019: Knaves, Idiots, And Fools

Good Morning!

1. Stupid lawsuit update. The bitter ex-Ethics Alarms commenter now appealing the obvious ruling by a Massachusetts judge that his vindictive defamation suit against me continued his abuse of process by filing a spurious motion accusing me of contempt of court and perjury, and calling for sanctions.. It’s 100% baloney, but I still have to file an answer, thus wasting more of my time, which is the point. I’m debating whether to note in my opposition to the motion that the man is an asshole.

2. What an idiot, #1: You have been signed to a ridiculous contract by the Philadelphia Phillies, 13 years for $330 million dollars. You waited four months to do so, jamming up the careers and lives of dozens of lesser players because you really didn’t want to play there, and were determined to get a record setting amount. You know the city’s fans are dubious about your loyalty and commitment, though you have stated that you took such a long contract to demonstrate that commitment. Now you are being introduced to your new team, city and fan base after spending all of your career playing for one of their rival in the National League East, the Washington Nationals. Do you carefully plan out what you will say, when you have your turn at the microphone, knowing that one has only one chance to make a good first impression?

Not if you are Bryce Harper. Yesterday, at his press conference, he said that he wanted to bring a World Series title to Washington D.C.

It’s going to be a long 13 years. For everyone.

3.  What an idiot, #2: Special counsel Robert Mueller notified federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson that Roger Stone had sent  an Instagram post which containing a photo of Mueller under the words “Who framed Roger Stone,” despite Stone being under Jackson’s gag order barring him from speaking in public about Mueller’s team and its investigation.
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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/18/2018: One Week To Christmas Edition (Including Nothing About Christmas, Almost)

Good Morning.

A beautiful, naked Frasier Fir is standing in my living room like an unpaid debt.

1. Speaking of Christmas...The first installment on the Ethics Alarms ethics guide to “Miracle on 34th Street” went up late yesterday, and was immediately blocked on Facebook for violating community standards. Nice. It appears my Facebook “friends” took revenge for my chiding their juvenile and unending “Orange Man Bad” posts.

2. Speaking of being ticked offProfessor Turley:

In a surprising admission, the author if the controversial dossier used to secure the secret surveillance on Trump officials admitted that it was paid for by Clinton campaign as a type of insurance to challenge the election.  At the same time, the reporter who helped break the story, Michael Isikoff now says that many of the specific allegations remain unproven and are likely false. 

The Washington Times reported that Steele stated in a declaration in a defamation case that the law firm Perkins Coie wanted to be able to challenge the results of the election based on the dossier.  In an answer to interrogatories, Mr. Steele wrote: “Fusion’s immediate client was law firm Perkins Coie. It engaged Fusion to obtain information necessary for Perkins Coie LLP to provide legal advice on the potential impact of Russian involvement on the legal validity of the outcome of the 2016 US Presidential election. Based on that advice, parties such as the Democratic National Committee and HFACC Inc. (also known as ‘Hillary for America’) could consider steps they would be legally entitled to take to challenge the validity of the outcome of that election.”

In his typical fashion when he is in mealy-mouth mood, Turley says this is “concerning,” since this document was used to get judicial leave to spy on the Trump campaign. The news is only surprising if you had your fingers in your ears and were shouting “Nanananana” for the past year. This issue, you will recall, is what led a previously well-regarded commenter from the Left here to noisily withdraw as a participant because I was, he said, obviously in the throes of irrational Right Wing conspiracy mania because I posted this.

Certain exiles, if they have any integrity at all, owe me a large, effusive, groveling apology—and I still might not accept it.

Concludes the Professor: “The Steele admission only magnifies the concerns over the purpose and the use of this dossier, but has received little media attention.”

Gee, I wonder why THAT is!

3. “And now for something completely stupid” Department. I guess former “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” star Alfonso Ribeiro’s  career isn’t going so well. He is suing the makers of the video game Fortnite for allegedly stealing his “Carlton dance.” You know, this…

It was a big deal at the time because Ribeiro’s character was a geek, and ignorant viewers didn’t know that the actor was professional dancer who had starred in “The Tap-Dance Kid” on Broadway as a child. The fact that a video character does similar moves…

…is no basis for a lawsuit. Choreography copyrighting is a murky intellectual property area, and suing because of an animated figure’s moves is pathetic, as well as an abuse of the civil justice system. The has-been star is angling for a nuisance suit settlement. He should try “GoFundMe” instead. Continue reading

No, This Isn’t A Frivolous Lawsuit, Just A Really Dumb One That Makes People Hate Lawyers Even More Than They Already Do

In fact, it makes me hate lawyers, and just about everyone I know is a lawyer, including me. I am drowning in self-loathing.

Now pay attention. A class-action lawsuit filed in Fort Lauderdale federal court this month is based on the claims of Cynthia Kissne, and Leonard Werner that they shouldn’t have to pay for the cheese on their McDonald Quarter Pounders if the cheese is removed at their request. The lawsuit, filed by Andrew Lavin of the Miami-based Lavin Law Group, asks for 5 million dollars in damages for this injustice. The logic of the suit is that McDonald’s used to distinguish between the Quarter Pounder and the Quarter Pounder with Cheese, and charged a bit more for the latter. Now, however, the only version sold in the stores is the cheese version, but it is just called a Quarter Pounder. If you don’t want cheese, you say, “no cheese,” but you still pay the same price. The Horror. This is not an unusual practice in the industry, for obvious reasons. Burger King advertised that you could customize your Whopper, but removing stuff didn’t mean you paid less. Oddly, nobody sued. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/4/2018: A Frivolous Lawsuit, An Unscripted Actress, A Lesson In Assuming, And Fake News

Good Morning!

1 On feminist integrity. The reader poll on the post about the interesting silence of US women’s rights organizations and their component feminists as their Iranian sisters protest oppression in Iran has already had more participation that the last four Ethics Alarms polls combined. Why is that? In more news related to that post, some determined spinners here claimed that the feminists have been burning up the blogs and websites with supportive essays and blog posts, so the radio silence is a myth. No, THAT was a myth: there is nothing on those sites, or if there is, it didn’t surface when I checked Ms., Jezebel, NOW and four prominent blogs. (Update: Reader Humble Talent has checked two more. Also nothing.)

Please don’t make up stuff or assume facts you haven’t checked when you don’t want to accept reality, friends. It’s not fair, and it’s not ethical debating practice. Because I trust and respect the commenter in question, I just assumed she was right, because I assumed she had checked. No, it appears she had assumed, and was not right.  And you know what Felix Unger proved happens when you assume..

2. This is why they give actors scripts. I enjoy actress Meryl Streep as an artist, but for me she is fast entering Alec Baldwin territory, a performer whose personal character deficits are becoming so overpowering that even her undeniable talent can’t make watching the performer on screen endurable. Streep is in a deep hole she keeps digging. Being a Harvey Weinstein acolyte and beneficiary for years (and a Roman Polanski apologist), she is denying culpability as an enabler of his serial sexual predation because, she says, she didn’t know. Almost nobody finds her denial credible. Yesterday the Times published a joint interview with Streep and her “The Post” co-star, Tom Hanks. Told by the interviewer that in light of the doubts about what she knew, the public wants to hear more from her, she responded,

“I don’t want to hear about the silence of me. I want to hear about the silence of Melania Trump. I want to hear from her. She has so much that’s valuable to say. And so does Ivanka. I want her to speak now.”

Streep locks up the 2018 Whataboutism of the Year title with that one, along with adding a ridiculous sentence into my personal collection of statements that deserve note because they had never been said before in the history of the English language. I started my collection decades ago at a family Thanksgiving dinner, when my sister said, “You know, the fish looks so good, I think I’ll wear my bra on my head.” And a collection was born.

“I don’t want to hear about the silence of me” has an elegant simplicity about it. In addition to being a strange sentiment, Streep also misses the whole concept of an interview—surprising, since she has done so many of them. See, Meryl, these questions are about what the public wants to hear about, not what you want to hear about. Was that really unclear to you until now? This was not an open invitation to announce all the things you’d like to hear about that have absolutely nothing to do with Harvey Weinstein. This is “Look! Squirrel!” carried to a demented extreme. Streep revealed herself as seriously Trump Deranged, as she thinks that the way out of every personal crisis is to declare, “But what about TRUMP????”

Looks like I won’t be watching “The River Wild” again. Pity. (I won’t watch “The Dear Hunter” again either, but then you never could have made me watch that thing a second time, not under torture or extortion.)

3. Now THIS is a frivolous law suit.  From CNN:
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Now THIS Is As Close To Genuinely Frivolous Lawsuit As You Are Likely To See…And Naturally, It Is An Attack On The President

Publicity stunt? Whatever would make you think this lawsuit is a publicity stunt???

As we have discussed here before, though we often complain of frivolous lawsuits,  even the worst law suits seldom meet the technical standard of what is “frivolous.”

The D.C. bar’s ethics rules state that…

A lawyer shall not bring or defend a proceeding, or assert or controvert an issue therein, unless there is a basis in law and fact for doing so that is not frivolous, which includes a good-faith argument for an extension, modification, or reversal of existing law.

This provides what I sometimes call “stupid lawyer” protection, on the theory that a stupid lawyer may have a sincere belief that an absurd action has a chance of prevailing, thus avoiding the rule’s rock bottom standard for “frivolous.” The recently filed lawsuit in Washington, D.C. against President Trump and the local Trump hotel, however, may be that rarest of legal birds, the truly frivolous lawsuit.

The married couple that owns  the Cork Wine Bar in Washington claim that the Trump International Hotel and the  restaurants similarly located in the Old Post Office building have an illegal advantage over other nearby establishments, like theirs, because of the association with the President.  Essentially the law suit claims that it’s all so unfair.

In addition to the res ipsa loquitur factor, which is to say that the lawsuit screams abuse of process to harass the President, we also have these suspicious factors: Continue reading