Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/10/2021: Happy Birthday, Jimmy! [UPDATED!]

Jimmy Durante was born on this day in 1893 (“The Snozzola” died 87 years later, in 1980. He’s a semi-regular around here, because it’s Jimmy’s famous line from “Jumbo” (1935) (“Elephant? What elephant?”) that describes the Ethics Alarms offense of resolutely refusing to admit an ethic breach that cannot be denied.

My father was a lifetime admirer of Jimmy, and eventually I joined him: we had all of his albums, and as a stage director I often played his renditions of a ballad (like “I’ll Be Seeing You”) for singers to demonstrate the importance of phrasing and expression, both of which Durante excelled at despite having a distinctive but hardly euphonious voice. He also impressed me with his professionalism. When my father was handling marketing for a Boston banking association, he helped arrange for his organization to be one of the sponsors of Jimmy’s show, which came to the Prudential Center in Boston. The Snozz was over 70 then, but he always seemed ageless, and his energy in person was even more impressive than it was on TV (in fact, Durante had learned to tone down his enthusiasm on the small screen, because it became exhausting to watch). He made his entrance in the stage show rushing on from the wings while singing and flinging his fedora to the back of the stage, where it landed neatly on the head of his band’s bald drummer. My father managed to get our family backstage (though Jimmy was not available because he had a charity appearance right after the show) and I talked to the drummer. I asked him how often Jimmy landed the hat on his head. He replied, “He’s never missed.” He went on to say that his boss rehearsed that bit for hours every week and before every show. It was a split second grace note, but Jimmy insisted on doing it perfectly.

Durante had a stroke after a show when he was almost 80, and never fully recovered. My father, who was uncomfortable expressing emotion face to face but wrote beautiful and touching letters (I hated getting them because they always made me cry; still do), wrote Jimmy, who was then bedridden, a letter thanking him his long entertainment career and explained what his work had meant to Dad. Jimmy’s wife Margie wrote back to say she had read the letter to Jimmy, and he had mouthed the words “Thank you.”

1. Politicizing everything. UCLA’s star gymnast Nia Dennis is getting accolades for turning her floor routine into an ” exuberant and powerful celebration” of black culture. Says Slate, “This routine has everything. Dennis pays tribute to Colin Kaepernick (she kneels!), Tommie Smith and John Carlos (she raises a fist!), and Kamala Harris (like a soror, she strolls and she steps!).” That’s funny: the only way I would recognize a reference to Harris would be if Nia cackled and blathered nonsense. The routine is more dance than gymnastics, but it’s a diabolical gimmick (don’t blame Nia: she has a woke choreographer, Bjoya Das). Any judge that doesn’t give the routine the highest marks knows he or she will be cancelled as a virulent racist.

2. Then there’s the Jeep ad…I’m not going to bother with surveying the ethically dubious Super Bowl ads this year, since they all are unethical for supporting the NFL’s ongoing negligent homicide, but I can’t let Bruce Springsteen’s obnoxious Jeep ad pass. Here it is:

[Whoa! That video was pulled from YouTube shortly after I posted it! I also can’t find a link that has it.]

“To The ReUnited States Of America.” Right. Springsteen is hardly an honest advocate for “the middle,” as a vocal Democrat and anti-Trump shill. The country is supposedly “re-united” because a Democrat is President. The entire theme of the ad is a cynical exercise in Rationalization #64, “It isn’t what it is.” Donald Trump was “divisive” because Democrats decided to paint him as such. Enforcing immigration laws shouldn’t be divisive. Withdrawing from an unapproved treaty with no actual impact shouldn’t be divisive. Calling the biased news media what it is shouldn’t be divisive. Now, calling half the country racists , Nazis and morons IS divisive, and the party that just won control of Congress and the White House has been doing that for four years. Surveys show that that half of the country is more angry, alienated and distrustful than ever, and for some very good reasons, like the current unconstitutional impeachment trial. Got it, Bruce: when Republicans win a national election it’s divisive,and when Democrats win one, it’s unifying.

Update: Apparently Jeep has received so many complaints about Bruce that they decided it was a major gaffe. How can this happen? It happens when the entire company and its ad agency is so overloaded with Democrats and progressives that they can’t see what’s right in front of them.

Continue reading

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.

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Pointer and Source: ABA Journal

Wow! MSNBC’s Joy Reid May Have Given Us The Biggest Jumbo Ever!

The fact that MSNBC continues to employ Joy Reid, so unethical in so many ways,  would be sufficient all by itself to justify never trusting the network. Just in case her racebaiting, bias and hate-mongering weren’t enough, however, now she has issued a mind-blowing Jumbo of such magnitude and audacity that it is impossible to deny that either she is willing to lie about anything, or in the alternative, is nuts. There do not seem to be any other explanations.

On Ethics Alarms, a Jumbo is the term for a desperate, ridiculous lie that insults the intelligence of all who hear it. The term comes from name of the elephant Jimmy Durante was trying to sneak out of the circus in Billy Rose’s eponymous Broadway extravaganza “Jumbo,” when he was stopped by a sheriff, in the show’s most famous moment. “Where are you going with that elephant?” demanded The Law. “Elephant? What elephant?” answered the Schnozzola, innocently. But Reid’s Jumbo out-Jumbos Jimmy.

It all began last December, when some homophobic posts on Reid’s old blog surfaced. Then she issued a self-contradictory apology, flagged in this Ethics Alarms entry. but it turned out that there were more such posts to be found. Six days ago, the media site Mediaite uncovered more posts by Reid that were critical of homosexuality and gays, from The Reid Report, a now defunct blog that Reid authored long before she became a warrior of “the resistance.”  They were originally tracked down and shared on Twitter by sleuth Jamie Maz, who found them using the internet archiving service, the Wayback Machine, which takes screenshots of frequently trafficked web pages to preserve them. Reid’s response was to deny that she wrote the posts:

“In December I learned that an unknown, external party accessed and manipulated material from my now-defunct blog, The Reid Report, to include offensive and hateful references that are fabricated and run counter to my personal beliefs and ideology.

I began working with a cyber-security expert who first identified the unauthorized activity, and we notified federal law enforcement officials of the breach. The manipulated material seems to be part of an effort to taint my character with false information by distorting a blog that ended a decade ago.

Now that the site has been compromised I can state unequivocally that it does not represent the original entries. I hope that whoever corrupted the site recognizes the pain they have caused, not just to me, but to my family and communities that I care deeply about: LGBTQ, immigrants, people of color and other marginalized groups.”

To be blunt but accurate, she was lying. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, April 9, 2018: Experiment Results, Flowering Trees From Hell, And Ominous Signs From The Left..

Good morning…

…Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are…

1. Apologies for a lost Sunday. I was never able to get back to my computer yesterday. The combination of my responsibilities to the Georgetown Gilbert & Sullivan Society as it celebrated its 46th year of operation against daunting odds, some pressing client matters and important family matters just overwhelmed my schedule, plus I was wiped out by the early evening. Of course, based on the blog’s traffic this month and the continuing ethics rot, I console my self in the message of the most famous song from “Ruddigore,” GG&SS’s student production for the anniversary…especially the final line…

“This particularly rapid unintelligible patter isn’t generally heard, and if it is, it doesn’t matter.”

Ethics commentary in a nutshell.

2. However: The regulars came through in a pinch. The free swim produced at least four  Comment of the Day quality posts, including a history of the Gettysburg address. Thanks everybody. The experiment was a ringing success, and I will have more open forums in the future.

3.  This kind of thing is why I have a hard time taking environmentalist doom-saying seriously. We planted Bradford Pear trees, which are now blooming beautifully as is their wont, in front of our house almost 20 years ago. They have their downsides, to be sure, and you have to trim them back or they are likely to split or fall over. However, here is an environmentalist claiming that they are trees from hell, and who writes in part: Continue reading

The White House Scores A 2013 Jumbo Jumbo

There's no elephant. Do you see an elephant?

There’s no elephant. Do you see an elephant?

Just in time to make the 2013 cut-off, the White House achieved the Jumbo of the year, and simultaneously made me wonder if I am going to have to jettison all respect for my loyal Obama-supporting friends.

The Jumbo is an Ethics Alarms category lunched in 2013, designed to recognize individuals who engage in spectacular examples of unethical conduct I have always detested with a special passion: trying to wiggle out of a tight spot by stubbornly insisting that what is obviously the case isn’t really, a brazen exercise resting on the presumption that everyone else is either a dimwit or as corrupt as the speaker. The name derives from an iconic moment in Billy Rose’s 1936 Broadway musical extravaganza “Jumbo,” named after P.T. Barnum’s famous giant elephant, that starred Jimmy Durante. Caught red-handed as he tried to sneak his dying bankrupt circus’s major asset off the premises and away from creditors, the “Old Shnozzola” was confronted with a sheriff who belligerently inquired, “Just where do you think you’re going with that elephant?” Jimmy’s response, acting for all the world as if the massive pachyderm at the end of the rope he was holding didn’t exist: “Elephant? What elephant?” Another apocryphal equivalent is the old burlesque joke about the philandering husband caught by his wife as he frolics in their bed with a naked and luscious bimbo. The rake still denies anything untoward is going on, pleading, “Who are you going to believe, me, or your own eyes?” . In real life, the gold standard might be actress Lindsay Lohan’s insistence to police, when she was arrested for reckless driving and cocaine was found in her pocket, that she was wearing someone else’s pants.

The White House’s entry into the Jumbo Hall of Fame is pretty impressive, though. As figures showed that a million Americans had registered for Obamacare in December, bringing the total number to 2.1 million, well short of the 3 million goal, White House White House health care adviser Phil Schiliro told MSNBC yesterday that the frequently stated Administration goal of  7 million enrolled by the end of March, when the individual mandate (penalty, according to Democrats; tax, according to the U.S. Supreme Court) kicks in, was not really the goal after all. Continue reading

Beyoncé Ethics II: Has-Been Shaming at the Super Bowl?

Destinys ChildBeyoncé didn’t lip-sync her Super Bowl appearance, but according to Slate writer Julia Turner, she was ungracious, unkind and disrespectful to her former Destiny’s Child partners, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, who joined her in the half-time show for what was billed as a reunion. She writes:

Beyoncé’s lack of magnaminity reached its peak as their medley came to its climax. Instead of launching into a full rendition of “Say My Name” or some other Destiny’s Child classic, she said “Kelly and Michelle, can y’all help me sing this one?” Kelly responded, “Sho’ nuff, baby,” and the trio launched into “Single Ladies,” Beyoncé’s solo hit—about how great it is to be solo. This was, as Dave Weigel tweeted, “Like Beatles reuniting and singing ‘Mull of Kintyre,’ ” Paul McCartney’s Wings classic. Beyoncé, don’t shame Kelly and Michelle by dragging them back into the national spotlight and then making them sing the very song that shows what a culturally relevant force you still are, and what afterthoughts they have become! Be generous. Share the spotlight. You have so much.”

Fair? Continue reading

Introducing the Jumbo Award and Its First Recipient: John Mark Heurlin, Esquire.

Today Ethics Alarms is launching a new category, the Jumbo Award. The Jumbo is named after the famous moment in the 1935 musical (and 1962 movie adaptation)“Jumbo” in which a clown, played in both by the sublime Jimmy Durante, is trying to sneak the largest elephant in the world out of the circus, which has been seized by creditors.  A sheriff intercepts the would-be elephant-napper, and demands, “Where do you think you are going with that elephant?” To which Durante’s character replies innocently, as if the pachyderm at the end of the rope in his hand is invisible, “Elephant? What elephant?”

Henceforth, the Jumbo will be periodically awarded to an ethical miscreant who continues to try to brass his or her way out of an obvious act of ethical misconduct when caught red-handed and there is no hope of ducking the consequences. And the first recipient is faux lawyer John Mark Huerlin.

Huerlin was suspended from the practice of law, yet was caught representing himself as a lawyer in several ways, which you cannot do while you are suspended. To do so is an ethical violation in itself—dishonest, defiance of the bar, and the unauthorized practice of law. Nonetheless, he used a letterhead that referred to the “Law Offices of John M. Heurlin” and an email address that read “JheurlinLaw@Netscape.net.” But the real kicker was that Heurlin held himself out as an attorney in litigation on his own behalf, by following his name with “Esquire” on court pleadings.

Huerlin told the bar that he could explain everything. Esquire means that I’m a lawyer in good standing? My goodness! This is all a big misunderstanding, then. I didn’t use “Esquire” to indicate that I was a lawyer. I thought “Esquire” just meant that I was a subscriber to the magazine, Esquire!

Now either disbarred or soon to be, Mr. Huerlin is officially authorized to replace that confusing reference to his reading habits with a new suffix, so he can present himself as John Mark Huerlin, Jumbo.

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Facts: ABA Journal

Graphic: Abracadabra

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at  jamproethics@verizon.net.

 

What Do you Call A Newspaper That Defends Outrageous Journalistic Practices? How About “Di Tzeitung”?

If Di Tzeitung had covered the Civil War

If I could pronounce it, the Brooklyn-based Hasidic newspaper Di Tzeitung would be useful shorthand  for “shamelessly using rationalizations to defend indefensible conduct.”

Last week, the newspaper ran the now-familiar photo of President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and others in the White House Situation Room, except that in Di Tzeitung’s version, Clinton  and the only other woman present, Director for Counter-terrorism Audrey Tomason, had magically vanished. Di Tzeitung had airbrushed them out, Politburo-style.

Of course, publishing the photo of a historic news event and altering it to convey misleading or false information (in this case, “Hillary wasn’t there”) is a substantial and wide-ranging violation of core journalism ethics, a breach of the reader’s trust, unfair, dishonest, misleading, incompetent and disrespectful. The altered photo was alternately condemned and mocked all over the media and blogosphere. Yet Di Tzeitung is largely unapologetic, and made it clear that it would do the same thing again if the opportunity arose. In a prepared statement, the editors explained why they did nothing “wrong”…well, almost nothing…challenging the Olympic record for rationalization by a news organization along the way: Continue reading

A New Outrageous Excuse! Unfortunately, It Was True…

When the African nation of Togo protested that its embarrassing soccer loss to the Bahrain national team was due to a group of imposters masquerading as the Togo squad, I was excited: at least I had a new desperate, brazen and hopeless lie to enter the Ethics Alarms Futile Lie Hall of Fame, joining Jimmy Durante’s immortal “Elephant? What elephant?” line in the musical “Jumbo” (in response to being caught red-handed stealing the largest elephant in captivity, Lindsay Lohan’s explanation to police officers who had found cocaine in her pockets that “these aren’t my pants,” and comedian Michael Richards’ claim that he has no idea why he started yelling “Nigger!” at two black audience members when he has not a bigoted bone in his body—the  controversial “I was possessed!” excuse.

The “It’s not our fault: someone was impersonating me!” lie has great promise, not just for other disappointing athletic teams, but for politicians, John Edwards, the Democratic Congress, the producers of the “Sex in the City” movie sequel, Kanye West and Goldman Sachs. Thus I was devastated to find out that Togo wasn’t lying at all: their soccer team had been replaced by imposters.

Oh, well. And because the excuse now has validity, the “Someone was impersonating us!” excuse no longer qualifies as a sufficiently desperate and hopeless lie. It looks like Li-Lo, Kramer and “the Schnoz”  will have to wait a bit longer for their quartet.

On Obvious Lies and Sen. McCain

I have long been fascinated by the self-evident public lie. Sometimes the product of desperation, sometimes arrogance, sometimes contempt, each example poses a set of equally unattractive interpretations. Does the liar really believe the obvious lie is true, in which case he or she is deranged? Does the liar think that enough people will believe something so demonstrably false, meaning that he or she holds a deplorable lack of respect for the intelligence of the public? Is the liar so fearful and cowardly that he or she cannot summon the integrity to admit what is obvious, even though doing otherwise looks ridiculous? Or, as is surprisingly often the case, does the liar have so little regard for the truth and such a deficit of shame for lying that he or she doesn’t care that the lie is obvious?

When elected officials and others holding high office resort to the obvious lie in a matter of any importance, it should disqualify them from continuing in office. An obvious lie obliterates public trust. For example, when Janet Napolitano had the gall to pronounce department’s anti-terror airplane security measures a success because, be sheer luck, passengers foiled the so-called “Underwear Bomber,” she forfeited any future trust in her honesty of competence. (She is still Secretary of Homeland Security, however.)

The excuse sometimes offered by obvious liars after the fact is an ethics “Catch 22.” They argue that an obvious lie is a harmless lie, because nobody could possibly believe it. (Over on “The Ethics Scoreboard,” a spectacular version of this argument launched the continuing feature of “The David Manning Liar of the Month,” after Sony tried to justify its use of a fictional movie critic, “David Manning,” to attach glowing—but fake— blurbs to lousy films, like the Rob Schneider comedy “The Animal.” When its deception came to light, Sony protested its practice was harmless because nobody believed critical praise in movie ads anyway.) The defense conveniently ignores the question of why anyone would offer a lie they didn’t expect anyone to believe. It is really a consequentialist scam: if I try an outrageous lie and it works, great; if it doesn’t, then it wasn’t a lie.

What do we make, then, of Sen. John McCain’s stunning claim in a recent Newsweek interview that “I never considered myself a maverick” ? Continue reading