The Supreme Court And Taylor Swift Ethics

It is generally regarded as a sign of ethics, courage and character to take action “on principle.” In theory, this means that non-ethical considerations (like enrichment, power and popularity) are not the actor’s goals; making a statement for the enlightenment of society is. However, actions on principle can often be quixotic and even silly, causing greater damage, as well as wasting time and money, “on principle” than the message is worth. The folly was nicely illustrated in the ancient burlesque skit above known as “Pay the Two Dollars.”

The issue of how far it was reasonable to go “on principle” was recently explored, of all places, in the U.S. Supreme Court in the oral argument of the case Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski.

Chike Uzuegbunam, a student at Georgia’s Gwinnett College in Lawrenceville, was threatened with discipline under the school’s speech code that violated his and other student’s First Amendment rights. He sued the college but it quickly backed down, eliminating its speech restrictions and replacing them with one that allows students to “speak anywhere on campus and at any time without having to first obtain a permit.” State officials said the change made the case moot. A trial judge agreed, and the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, affirmed her ruling.

Uzuegbunam and his student supporters, however, felt strongly that an official declaration that their rights had been violated was important, and they appealed on the grounds that they should be able to pursue their case for nominal damages. This was the issue that got the case before SCOTUS.

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Comment Of The Day: “From The Law Vs. Ethics Files: This Controversy Has Everything—Fine Art, Nazis, Lawsuits, Sheep…”

hitler-art

Genie Baskir, who has commented on Ethics Alarms since 2011 and averages about two entries a year, makes her latest comment count: it’s an unusually tough and moving Comment of the Day, on the post, From The Law Vs. Ethics Files: This Controversy Has Everything—Fine Art, Nazis, Lawsuits, Sheep…:

Everything was stolen from Leone and her own children and grandchildren. The painting represents the hole in her life and that of her descendants whether obvious or not. The University of Oklahoma’s insistence on keeping the spoils of Holocaust looting represents the continued suffering of every victim of massacre and mass murder since WWII. Overcoming this trauma does not absolve offspring collaborators of their offenses and, let me make this clear, the University of Oklahoma is an offspring collaborator. It knows that Leone Meyer was in the subordinate position in this negotiation and now it wants to continue it descendant collaboration in mass murder and looting because it thinks it can just like the first Nazis held their collective victims’ feet to the fire 80 years ago.

The majority of Holocaust survivors are dead now but their children know and remember the hole in their collective lives as they are collateral victims themselves. We know and remember. Leone Meyer knows and remembers.

My own mother died not ever knowing what happened to her parents and brother. Both of my parents were sole survivors of large extended families. Imagine having no grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins or any close blood relations. Imagine being a child processing that everyone of immediate consequence has been murdered. I claim no uniqueness. Massacres and the resulting survivors are still a common occurrence. What’s missing is the empathy and compassion of those who have not that knowledge.

When my mother, aged 15, returned to her home after walking across Poland in late 1944 the next door neighbor, stunned that she survived, reported that the home had been looted by all of the neighbors. He then returned to her a doll and her movie star picture albums. The neighbor then told her to get out of town or she would be murdered by her other neighbors who were complicit in the disappearance of the Jewish families.

The back of the returned movie star pictures had my mother’s mother’s handwriting on them. This handwriting is the only extant evidence that Augusta Pecenik Fischer ever lived at all. Lucky for me that no one is fighting me for these artifacts.

If possession is 9/10ths of the law and the painting is still in France then let France continue to atone for its own collaboration in mass murder. Who will enforce the Oklahoma District Judge’s Order anyway? Who does he or she think they are? After everything that has happened to us, we are afraid of a contempt order from a Judge with no enforcement ability anyway? This Judge is another offspring collaborator if he or she thinks those of us with knowledge care about the ruling.

The burden is on those of us with the knowledge of such tragedy and trauma to try and relieve the suffering of those who are continuing victims. The Judaicide of the 20th century is unique only in that its surviving victims had the strength and wherewithal to demand wholeness in the aftermath. No one was ever made whole but the ability to continue the struggle was rejuvenating as was the ability to start again with new families and offspring and new wealth.

Anyone who knew my mother in the United States without knowing what happened to her would never have guessed what was taken from her when she was just a little girl. Her suffering was never an exterior mien burdening all who met her. She channeled her efforts at wholeness into amassing her own impressive wealth and living well as her revenge. Leone Meyer is struggling for wholeness as represented by this great work of art and she is already the winner.

Offspring collaborators like the University of Oklahoma are empty vessels of opportunity mixed with ignorance and hatred for their moral obligations. We must pray for them to realize the errors of their ways.

From The Law Vs. Ethics Files: This Controversy Has Everything—Fine Art, Nazis, Lawsuits, Sheep…

stolen painting

The painting above is “La Bergère,” or “Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep,” by Camille Pissarro, a renowned French Impressionist. The 1886 painting, like so many other priceless works of art, was stolen by the Nazis in 1941, when they looted the French bank where the Jewish family who owned, the Meyers, it had placed the painting for safe-keeping. Dr. Léone Meyer, whose mother, grandmother, uncle and brother died in Auschwitz, searched for her family heirloom ever since the end of World War II. Finally, in 2012, she traced the painting to the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma.

In 2016, she negotiated a compromise to trade the painting back and forth between the university and a French museum, but the controversy was re-opened when Dr. Meyer decided that she wants the painting permanently dispalyed in France. Now the courts are involved, on two continents. A judicial tribunal in Paris is deciding whether to block the work from being shipped out of France, and ordered Dr. Meyer and the university to meet with mediators. A federal judge in Oklahoma, meanwhile, has threatened to hold Dr. Meyer in contempt if she continued to pursue litigation in France. A trial is scheduled for January 19 in Paris to hear Dr. Meyer’s arguments for keeping the work there, and a second hearing is set for March on whether to prohibit the painting’s trip back to where the the wind comes sweeping down the plain.

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The Surprise Return Of The Ethics Scoreboard, And “The Bank of America Teller and the Thumbless Customer”

Ethics Scoreboard

The Ethics Scoreboard was my first ethics website. It began operation in February of 2004, and became an archive on November 1, 2009, when Ethics Alarms took its place. For many years now—frankly, I’ve lost count—it has been unavailable on the Web because of an incompetent hosting service that took my money, took it down, and doesn’t permit any direct customer service contact. Last time I checked, the domain was unclaimed. I stopped looking for the Scoreboard because it depressed me, and I had hit a dead end in my efforts to get it back up.

Well, it’s back up, and I have no idea why or how. What a happy 2021 surprise! I suspect the original webmaster, my old friend Lauren Larson, is responsible, but if so, she never told me: I don’t even know how long the site has been live again. I learned about the resurrection from a wonderful man whom I met through the Scoreboard, Alek O. Komarnitsky, who sends out a holiday letter. This year, he wrote, “I am still on the Ethics Scoreboard!” and sure enough, there at the link was the last article I wrote about Alek.

There is a lot of material on the Scoreboard, some of which I am very proud of, and I thought it was all lost in cyberspace. For me, this is like finding a treasure trove of old family photographs in the attic. Thank you Lauren, thank you Alek, thank you incompetent hosting service, thank you whoever it was that did this! I will eventually get to the bottom of the mystery, but for now, I’m afraid to pinch myself to see if it’s a dream.

In celebration of the Return of the Prodigal Website, I now present one of the Scoreboard’s last posts, “The Bank of America Teller and the Thumbless Customer.”

Welcome back, Ethics Scoreboard! I really missed you.

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First Snowfall Ethics Accumulation, 12/16/2020 [Corrected]

For the record, I believe that Dean Martin’s is the definitive version of this holiday favorite. It’s the perfect vehicle for his inimitable style, which always makes me smile. I miss Dean; indeed I miss all of the great singers whose Christmas offerings come up on the Sirius-XM “Christmas Traditions” channel, because they are all dead, every one of them. In one short trip, I heard Bing, Dean, Rosemary Clooney, Burl Ives, Nat King Cole, and Karen Carpenter. All gone. Christmas songs shouldn’t make you sad.

1. No, “doctor” doesn’t mean “teacher.” The disingenuous nonsense defenders of Jill Biden and anyone else who insists of being called “Dr.” because they have a doctorate is stunning, and the hypocrisy is hilarious. When the pompous one was a Trump White House aide, the biased media mocked him. Now that the insecure title-wielder is a Democrat, the rules are different. Got it.

One particularly off-base defender of the non-medical “Dr.” in the comments writes, “Doctor means teacher.” No, it obviously doesn’t, or all teachers would be called “doctor.” My best high school teacher, Miss Rounds, who taught Latin, actually had a PhD but never asked her students to call her “Dr.,” because, you see, that would be stupid. Funny: none of the lists of synonyms for “doctor” include “teacher,” and none of the lists of synonyms for “teacher” include “doctor.”

But mirable dictu! The embarrassingly Orwellian Miriam Webster Dictionary, as it showed in this episode, has as its #1 general definition of “doctor” is “a learned or authoritative teacher.” I thought it had changed the definition to cover for Jill, just as it had changed a definition to follow the Democratic narrative in October (and as Dictionary.com did this very month). But no, Commenter Phlinn found that Miriam Webster has its outlier definition at least since January, hence this correction.

Now, if only on-line dictionaries were trustworthy and didn’t pull their partisan games, I wouldn’t suspect them. But they do, I am, and I am not wrong to be.

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Observations On The Hunter Biden Emails Ethics Train Wreck

train wreck - b

That’s democracy falling over…

  • Lawyer/blogger Ken White, in his new incarnation of Popehat, has a useful, informative but misguided post about the misunderstanding of the law as it applied to Twitter and Facebook manipulating the news to push Joe Biden over the finish line. Yes, it’s true: there is nothing illegal or unconstitutional about the social media platforms choosing to censor communications they don’t like, even if its objective is to “rig”—in President Trump’s term—the election. It is still, however, wrong. Ken is usually a bit more nuanced in recognizing the critical law vs ethics problem. Okay, I got it” members of Congress and conservative pundits arguing that Section 230 requires social media platforms to be fair and unbiased are wrong. They, are, however 100% right that the current conduct of those platforms threatens to undermine democracy. You can’t, as one of the links White points readers to does, call Section 230 “the internet’s First Amendment” and then complain that politicians think the law ought to prevent partisan censorship.

Boy, I sure hope Trump Derangement hasn’t gotten Ken too…

  • Imagine if the Hillary Clinton server story was buried by the news media the way it is trying to run out the clock on the Joe Biden/Hunter Biden influence peddling story. That tells you just how far the news media has deteriorated in four years (and also how much more certain journalists were that Hillary would win no matter what they reported).

I’ll wait to see what kind of coverage the story gets on the CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox Sunday shows, but even if it is adequately covered, those programs have a relatively select viewership. By past standards, the Hunter Biden emails should be front page, above the fold material, and yet only a conservative New York City tabloid and its ilk are making it so.

And one more time, this should not be pigeon-holed as a “conservative” lament. All Americans of any ideological persuasion should fear and loathe the news media trying to slam its heavy fist on the electoral scales this way. Why don’t they? Are that many citizens really willing to see elections “rigged” if their favorite party wins? If so, theRepublic is lost no matter what happens in 2020.

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Not Illegal, “Just” Cynical And Unethical: The Bloomberg Florida Vote-Buying Scheme

As part of the Democratic Party’s commitment to “go high” in its pursuit of power, Michael Bloomberg is buying the votes of convicted Florida felons for Joe Biden.

Not technically, of course, but that’s exactly what he’s doing. After all, the ends justifies the means. Isn’t that what Mitch McConnell essentially said when he refused to let the Senate vote on…wait, that’s the Republicans. I’m getting my cynical, unethical parties mixed up.

Mike Bloomberg has pledged to pay off the debts of  felons in Florida who have recently been ruled ineligible to vote unless they pay the fines that are part of their punishment.  This is a generous action by Bloomberg, who is devoted to expanding the right to vote of all Americans…no, wait, I’m confused again. The Washington Post reported that only Black and Hispanic ex-felons in Florida will get the gifts, because they they are more likely to vote for Biden than whites.

Nice.

The revelation comes from a memo originally obtained by the Post which read in part, “We know to win Florida we will need to persuade, motivate and add new votes to the Biden column. This means we need to explore all avenues for finding the needed votes when so many votes are already determined.”  Apparently the former New York Mayor with the personal vendetta against the President only cares about the right to vote when it is exercised the way he wants. Of course, Joe Biden and the rest of the party are thrilled to have Bloomberg’s money purchasing votes to defeat that unethical Donald Trump, who will do anything to win.

Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz (R., Fla.), himself possessed of somewhat dubious ethics alarms, told Fox News that that Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody  might launch a criminal investigation of Bloomberg (actually the non-profit organization that he is funding) for vote purchasing. That looks like a stretch. The relevant law, Section 104.061, Corruptly influencing voting, states, Continue reading

To Be Fair, Some Conservatives ARE Hysterical Over The SCOTUS Decision in Bostock….

… which is sad. Gerald Bostock, Aimee Stephens and Donald Zarda, the appellants in the three cases decided yesterday, were discriminated against by their employers for no other reason than what they were, or had decided to be.  In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court decided that this breached  the landmark 1964  civil rights legislation which banned discrimination in the workplace on the basis of race, religion, and gender, or what the law called “sex.”

This morning I criticized the Times for a cut line  in its print edition that read “A Trump justice delivers an LGBT ruling that demoralizes the Right” as a gross exaggeration and “psychic news” —how does the Times know that conservatives are “demoralized”? However, I did recently encounter an article in The Federalist by a conservative who not only was apparently demoralized by the decision, but driven to the edge of madness. In all fairness, I thought I should mention it.

Joy Pullman, the author, is a Hillsdale College grad and an executive editor of the Federalist, which will lead me to be a bit more careful using the magazine as a source in the future.

As a preface, I note that Pullman isn’t a lawyer, and I see nothing in her background that suggests qualifications to analyze a Supreme Court decision. Indeed, I see nothing in the article that suggests that she read the majority opinion and the dissents. I’m guessing that she read a news article about the decision, or maybe a critical blog post. Well, a non-lawyer can only criticize a SCOTUS ruling according to his or her policy and ideological preferences. I don’t know why the Federalist would entrust an essay about the decision to someone like Pullman, though she is an executive editor.

Hear are some extreme and irresponsible statements from the piece, which has an extreme and irresponsible title that kindly warns us of the hysteria to come: “SCOTUS’s Transgender Ruling Firebombs The Constitution”: Continue reading

In A 6-3 Vote, SCOTUS Holds That Workplace Discrimination Against Gay and Transgender Employees Violates Existing Federal Law

Back in October I wrote about these cases, including the case involving whether businesses requiring employees to dress in traditional gender-specific garb discriminated against transgender workers without violating federal civil rights law.  Solicitor General Noel Francisco and other Justice Department attorneys argued just that , claiming that Congress didn’t intend to include transgender status when it passed Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (I think that’s obvious), so the law’s ban on discrimination because of “sex” referred only to unequal treatment of men and women in the workplace.  In  R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Justice Department opposed the position of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that the firing of  former funeral home director Aimee Stephens after she announced she would transition from male to female violated the Act, arguing that redefining sex discrimination was a job for Congress, not the courts. I wrote at the time,

It seems clear that giving LGBTQ Americans the same protection against discrimination as other minorities is the ethical course. This seems to be a technical dispute over whether the Courts or Congress should  fix the problem. That argument is worth having, and I would not be shocked in a SCOTUS majority said that the omission in the law was unjust, but it was not the Court’s job to fix it. In the long run, it will be illegal to discriminate against LGBTQ citizens in the workplace, as it should be. The only question is how drawn out, angry and divisive the process will be to get there.

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Mail-in Voting Ethics

Ann Althouse flagged this tweet by “Dilbert” cartoonist/Trump-whisperer Scott Adams, and as is her wont sometimes (unfortunately), uses it to get tangled up in the logical conundrums she finds amusing. I’m not sufficiently amused: Adams is wrong, but he did put his finger on one of the problems with mail voting that advocates for the process refuse to acknowledge.

There is only one way to complete a vote: the voter does something that directly registers his or her choice without any intervening agency or process. No voting procedure that permits voting with intervening agency or process is sufficiently secure and reliable. Those who advocate such systems are to be viewed with suspicion and presumptions of either bad intent or faulty reasoning.

Both Adams and Althouse seem to be laboring under the misconception that someone who accepts the responsibility of mailing someone’s vote has a choice. Such an individual is, under the law, a gratuitous bailee, meaning that they have accepted an obligation without compensation. That means that if they fail the obligation, the one whose task they defaulted on usually has no legal recourse, but it doesn’t change the ethical situation at all. The gratuitous bailee promised to do something for someone, that individual relied on their promise, and the “friend” engaged in betrayal. Continue reading