Tag Archives: lawsuits

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/16/2017: SNL, NFL, Collusion, Gossip, And Bribery

Good Morning.

1 Why am I only now getting around to today’s Warm-Up? It is because I spent more than 8 hours over the weekend, and three hours this morning, writing a Motion to Dismiss in response to a ridiculous, retaliatory, vindictive lawsuit by a pro se litigant with a grudge. The complaint has no legal cites, because no legal authority supports its claims. I, however, have to cite cases to show why the Complaint is completely without merit. Since the Complaint is a brain-rotting 18 pages, I have to carefully redact it to have a prayer of meeting the 20 page limit for motions. Even then, there is no guarantee that this won’t drag on for months.

No penalty will be exacted on the plaintiff for filing this spurious and groundless law suit. To do so would chill the right of citizens to seek justice and redress for wrongs through the courts. Thus the underlying objective of the suit will be accomplished: to force me to expend time and effort that I have far better uses for. Ethics Alarms readers are affected, my family is effected, my work is affected, my enjoyment of life is affected, and, of course, the system and the taxpayers who fund it are affected. This is an abuse of the system, but one that cannot and must not be impeded.

2. Does anyone have a theory about why the bribery trial of Democratic Senator Bob Menendez has received minimal mainstream media coverage that does not show bias? When Abscam was going on, the trials of the various members of Congress caught in a bribery sting were front page, Evening News headlines for weeks. The only U.S. Senator tried (and convicted) was a Democrat Harrison Williams. Has the news media become that much more partisan since the Reagan Administration?

3. As expected, exiled NFL kneeler (first) and quarterback (second) Colin Kaepernick has filed a grievance accusing NFL teams of colluding to prevent him from getting a contract with any team this season.

We’ve been here before. This is the Barry Bonds scenario all over again. Bonds, the definitive ethics corrupter in Major League Baseball and a flagrant steroid cheat and liar, was not resigned by the San Francisco Giants after the 2007 season. He was 42, but his season had been productive, with a 1.o45 OPS, close to the best in the game. I wrote an article for The Hardball Times arguing that Bonds would not be signed, because doing so would permanently scar any team that accepted him, injure the team’s culture, corrupt its young players, and wound baseball itself. The invective hurled at me and my article by sportswriters and readers was unrelenting. ESPN’s Keith Law said that my essay made anyone who read it stupid. MLB’s satellite channel’s hosts laughed about the idea that teams cared about such matters as integrity. Bonds, however, was not signed, and never played again. While he and his defenders claimed collusion among the owners, no evidence appeared. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/12/2017: Ben Affleck Is Called A Liar, A Blind Man Wants to See Websites, The Boy Scouts Want Girls, And More…

Good Morning!

1 Tales of Moral Luck: Yankee manager Joe Girardi was facing a possible post-season firing for an embarrassing  botch during the second game of the American League Divisional Series against the Cleveland Indians. NY had lost the second game, putting them in an 0-2 hole in a best of 5 series, after an Indian batter’s foul tip into the catcher’s glove for strike three and the inning’s final out was mistakenly ruled a hit by pitch, loading the bases. Replay showed that the ball had hit the knob of the bat, not the batter’s hand, but Girardi didn’t call for a replay review even though his catcher demanding one.  The HBP loaded the bases, and the next batter hit a decisive grand slam. Girardi made things worse in his post-game comments by spinning and rationalizing, then finally took responsibility the next day. He also admitted that he didn’t realize that managers had two challenges in the play-offs, when they had only one a game during the regular season.

Yesterday, the Yankees completed a remarkable comeback, winning three straight games to defeat the odds-on favorites to represent the American League in the World Series. Girardi’s bad judgment, poor preparation and immediate resort to excuses when he undermined his team’s chances no longer matters. He was saved by moral luck, just as earlier he had been slammed by moral luck. After all, if the next batter in Game 2 has popped up harmlessly, ending the inning without any damage, Girardi’s terrible mistake would have been a footnote to a Yankee victory.

Now it’s a footnote again.

Moral Luck.

2. WHOA!  Didn’t see THAT coming! TWITTER just boarded the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck!

Actress Rose McGowan, one of Weinstein’s victims who reached a $100,000 settlement with the Hollywood serial harasser 20 years ago and  who is now on the attack having decided that she doesn’t want to be a Hollywood actress any more, has been using social media to condemn actors and executives who enabled Weinstein, writing in one tweet, “you all knew.” Recently, after Ben Affleck  tweeted that the allegations against  Weinstein “made him sick,” McGowan called him out on Twitter.:

@benaffleck “GODDAMNIT! I TOLD HIM TO STOP DOING THAT” you said that to my face. The press conf I was made to go to after assault. You lie.

Twitter suspended her account. In response, McGowran wrote on Instagram.

TWITTER HAS SUSPENDED ME. THERE ARE POWERFUL FORCES AT WORK. BE MY VOICE. #ROSEARMY #whywomendontreport

These social media platforms are untrustworthy. All of them.

McGowan, meanwhile, is fast approaching Ethics Hero territory. Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “The ‘Unacceptable Word’ Fiasco: OK, Now I Really Want To Know How Many Progressives Seriously Endorse Stuff Like This?”

I don’t know if anyone regularly commenting here cares about the punishment of the acting student for his politically incorrect choice of words in an improv exercise as much as Curmie (above) and I do, but we care about it a lot.  As with the Ethics Alarms baseball ethics posts, the various theatrical ethics posts here sink quickly in readership, which, I’m afraid, speaks to a regrettable narrowness of vision. Ethical issues are seldom restricted in their applicability to the specific area in which they arise. I’m especially sensitive to ethics issues others might miss in certain areas where I have a lot of experience and expertise. The same is true, obviously, with Curmie.

Incidentally, I again urge readers to check on Curmie’s blog routinely. He has been through a light writing period of late, but when he speaks, as they once said of E.F. Hutton, people listen, or should. And maybe we can get him writing more again. I know of no more thoughtful, fair, and eloquent blogger, regardless of the topic.

See Curmie? The pressure’s on now!

Here is Curmie’s Comment of the Day on the post, The “Unacceptable Word” Fiasco: OK, Now I Really Want To Know How Many Progressives Seriously Endorse Stuff Like This?:

I am not an acting teacher by trade, but I have taught about two dozen sections of various college-level acting courses over the years. I’ve also taught directing maybe 15 times, and I’ve directed about 40 full-length plays (and a bunch of one-acts)—I’ve used improv techniques in the classroom and in rehearsal many times, although perhaps fewer than some of my colleagues of equivalent experience may have done.

It is remotely possible that the professor, Craig Rosen, imposed some restrictions on the exercise. I’ve done this. For example, if a student is working on a period piece and the language is, shall we say, less explicit than that of a work by David Mamet or Neil Labute or Sarah Kane might be, that young actor may be having trouble finding the anger a character feels if the verbal expression of it seems mild by 21st-century standards.

I’m reminded of working on a book chapter about an Irish version of Chekhov’s Three Sisters. The translator/adapter had Masha, one of the title characters, refer to her sister-in-law as a “bitch.” I happened to have access to a good friend and native Russian speaker, who also happened to be a scholar of dramatic literature. No, she said, Masha’s expletive doesn’t really translate that way… but for her expression of class-driven disgust to have the same effect on a modern audience that Masha’s line would have had in Tsarist Russia, she’d have to call Natasha a “fucking shopkeeper.” Continue reading

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The “Unacceptable Word” Fiasco: OK, Now I Really Want To Know How Many Progressives Seriously Endorse Stuff Like This?

I just received an email from the Democratic National Committee urging me to protest Betsy DeVos’s (completely valid and overdue) withdrawal of the “Dear Colleague Letter” by which the Obama Department of Education pressured universities into dispensing with due process when a male student is accused of sexual assault. “Tell Trump and DeVos not to undo President Obama’s policies to combat sexual assault on campus!” it bleats. The e-mail blast (if I ever find out who put me on this list, there will be blood), quotes DeVos, as if this advances their case, as saying, “If everything is harassment, then nothing is harassment.”

The Education Secretary was exactly right, and a story today from Reason shows why.

Joshua Zale, a student at Moraine Valley Community College, was asked by his drama instructor to play a pimp asking for money from another student, playing the role of a prostitute in an improvisation exercise. Improvisation means that the actors work without a script. In the process of the improv, Zale used an “unacceptable word” according to the instructor, who was apparently improvising the role of a fool. The teacher immediately reprimanded Zale, who later insisted on a private meeting to learn why he had been attackedfor using a word he felt was consistent with  the role he had been assigned.  Assistant Dean Lisa Kelsay subsequently accused  Zale of violating Title IX—the weapon of choice in the “Dear Colleague Letter”—and school conduct policies by sexually harassing his acting partner “as a woman.”

No one has yet divulged what this “unacceptable” word was. I have taught improvisation. I am a pretty creative guy, with a fairly extensive vocabulary. I cannot imagine any word, from Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis to supercalifragilisticexpialidocious to Bill Maher’s favorite, cunt, to “penis breath,” uttered by a child in the opening minutes of “E.T.”, that would be “inappropriate” in an improv, especially in a scene involving a sex worker and a pimp.

As you know, ethics stories often remind me of TV shows and movies. This one (see the video clip above)  reminds me of a famous “MASH” episode, “The General Flipped At Dawn,” in which Harry Morgan, later to play lovable, crusty old Col. Potter, played an insane general. Reviewing the MASH squad, he asks Radar, “Where are you from, son?” Radar answers, “Iowa, sir..” only to have the General scream, “NO TALKING IN RANKS!!!!”

Maybe the improv instructor, Craig Rosen, flipped too. That would be an excuse, at least. But how do you explain the Assistant Dean? Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/31/17: Southern Poverty Law Center Edition

A Cayman Islands sunrise!

Good Morning, Everyone!

1.For the second time in two months, I had the wrong date on yesterday’s Warm-Up. This time, I was six days off. That’s incompetence, not malice. If I made anyone miss a birthday, anniversary of other appointment, I am so, so sorry.

2. D. James Kennedy Ministries of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, an evangelical Christian ministry, is suing the Southern Poverty Law Center for calling the ministry a hate group because of its stance against LGBT rights. The SPLC is an Alabama-based, self-styled  watchdog group that tracks tracks what it considers extremist organizations, and it publicly names organizations it considers hate groups. It considers hate groups to be any group that is sufficiently aggressive in opposing certain core progressive positions. The entire operation is a masterpiece of self-validating virtue. The name was carefully chosen to signal unimpeachable virtue: it’s “Southern,” so its stance against discrimination is obviously defient and in opposition to its surrounding culture and biases. Though little of its activity involves poverty, the name also signals charity and virtuous motives.  What’s a law center? Well. I grdauted from one, and that was a law school. The Southern Poverty Law Center isn’t a law school, but doesn’t the name sound impressive? Originally, the SPLC acted as a public interest law firm (I would call its use of “law center” misleading, and a breach of several states’ legal ethics rules if it were still a law firm), but now it is a progressive activist and propaganda organization. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but part of its schtick is to designate organizations as hate groups because, well, they say so. Then the left-leaning news media accepts their verdict as fact. You will read articles saying that there are 917 hate groups in the U.S. No, there are 917 groups the Southern Poverty Law Center calls “hate groups.” .Many of the organizations on the SPLC’s list are undeniably racist and violent. Many are not, or may not be. Lumping them all together as “hate groups” is an effective way to demonize dissent. “Hate group” has no accepted definition, but SPLC defines a ‘general hate group” thusly: “These groups espouse a variety of rather unique hateful doctrines and beliefs that are not easily categorized.”

Got it. The Southern Poverty Law Center is a hate group by its own definition. To be a reliable arbiter of whether a group is promoting hate rather than a just a controversial policy position, a group would have to be non-partisan, objective and politically neutral. all things that the SPLC is not. This is an organization that designated groups that espouse view that it hates as hate groups.

I hate that. Continue reading

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Ethics Dunce: Federal Judge Gary Feinerman

(I am going to eschew cheese jokes in this post, and I expect some credit for it.)

We recently learned that grated parmesan cheese often contains  cellulose powder.  This icky fact spawned dozens of lawsuits against Kraft, Heinz, Walmart, Target, Albertsons, Publix, and others, alleging consumer fraud by selling products with labels claiming that the contents were “100% grated parmesan cheese,” or words to that effect.

Since the  lawsuits all made the same claims, they were consolidated into one multi-district litigation overseen by a federal judge Gary Feinerman in Illinois. Judge Feinerman dismissed the litigation last week, ruling that “100% grated parmesan cheese” is an ambiguous statement that is open to multiple interpretations.

Judge Feinerman doesn’t understand deceit.

“Although ‘100% grated parmesan cheese’ might be interpreted as saying that the product is 100% cheese and nothing else, it also might be an assertion that 100% of the cheese is parmesan cheese, or that the parmesan cheese is 100% grated,”he wrote in his ruling. “Reasonable consumers would thus need more information before concluding that the labels promised only cheese and nothing more, and they would know exactly where to look to investigate — the ingredient list. Doing so would inform them that the product contained non-cheese ingredients.”

Each of the products involved, the judge noted, listed cellulose and the other ingredients on the label, along with the fact that the cellulose is added ‘to prevent caking.’”

“100% Grated Parmesan Cheese” might also mean “I did not have sex with that woman,” I guess. The companies didn’t put that legend on the packages to let consumers know that the cheese is “100% grated.” They put it there to mislead consumers, and try to ensure that they didn’t read that there were wood chips in their cheese. This is classic deceit, and the judge is letting companies get away with it.

The judge smugly asserts that a reasonable consumer would know that pure cheese is not shelf-stable at room temperature and couldn’t sit in sealed packaging in a grocery store for long periods of time. “Cheese is a dairy product, after all, and reasonable consumers are well aware that pure dairy products spoil, grow blue, green, or black fuzz, or otherwise become inedible if left refrigerated for an extended period of time,” he writes, and thus “would still suspect that something other than cheese might be in the container, and so would turn it around, enabling them to learn the truth from a quick skim of the ingredient label.”

Except that the labeling was designed to hide the truth, mislead buyers, and gull them into believing that it was “100% grated parmesan cheese,” like  the package said.

The judge is coming perilously closed to the old, discredited “let the buyer beware” standard that opened the door for outrageous and often dangerous consumer fraud.  I guess the judge is saying I’m an idiot: when I saw a label that said “100% grated parmesan cheese,” I didn’t assume that it mean “8% other crap.”  I assumed that it meant “100% grated parmesan cheese.”

I always wondered how that Kraft box stayed in my mother’s cupboard so long, though. But my mom also kept catsup, mustard and other condiments for decades.

We used to get sick a lot, now that I think about it…

The ruling isn’t a breach of judicial ethics, just a bad ruling that encourages deception by excusing deceit.

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No, You Lazy Conservative Journalists, A Court Did NOT Rule That The DNC AND Wasserman Schultz Rigged The Nomination Against Bernie

Find another occupation where your stupidity and incompetence doesn’t make the public stupid and ignorant.

“Court Admits DNC and Wasserman Schultz Rigged Primary Against Sanders,” screamed the headline of the Washington Observor, and other sources, including conservative blogs, followed the theme. This was the essence of Fake News, and like most fake news, the result of bias and incompetence, plus unprofessional editors.

In June of 2016, a class action lawsuit was filed against the Democratic National Committee and former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz for rigging the Democratic presidential primaries for Hillary Clinton and against Bernie Sanders. The plaintiff class was made up of Sanders donors and other, and immediately smelled like a publicity stunt. The theory was that the DNC violated its own charter, but the likelihood of prevailing was virtually nil from the start. I didn’t read a single authority who thought it had a prayer.

Sure enough, the lawsuit was dismissed last week in federal court on the grounds that the plaintiffs lacked standing and the suit was a guaranteed loser. Federal Judge William Zloch, dismissed the lawsuit, saying,

“In evaluating Plaintiffs’ claims at this stage, the Court assumes their allegations are true—that the DNC and Wasserman Schultz held a palpable bias in favor Clinton and sought to propel her ahead of her Democratic opponent.”

That means that for the purpose of the decision whether to allow the lawsuit to proceed, the judge assumed that everything the plaintiffs claim was true. It doesn’t mean that they had proved their case, or that the judge has ruled that the DNC and Debbie Wasserman Schultz did what is alleged. Law professor Jonathan Turley explains, Continue reading

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