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.

Continue reading

Waning 2020 Ethics Warm-Up

hour_glass

A reader reports that he can’t pull up Ethics Alarms on Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge. Is anyone else having this problem?

Wasn’t it nice when we naively assumed that such things were just technical glitches and not part of Big Tech’s increasingly intrusive alliance with the totalitarian-minded forces of the extreme Left?

1. Embrace the narrative. “Louisiana Congressman-elect Luke Letlow dies with COVID-19” is just one of many headlines announcing that the 41-year-old Representative-elect died from the Wuhan virus. So far, every headline I’ve seen is some version of this. Letlow died of a heart attack, in fact, during some un-named procedure related to his treatment for the virus. People die of unexpected heart attacks with some frequency during hospital procedures for other problems, and the cause of death is usually listed as “heart attack.” Maybe the virus caused his death and maybe it didn’t, but the headlines stating this as fact is more pandemic fearmongering, and. yes, fake news.

2. Good. You will recall that Twitter censored The New York Post’s account of the incriminating Hunter Biden laptop being found because it claimed that the business memos, photos of a Hunter using illegal drugs, and other disturbing photos came from a “hacker,” when Twitter’s real objective was, it seems fair to conclude, to keep as many people as possible from learning about matters that might cause them not to vote for Hunter’s father. Now the computer repair company’s owner is  suing Twitter for $500,000,000.00 for libel, defamation, and ruining his business, claiming that the social media giant disparaged him.

3. One more reason to distrust the election results: President Donald Trump topped former President Barack Obama for the title of most admired man in America in Gallup’s 2020 survey. Trump had tied with Obama in 2019 while Obama beat him in 2017 and 2018. President Joe Biden came in third. Obama had been #1 since 2008.

Don’t you find this strange?

Continue reading

Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/28/20: Happy Birthday, Woodrow Wilson!

2020 end

As 2020 staggers to a conclusion, Ethics Alarms wants to express its gratitude to the core of devoted Alarmist commentators who kept the dialogue going during what is always an annual cratering of blog traffic. I appreciate it. I also appreciated the many kind holiday wishes, in what has been a muted Christmas for the Marshalls for a number of reasons I won’t bore you with.

In case you were among the missing, I draw your attention to…

…among other hopefully edifying and entertaining posts.

1. After signalling otherwise or perhaps just trolling, President Trump signed the truly awful pandemic relief and omnibus spending bill, really sending the national debt into orbit. One theory is that doing so was necessary to avoid a Democratic sweep of the two Senate seats up for grabs in Georgia. I will file the event as one more car on the Wuhan Virus Ethics Train Wreck, and one that will do more damage in the long run than most of them.

2. In Nevada, Gabrielle Clark filed a federal lawsuit against her son’s charter school last week for refusing to let him opt out of a mandatory class that promotes anti-white racism. It claims that Democracy Prep at the Agassi Campus forced William Clark “to make professions about his racial, sexual, gender and religious identities in verbal class exercises and in graded, written homework assignments,” creating a hostile environment, and subjecting he son’s statements ” to the scrutiny, interrogation and derogatory labeling of students, teachers and school administrators,” who are “still are coercing him to accept and affirm politicized and discriminatory principles and statements that he cannot in conscience affirm.” The lawsuit includes nearly 150 pages of exhibits documenting the curriculum in the graduation requirement “Sociology of Change,” which promotes intersectionality and critical race theory, in breach of what was promised when the Clark’s first sent their son to the school.

Continue reading

Unethical . . . But Funny! Well, Stupid, Really . . .

Gross netting

This week, Superior Court Judge Kimberly Knill ordered the billionaire bond investor Bill Gross and his partner Amy Schwartz, to stop violating the noise ordinances of the Laguna Beach municipal code by playing the “Gilligan’s Island” theme song music on their outdoor speakers. Evidence showed that music was played so loudly it could be heard inside neighbor Mark Towfiq’s—he’s also a billionaire— home despite concrete construction and half-inch-thick, dual-pane windows.

Why was the couple inflicting the infamous earworm on their neighbor? It seems the music started when Towfiw objected to the Gross estate erecting the ugly plastic netting around a huge glass sculpture that they had installed in their back yard. When he complained, Gross, 76, and Schwartz, 51 retaliated by claiming their neighbor was a Peeping Tom. Then the the couple started inviting him to sit right down as they told a tale about a three hour tour, night after night.

The litigation, which involved teams of high-priced lawyers on both sides, commenced November 9. A city code enforcement official testified that Gross and Schwartz said they would lower the music if Towfiq dropped his complaint about the sculpture. Towfiq’s lawyers presented a text from Gross responding to their client’s request to turn down the music in which Gross wrote, “Peace on all fronts or well just have nightly concerts big boy.”

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Insomnia, 11/29/2020: No Wonder I Can’t Sleep!

1. I hate 99.9% of the petitions offered at Change.org. but I’m signing this one . It reads,

Professor Dorian Abbot, a tenured faculty member in the Department of Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago, has recently come under attack from students and postdocs for a series of videos he posted to YouTube expressing his reservations about the way Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts have been discussed and implemented on campus.
In these videos Prof. Abbot raised several misgivings about DEI efforts and expressed concern that a climate of fear is “making it extremely difficult for people with dissenting viewpoints to voice their opinions.” The slides for each of Prof. Abbot’s videos can be found here, and his own account of events and his opinions can be found here. Nowhere in these materials does Prof. Abbot offer any opinion that a reasonable observer would consider to be hateful or otherwise offensive.

Shortly after uploading the videos, Abbot’s concerns were confirmed when 58 students and postdocs of the Department of Geophysical Sciences, and 71 other graduate students and postdocs from other University of Chicago departments, posted a letter containing the claim that Prof. Abbot’s opinions “threaten the safety and belonging of all underrepresented groups within the [Geophysical Sciences] department” and “represent an aggressive act” towards research and teaching communities.

[Pointer: Pennagain]

2. “Hello, Newman...” According to the Postal Service’s own records, more than 150,000 mail-in ballots were not delivered in time for them to be counted on election day. This is, of course, as I and anyone else who was paying attention expected and predicted, because the USPS is undependable

I am surprised that the number was that low.

Continue reading

It Shouldn’t Require A “Theocracy” to Decide THIS Lawsuit Correctly

The Capitol Hill Baptist Church in the District of Columbia, is suing Mayor Muriel Bowser and the District government for violating its First Amendment right to worship.

Good.

“CHBC desires to gather for a physical, corporate gathering of believers in the District of Columbia on Sunday, September 27, 2020, and on subsequent Sundays, and would do so but for those actions of the Defendants that are the subject of this Complaint,” the lawsuit charges. It seems pretty clear that Bowser is applying one set of rules against religious institutions and another set of piorities entirely when it comes to activities she cares about. In March, Bowser (Is she the most unethical big city mayor in the U.S.? She’s certainly in the running, but it’s a tough field) issued an executive order prohibiting churches from meeting indoors or out because of public health concerns related to the pandemic. D.C.’s  four-stage plan would bar in-person worship gatherings until there is an “effective cure or vaccine” for the Wuhan virus, a rule that can be counted on to wound, perhaps mortally, church communities that have been built up over many decades. Right now gatherings are supposedly limited to 100 people or up to 50 percent of the building’s capacity, whichever is fewer. The 850-member Capitol Hill Baptist Church  has been meeting in a field in Virginia.

The 142-year-old congregation explains in its suit that “a weekly in-person worship gathering of the entire congregation is a religious conviction for which there is no substitute. The Church does not offer virtual worship services, it does not utilize a multi-site model, and it does not offer multiple Sunday morning worship services.”

The church’s covenant, to which all members must agree, pledges that they “will not forsake the assembling of [them]selves together,” as decreed in the Bible.  The church’s website explains,

“Since its founding in 1878, CHBC has met in-person every Sunday except for three weeks during the Spanish Flu in 1918. That changed following Mayor Bowser’s first orders concerning COVID-19 on March 11, 2020. Since that time, the members of CHBC—most of whom live in the District—have been unable to meet in person, as one congregation inside District limits (even outdoors)….CHBC has applied for multiple waivers to the policy. District officials refuse to provide CHBC with a waiver beyond 100 persons as part of a mass gathering…A church is not a building that can be opened and closed. A church is not an event to be watched. A church is a community that gathers regularly and that community should be treated fairly by the District government.”

Fairly? On June 10, the church asked for a waiver so the congregation could meet at currently abandoned RFK Stadium, which is large enough to permit social distancing. The mayor’s office didn’t respond to the request and subsequent appeals until September 15, and then issued a rejection stating that “[w]aivers for places of worship above that expanded capacity (100 attendees) are not being granted at this time.” Continue reading

Lazy Sunday Afternoon Ethics, 8/30/2020: A Letter, A Slapdown, A Poll, Sherlock Holmes, And A Dinosaur Walk Into An Ethics Post…

1. Oh-oh…Ethics Alarms has been and will continue to use “Wuhan virus” rather than various versions of Covid or corona virus as a matter of principle. China inflicted this contagion on the world and greatly abetted its spread by its cover-ups and lies, and pandemics and flus usually are identified by their site of origin. Furthermore, the political correctness edict against using the province where the first outbreak (we know of occurred) was yet another anti-Trump ploy, simultaneously covering for a brutal foreign adversary.

Syracuse University placed chemistry Professor Jon Zubieta on administrative leave and will be investigated by its Office of Equal Opportunity, Inclusion and Resolution because he used the terms “Wuhan Flu” and “Chinese Communist Party Virus” in his syllabus. In a joint statement from Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Karin Ruhlandt and Interim Vice Chancellor and Provost John Liu, explained,

“Syracuse University unequivocally condemns racism and xenophobia and rejects bigotry, hate and intolerance of any kind. The derogatory language used by a professor on his course syllabus is damaging to the learning environment for our students and offensive to Chinese, international and Asian-Americans everywhere who have experienced hate speech, rhetoric and actions since the pandemic began.”

There is no racism here, and the theory, much in vogue, that  irrational people reacting to factual statements by persecuting others justifies suppresng the truth is unethical and perverse.

2.  Res Ipsa Loquitur. This is the letter Portland mayor Ted Wheeler sent to the President of the United States.

Wow. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/28/2020: A Bad Couple Of Months For Museums And Sexual Predators

Good morning!

1. Related to absolutely nothing anyone is currently thinking about...I was re-watching “Spotlight” to remind myself that the news media sometimes does its job, and again was reminded how Hollywood constantly makes Americans more ignorant by its sheer arrogance and laziness. The film, which reasonably accurately recounts how the Boston Globe’s investigative “Spotlight” team broke the story of the extensive Catholic Church cover-up of pedophile priests, a scandal still unfolding now, 20 years later, has a scene in which a lawyer who represents the victims of such priests tells a reporter that he’s effective because he’s an “outsider.” “I’m Armenian,” he says. “How many Armenians do you know in Boston?” Having been brought up in Boston, I know that the answer to this question is “A LOT.” Boston was a center of Armenian immigration at the turn of the 20th Century, and its Armenian community, in the city and especially the suburbs, is huge and influential. There are many Armenian organizations as well. In Arlington, Mass., where my family lived, Armenian-Americans were prominent in business and government. The little side street where we lived, Brunswick Road, had ten families living on it: the Marshalls, the Gares, and the Moreland,  the Zeffs (who were Jewish, then two Sakoians, the Nazarians, the Catherians, the Berbarians, and the Masmanians. Just Googling “Boston Armenian conmmunity” would have let the film-makers know the scene was nonsense, and they couldn’t be bothered.

2. And speaking of  sexual predators…the cover-up of sexual predators in the coaching ranks for Olympic sports is being exposed slowly but surely.  Last month a lawsuit was filed against Richard Callaghan, an elite American figure skating coach best known for coaching Tara Lipinski to an Olympic gold medal in 1998 and coaching Todd Eldredge to a world title and six national championships. The suit alleges ongoing sexual abuse of one skater that endured over two decades. Callaghan’s victims were male, not female, but the story is familiar: parents guilelessly entrust their talented athletic children to mentor/coaches in swimming, skating, and gymnastics, without considering for a moment what attracts many of these people to working with children and teens.

Another sport that is coming to terms with a sexual predator is equestrian competition.  George Morris, an Olympics equestrian coach known as  a “kingmaker” for his success with riders,  was barred for life from the sport by the United States Equestrian Federation  based on an investigation of alleged sexual misconduct He is now facing lawsuits filed this month by two people claiming that he raped them as teenagers. Jimmy Williams, another  riding coach who guided many Olympians and  was also named in a lawsuit by a woman who said Williams had sexually assaulted her from the ages of 12 to 17.  Though Williams died in 1993, he was recorded as barred for life from the federation in 2018—yes, a dead man was banned for life— after an investigation by The New York Times revealed accusations by nearly a dozen women, including the Olympian Anne Kursinski, that he had preyed upon them as girls.

Parents are so desperate to live vicariously through their offspring that they willingly hand their kids over to the care of predators. I’m sorry to say this, but absent thorough, thorough investigation, it is irresponsible to trust these coaches. The history and what we know of human nature presents too much of a risk.

The same applies to allowing children to work in professional theater, TV, and movies. Continue reading

No, The Trump Campaign Is Not “Stealing” Neil Young’s Songs

Despite what you may have read, Neil Young is being a jerk.  This month, the singer sued the Trump campaign over its use of “Rockin’ in the Free World” and  “Devil’s Sidewalk,” both of which were played at a Trump  rally in  June. In his suit, the musician accused the campaign of copyright infringement for playing the tracks without a license, and asked for the campaign to be ordered to stop using them, as well as for statutory damages.

It’s a dishonest suit. The real reason for it is also in the complaint, in which he says Young “cannot allow his music to be used as a ‘theme song’ for a divisive, un-American campaign of ignorance and hate.”

Of course, it is the party Young’s sympathies presumably  lie with that have been inflicting hate and ignorance on the U.S., but never mind.

Young was on sounder legal and ethical ground in 2018, when he wrote that he had  no legal recourse to stop Trump from using his music, writing on his website, “Legally, he has the right to, however it goes against my wishes.”

Well too damn bad, Neil. You sold your right to have your wishes obeyed in such matters. You’re just virtue-signaling, and I hope the Trump Campaign counter-sues.

Campaigns purchase the same right to play songs that radio stations, shopping malls  or concert halls do by paying for blanket licensing deals with licensing companies like ASCAP and BMI. They act as agents of artists to sell the public performance rights for millions of songs on their behalf, including Neil Young, in exchange for a fee. Campaigns purchase special licenses , allowing them to use songs at venues around the country.  The licensing organizations’ consent decrees with the Justice Department preserve a fair marketplace by requiring them to offer their catalogs of songs to any “similarly situated” party that wants to use the music. Continue reading