From The Ethics Alarms Archives: “Slow Loris Ethics: Great, Now Even The Smithsonian is Hyping!”

[The latest entry in the periodic series of old Ethics Alarms posts I had completely forgotten about was dredged from my memory by a Geico commeicial featuring a sloth that a woman in the ad calls a badger. Naturally, this prompted me to think about the distinction between slow lorises and pottos, and from there to this 2013 post, which, I was surprised to discover, wasn’t really about that. My mind is a strange and terrible thing.]

If we can’t even trust the Smithsonian not to lie to us, what hope is there?

The February issue of the Smithsonian magazine arrived, full of articles about origins and evolution. I immediately gravitated to the essay about komodo dragons, whose bite, as those of you who have been bitten by one know, is poisonous. In a colorful sidebar to the main article was a smaller note about the wide range of other animals that poison their victims, titled “Pick Your Poison.”

“The komodo dragon may be the newest addition to the elite corps of predators that kill with chemistry, but the venomous world is already more diverse than people realize,” it began. The note was illustrated by photos of a duck-billed platypus (owner of a leg spur with a poison gland that gives the thing quite a kick); the tiny Pacific cone snail, which can kill a human; the black mamba, the snake that had a co-starring role as an assassin in “Kill Bill, Part 2,” and…a slow loris???

The little, big-eyed, furry, cute Asian primate is venomous? That was a surprise. The article included no details, just noting that the slow loris was the only “venomous primate.” I managed to pass along this information as fact to my wife and two friends before bedtime (it takes so little to excite me these days!), and this morning dived into the web to learn the details of the slow loris’s poison. What I discovered was even more shocking than the original note. The Smithsonian magazine was hyping, and badly at that. Continue reading

Can We Agree That Polls Are Just A Form Of Fake News?

 

A couple of week before the Mueller Report’s summary was released, one  poll announced that Trump’s approval had finally topped 51%.  Then it dived again because of some  dumb tweet or bad news. After the report came out and there were no smoking impeachment guns, we were told that it was ominous that the President’s approval rating hadn’t moved.  Then it did move–up—in some polls, but after the “I’m fucked!” story, it moved down. Meanwhile, the Biden and Bernie polling race continued like the climax in “Seabiscuit,” but it was Pete Buttigieg’s polls that had everyone talking, since they had increased exponentially, though only into single digits still. Then, as Joe Biden’s entry into the race approached, Drudge announced a shock poll yesterday: Good Ol’ Joe led the President by 8 percentage points in a hypothetical run against Trump. Run, Joe, Run!

Issues & Insights offers a useful perspective on all of these polls: Continue reading

Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

I don’t think it is too much to ask for the Speaker of the House to comprehend the limits of her power and position, do you?

Yesterday, as Nancy Pelosi officially seized the gavel from Republican Speaker Paul Ryan, she  declared that she is equal to the President:

Asked if she considers herself Mr. Trump’s equal, she replied, “The Constitution does.”

The mainstream media, invested in defending and bolstering Pelosi, are already spinning the exchange to mean merely that Pelosi considers women the equal of men, and that the Constitution obviously (now) embodies that principle. However, that would have been a question and answer neither worth asking or answering. The question was whether Pelosi, as Speaker, felt that she was the equal of the President in power and Constitutional authority, and she replied in the affirmative to cheers from the “resistance.” Here’s Scott Dworkin, for example, frequent MSNBC contributor and  co-founder of the Democratic Coalition on Twitter:

“The Constitution considers me equal to Trump.” Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Damn straight. Trump is not the boss of Congress, no matter what Trump’s lapdogs Ryan & McConnell made it look like. Speaker Pelosi reminds us how the pathetic GOP is owned by Trump. Weak & useless pushovers.

Down, boy! Someone get Scott some Prozac. As for Nancy, someone get her a high school civics textbook. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/20/18: I Promise, I’m Looking Hard For Uplifting Ethics Stories For The Holidays. And Failing….

Good morning!

(If I don’t get the lights on the tree  today, I’m hurling myself into a pit of rabid reindeer…)

1. Open Forum report: Another intense, varied, and impressive performance by the Ethics Alarms crew in my absence yesterday. 23 different commenters raised and debated the following issues, many of which I haven’t touched yet, because I am wholly inadequate to my task. Among them:

  • The ethics of fighting a specious criminal charge,
  • Texas’ school districts for making employees sign a pledge not to boycott or advocate against Israel?
  • The bump stock ban
  • The plea deal of Jacob Walter Anderson
  • “The Innocent Man”
  • The Xmas package-snatcher trap.
  •  Stepha Velednitsky
  • “Without Precedent: Chief Justice John Marshall and His Times” by Joel Richard Paul.
  • The yellow vest protests and the meager US coverage of them
  • Prada Monkey
  • Trump’s decision to  pull out of Syria

2.  Favorite dishonest and manipulative note out of many in the 12/18  Times:   Reporters Carl Hulse and Julie Davis write in“Tennessee Senator, A Proven Deal-Maker, Won’t Seek Re-election”…

Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee and one of the last bridges to bipartisanship in the Senate, announced on Monday that he would not seek re-election in 2020…His decision to leave is more evidence that Washington has become less attractive to legislators interested in steering a middle course on seemingly intractable issues such as education and health care….

Fake news, and deliberate distortion. In fact, Alexander’s decision may have nothing to do with the job becoming “less attractive to legislators interested in steering a middle course,” and his own words, meaning his own stated reason for leaving, don’t suggest that at all. Alexander is 78. In 2020, he would be 80, meaning that by the end of a new term he would be 86, or sick, or dead. “I’ve had my turn,”  Alexander is quoted as saying. “Everything comes to an end sometime, and it is good to know when that should be.” He also said that he wants to leave the Senate “at the top of my game.”

The current U.S. news media is untrustworthy, dishonest, incompetent and despicable, and frankly, I am beginning to regard anyone who continues to deny this the same way. Continue reading

Popehat Nails Dershowitz For Misrepresenting The Law

Ken White of Popehat comes out guns blazing to take celebrity lawyer Alan Dershowitz down for misrepresenting the law in several of his increasingly frequent media appearances. Ken nails his target, too. Even the former prosecutor’s characterization that Dershowitz is lying is not excessive or unfair.

You need to read the whole post, for it is superb, thorough and airtight. Here is a precis, however, in Ken’s words, not mine.

The subject of Professor Dershowitz’s dishonesty — for the purpose of this essay — is General Michael Flynn’s lies to FBI agents and his subsequent guilty plea for lying under 18 U.S.C. section 1001. Professor Dershowitz has asserted, repeatedly, that Flynn did not violate Section 1001 because his lies were not “material” — that is, meaningful. He claims that the lies were not “material” because the FBI knew at the time Flynn was lying, and was not fooled…

Dershowitz has promoted the same point explicitly in writing:

When questioning any suspect, officials should not ask questions whose answers they already know, for the sole purpose of seeing whether the suspect will lie. If they do ask such questions, untruthful answers should not be deemed “material” to the investigation, because the FBI already knew the truth.

This is a perfectly arguable statement of what the law should be. But someone reading Dershowitz’s column could be forgiven for thinking that’s what the law is — or, at least, that the law is unsettled on the point. The essay utterly fails to divulge that every court to consider the argument has rejected it….

I am not aware of any cases construing Section 1001 that go the other way. Nor is there any credible indication that the United States Supreme Court would go the other way and decide that a false statement to the government does not violate Section 1001 if the government already knows that it is false. To the contrary, the Court has signaled that it would reject that argument…

n short, there is no credible argument that Alan Dershowitz’s repeated assertion is a correct statement of the law. It would be malpractice to advise a client that way. It would be deceitful to tell students. And it’s dishonest to tell the nation without telling them that this is your theory of what the law should be, without revealing what the law is. Advocates push the boundaries of the law. They ought to. But honest advocacy doesn’t involve lying about the current state of the law. Indeed, lawyers have an ethical obligation to reveal contrary authority when arguing in court, and judges will burn you down to the ground if you don’t. I would argue that legal experts — who trade on their reputation for knowing what the law is — have a similar ethical obligation to reveal when existing law flatly contradicts what they are arguing.

Continue reading

Monday Ethics Warm-Up, 12/3/2018: Christmas Song Banned! Ethics Alarms De-Faced! Sharpton Cashes In!

Good afternoon!

1. Well, is it good to be a patrician President or isn’t it? It depends, obviously, on who you want to bash. Simultaneously with sidelong sneers from the peasant-shirted left about the Bush family’s wealth and isolated status as rich, privileged, white, WASPS for generations, there have been multiple salutes to the same family, and the late George H.W. Bush in particular, for his grace, class, and dignity in office. These things go hand in hand, you know: wealth, privilege, prep schools, “breeding,” and impeccable manners. John Adams, Andrew Jackson, Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Grant, Truman, LBJ, Clinton, and now Trump, all from “lesser” stock, all had their moments when their behavior was attacked as beneath the office they held. Well, all of them were middle class or lower (you can’t get any lower than Andrew Johnson). Ideally, we want our Presidents to arise from the common clay, but to act like aristocrats in all things public.

Of course, many of our “aristocrats” were low-lives of the soul, but adept at keeping their worst conduct hidden from view. Aristocrats have bad habits too, especially as they relate to women. (See: “David Cop-A-Feel.” I’m sorry, I’ll never get over that…)

2. The President will not eulogize George H.W. Bush. Good. If he reads a nice eulogy written by someone else, it will be flat and awkward. If he extemporizes, God knows what he might say. If he extemporizes and is brilliant, witty, moving and inspiring, it will be attacked anyway.

And by the way, I like the red trees.

Anyone who says that the same decorations put up by Michelle Obama or Jackie Kennedy (EVERYONE had weird colored trees in the early Sixties) wouldn’t be hailed as bold, dashing examples of a modern First Lady’s impeccable sense of style is lying, or hasn’t been paying attention the past two years.

3. Nah, there’s no social media platform bias! Apparently Facebook is now censoring Ethics Alarms posts. Over the weekend I heard from several readers whose links to EA posts were taken down because they didn’t comply with “community standards.” None of the posts were extreme, and all employed consistent ethics analysis, but then the “community” on Facebook, including a majority of my Facebook Friends, is politically intolerant, narrow-minded, ideologically rigid and intent upon driving down that nail that sticks out.

4. From the Ethics Alarms “Appearance of Impropriety” Files. Rev. Al Sharpton sold the rights to his life story to his own charity. From the New York Post:

The National Action Network agreed to pay the activist preacher $531,000 for his “life story rights for a 10-year period,” according to the non-profit’s latest tax filing,…NAN can apparently turn around and sell those rights to Hollywood or other takers at a profit, but neither the reverend nor the charity would identify what producers are waiting for such Sharpton content.

The document does not indicate when Sharpton, who is president of NAN, gets the cash, which is above and beyond the $244,661 he already pulled down in compensation from the group in 2017.

This is clever–slimy, but clever. Why didn’t the Clintons think of it?

5. Baby, It’s Stupid Outside.”   WDOK Christmas 102.1 in Cleveland, Ohio pulled “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”  from its 24-hour Christmas rotation this week, citing listener complaints. #MeToo, you know.

Morons.

I wrote about the complaints last year, and I’m not a fan of the song:

Here is an article protesting the movement to “ban” (figuratively, not literally), the seasonal duet “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”  for “being insufficiently PC in the sexual assault/harassment realm.” Ethics Alarms called the song “date-rapey” two years ago, so while I don’t exactly want to ban the thing, I am sick of hearing it on Christmas playlists. On Sirius-XM’s “Holly” station, I’d estimate that over 50% of the “Holiday songs” have to do with sex (none have to do with the religious holiday, by design), and I blame “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” which on the alternative Christmas channel, “Traditions” “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is played every hour, sometimes more than once. …Writes the blogger,

“But if you actually look at the lyrics, it’s clear that the woman wants to stay, and that her protests are merely for the sake of propriety, and that the whole thing is a flirtatious little game of seduction. In her objections she keeps mentioning what other people will think, not her own feelings. So you might say she’s striking a blow for autonomy and throwing off fusty old custom when she acquiesces at the end.”

It depends on how the song is sung, of course. Dean Martin’s version sounds like a seduction, but then, that was Dean. Actually banning the song, however, with so much far more blatant sexual innuendo infecting Christmas music and other aspects of the holiday, is bats.

Related: Last night I saw the 1949 Christmas film “Holiday Affair,” starring Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh. It’s low key but fun and well acted. It also has a scene where Mitchum walks into the kitchen as single mother Leigh is doing dishes, grabs her without warning or consent and gives her a long, hard kiss on the mouth as her arms flail helplessly.

Sexual assault.

6. Related to that: Boy, studios had no scruples and no shame back then! The story is about as chaste a romance as you could imagine, with Leigh, who was a true sex-bomb when she wanted to be, playing a devoted mother who dressed and acted like a mother should. Yet here was the original poster:

…which misrepresents the movie entirely, especially Leigh, who is never seen in such a pose. That’s nothin’, though. When the movie was a box-office bomb, they decided that it was because nobody wanted to see film noir tough guy Mitchum being nice, charming and polite (his character resembles John Payne in “Miracle on 24th Street”). So they put out this poster, which is outright misrepresentation:

Now THAT’S an unethical movie poster!

 

 

 

 

Verizon Lies. (In My Opinion, Of Course)

I think have mentioned here before the frustration of not having high-speed internet available where I live, in Alexandria, Virginia, ZIP 22305. unless I surrender to the horrors of Comcast, which I will not do. According to a source at Verizon, my carrier, the problem is that the City of Alexandria insists on what sound to me like kickbacks from the company in order to get approval to install the necessary hardware. There may be other reasons: I don’t care. I keep seeing Fios ads directed at my locality, and keep getting told that it is unavailable. This has significant business consequences for ProEthics and me. I would like to do have video commentary, and we don’t have the speed to upload one, to give just one example.

Yesterday, I received this email from Verizon:

Important service message for PRO ETHICS LTD: Fios is now available at your location.

There are service updates available for your business. Call us to find out about new service and product options.  We want to make sure you’re getting the right service and value for your business. So, we reviewed your  account and discovered that our latest product and service upgrades could help PRO ETHICS LTD increase
efficiency and productivity. Call us today-we’ll take you through the available service options and give you a Firm Price Quote.

Call your Rep at 888.704.7905 or schedule an appointment.

Sincerely,
Stephen E. Marinetto, Marketing Director, Verizon Business Markets

So informed, I called my “representative.” The results of my call? Continue reading