Tag Archives: ProEthics

Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/16/2018: “Ozark,” Slandering Irving, And Language Showdown At Taco Bell [UPDATED!]

Good Morning!

1. Call me an old ethics fogey, but I don’t think these kinds of TV series are culturally healthy. I’ve been watching the Netflix series “Ozark,” and hating myself for it. The show is well acted and even has its ethics dilemmas, but like “Breaking Bad,” which was obviously its inspiration, there are no admirable characters, and the “heroes” are criminals. In the Golden Age of TV, there were unwritten (and sometimes written) rules that shows could not rationalize, trivialize or romanticize illegal, immoral or unethical behavior, and needed to reaffirm positive values. In “Ozark,” “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul,” the latter’s spin-off, as well as “House of Cards,” and “Shameless,” among others, there are virtually no admirable characters at all. I have been watching “Ozark” in part because I like the actors, in part because there’s nothing I want to watch anywhere else except baseball, and, yes, in part because of voyeurism. Still, it makes me want to take a shower, and I fell that the increasing tendency of Hollywood to portray everything and everyone as corrupt makes a “the ends justify the means” rationalization seem like a matter of survival.

2. Post-mortem slander, again. This is a recurring theme here: a famous person is deliberately misrepresented in a dramatic depiction, and legally there is nothing that can be done about it. The First Amendment protects the practice, but it is still wrong, it still leads to public misconceptions, and it still sullies the reputations and legacies of important figures in history who deserve better.

In a recent one-man show Off- Broadway about American song-wrting legend Irving Berlin, writer-performer Hershey Felder portrays Berlin in his dotage as ” a miserable fossil so twisted with rage and zonked on Nembutal that he shooed away carolers who came to his Beekman Place window to serenade him with ‘White Christmas’,”  shrieking “They don’t deserve it,”  meaning the gift of his iconic song. That’s not what happened, however; not even close, according to the Times review of the show:

When he was 95, Berlin not only let those carolers into the house on Beekman Place but also kissed and hugged them and (according to some reports) poured them hot cocoa. “This is the nicest Christmas gift I ever got,” he said.

UPDATE: I relied on the New York Times review for this comment, and not for the first time, trusting the Times to play straight may have been a mistake. Reader Eric Herrault has a very different view, and I am appending his comment here:

In a website however that discusses ethics I think it is important to call attention to the real serious problem here. The quoted “review” in the New York Times of The BERLIN piece, was some kind of personal grudge hatchet job against the performing artist. This brainless reviewer does not describe the show I saw, or in fact the show at all. This is easily provable by seeing the show itself, or having a look at every other New York outlet, major and minor. Nowhere does anyone suggest this twisted and bizarre take on Irving Berlin. The one place it is suggested however, is by the reviewer himself, as he links to and then lauds a review of the book As Thousands Cheer about Berlin, that calls Berlin terrible things and worse. And yet, somehow this neanderthal supports that utter nonsense. The show is full of joy and laughter from beginning to end, with a sad feeling lived too long and the world having passed him by. The ethics violation here is that this disturbed reviewer (for whatever reason) is allowed to write in the first place.

Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/7/2018: Back in the USSR

Good Morning!

1. Self-Promotion Dept. I’m heading off to New Jersey today, to present one of my musical legal ethics seminars—3 hours!—for the New Jersey Bar Association. The real star is my long-time partner in these shows, New York-based singer/musician Mike Messer, who channels Freddie Mercury, Bob Dylan (with harmonica!), Paul Simon, even Johnny Cash in the various song parodies.  This one is called Ethics Rock Extreme, and ends, like all of my musical seminars, with a sing-along. Yes, we get lawyers to sing the chorus of the “Piano Man Parody”…

Sing us the Rules, you’re the ethics man
Sing us the Rules tonight!
We’re stuck in an ethics dilemma here
So tell us what’s wrong and what’s right!

(No, “Back in the USSR” is not one of the songs we do.)

2. First Amendment for me, but not for thee: In an embarrassing episode that is also telling, the Newseum has capitulated to a storm of protests from journalists and will no longer sell its popular “Fake News” mercahndise…like this shirt…

online or in its gift shop. “We made a mistake and we apologize. A free press is an essential part of our democracy and journalists are not the enemy of the people,” the Newseum announced Saturday in a groveling blog post. “Questions have also been raised regarding other merchandise. As an organization that celebrates the rights of people from all political spectrums to express themselves freely, we’ve historically made all types of political merchandise available for our guests to purchase. That has included former and current presidential slogans and imagery and merchandise from all political parties. We continue to do so in celebration of freedom of speech.”

Translation: “In celebration of free speech, we will acquiesce in the censoring of a particular expression of opinion on a humorous T-shirt, because it hurts journalists’ feelings.”

Again, I ask: why does anyone trust journalists and the organizations they represent? Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Rights, U.S. Society

Now THIS Is An Unethical Judge! (Plus An Important ProEthics Announcement…) [UPDATED!]

 

Judge Jack Robison,  a state district judge in Comal County, Texas, interrupted jury deliberations to announce that God had informed him that a woman accused of trafficking a teen girl for sex should be be found not guilty. Robisonapologized to jurors for the interruption, but explained “when God tells me I gotta do something, I gotta do it.”  To their credit, the jury found Gloria Romero-Perez guilty of  trafficking anyway.

Mysteriously, 12 perfect pillars of salt were later discovered outside the courthouse.

Kidding!

Judge Robison recused himself before the trial’s sentencing phase, for which he deserves some credit. Says a local news source,  “Robison’s actions could trigger an investigation from the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.” COULD trigger? COULD TRIGGER??????

This, following the unethical sentencing performance by the judge in the Larry Nasser trial,  is the tipping point for me. Although I have an excellent and constantly updated judicial ethics seminar that I will customize for different jurisdictions (I will soon be adding, “Don’t take messages from God mid-trial to the Texas version, for example), I almost never have the opportunity to teach it. Judges, unlike lawyers, don’t have ethics requirements other that the local Codes of Judicial Conduct. They don’t have to take regular classes in judicial ethics either, and many of them—like,oh, just to pull a name out of the air, ROY MOORE–couldn’t tell a tenet of judicial ethics from a cross-eyed echidna.  Most judicial organizations don’t budget for ethics training.

Thus I am announcing, here and now, that henceforth my ethics training and consulting company ProEthics, LTD., will provide me, my judicial ethics course and the extensive materials it includes for any judicial group of any size anywhere in the country at no cost, save for my travel and, if necessary, lodging.

This will be offered as a public service throughout 2018, and we will evaluate the policy at the end of the year.

___________________________________

UPDATE: This, from the ABA…

Few federal judges face consequences as a result of misconduct complaints, and few of the complaints become public, according to a CNN analysis.

CNN reviewed nearly 5,000 judicial orders related to misconduct complaints and found that the documents “are remarkably short on details.” Since 2006, fewer than 10 cases a year were referred to a special committee for a closer investigation, and in six of the past 11 years no judges were sanctioned for misconduct. In some high-profile cases, judges facing misconduct complaints retire, putting an end to the investigation and preserving access to their pensions, the CNN investigation found…

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/18/17: (Part Two) Debunking WaPo’s False Claim That Shep Smith Debunked The Uranium One Scandal, And More

And good morning again!

(Continuing from Part One…)

5. Why journalism is beyond hope…Shepard Smith, the #1 Fox New anchor who is reliably skeptical, independent and brave pointed out that the reporting, especially by his own colleagues at Fox, on the Hillary/Russia/Uranium One scandal:

“Now, here’s the accusation,” Smith said.

Nine people involved in the deal made donations to the Clinton Foundation totaling more than $140 million. In exchange, Secretary of State Clinton approved the sale to the Russians, a quid pro quo. The accusation [was] first made by Peter Schweizer, the senior editor-at-large of the website Breitbart in his 2015 book “Clinton Cash.” The next year, candidate Donald Trump cited the accusation as an example of Clinton corruption.

Smith pointed out that the statement  was “inaccurate in a number of ways.” “The Clinton State Department had no power to veto or approve that transaction,” he noted, explaining that it had to be approved by an interagency committee of the government consisting of nine department heads, including the Secretary of State.

“The accusation is predicated on the charge that Secretary Clinton approved the sale,” Smith said.  “She did not. A committee of nine evaluated the sale, the president approved the sale, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and others had to offer permits, and none of the uranium was exported for use by the U.S. to Russia.”

This was reported by the Washington Post as Smith “debunking his network’s favorite Hillary Clinton ‘scandal'” Now I have to debunk the Washington Posts’ false’ characterization of what Smith did and said.

Smith had obviously read the fact-check by the most reliable and objective of the various fact-checking organizations, Fact-Check.org. It makes the same point Smith does, but also concludes,

“It may be that individuals and companies sought to curry favor with Hillary Clinton and even influence her department’s decision on the Uranium One sale. But, as we’ve written before, there is no evidence that donations to the Clinton Foundation from people with ties to Uranium One or Bill Clinton’s speaking fee influenced Hillary Clinton’s official actions”

There’s no evidence that fugitive Marc Rich’s ex-wife’s huge gift to the Clinton Library influenced President Clinton to pardon her scumbag, irredeemable ex, either, but the timing was sufficiently suspicious that most have conclude that it was indeed a quid pro quo. These transactions are notoriously hard to prove, which is why there are ethics rules requiring Secretaries of State to avoid harming the public trust by engaging in “the appearance of impropriety.” Allowing her foundation to accept millions from foreign entities with a matter of interest before Clinton’s department was a direct violation of the conditions under which she was confirmed by the Senate. The fact that she alone didn’t have to approve the sale doesn’t alter the fact that she had a major conflict, and was obligated to recuse herself entirely. She didn’t. Scandalous, and suspicious. If Bill didn’t get all taht money, far more than his usual fee, because of the pending approval of the uranium deal, why was he paid so much? Suspicious. Scandal.

Yes, we know the Clintons were masters at influence peddling, and covered their tracks better than most. Smith explained to viewers that his own network and President Trump, among others, were misrepresenting the facts. Good for him.

But he did not “debunk” the accusation that the Clintons’ conduct was suspicious, irresponsible, a breach of government ethics standards, and quite possibly corrupt. A Fox anchor corrected his own network’s hyping, and then the left-biased news media used that clarification to mislead the public in the other direction.

Hopeless. Continue reading

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Sometimes It All Comes Together…But First, A Song!

As those who have read here for a while know, among my fondest passions, virtually life-long, are baseball,  theater and ethics. Today, I have the pleasure of seeing them all come together in a single event. How often does that happen?

At noon, I will be giving my most recent musical Continuing Legal Education ethics seminar, “Ethics Cabaret,” at Nationals Park in D.C. prior to the Mets-Nats game. “Ethics Cabaret,” like its six predecessors, presents legal ethics hypotheticals  as parodies of pop, rock, Broadway or country-western standards, presented by a professional performer. In this case, the performer is American Century Theater veteran Esther Covington, who accompanies herself on the keyboard. I write the songs that make the young lawyers cry, but she sings them, beautifully and often hilariously.

Speaking of Barry Manilow, my favorite segment of the seminar is the parody of one of his signature songs, which you can hear above—it’s an ear-worm, so be careful. The legal ethics version is about “Bridge of Spies” and the many quandaries raised in the film, which I examined in this post earlier this year. The parody is called “Who is the Client?,” lyrics-only copyrighted by ProEthics. Here they are….you can sing them along with Barry’s version! Continue reading

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A Bait-And-Switcher Is Called To Account

Reliant

Our small ethics training and consulting business always has cash flow worries, so when an offer arrived from Reliant Funding promising a quick line of credit, my business partner and COO–also known as my wife—leaped into action. She checked up on the outfit, and all indications were that they were legit. Comments about them on the web lacked any red flags.

Then she called the number listed to apply for the loan, a process promised to take “hours not days,” and activate the loan card, which looked like a credit card with my name on it. Our representative was articulate and informative, and prospects looked rosy. Then my wise COO, herself now crippled by the business curse, ethical thinking, heard  “Steve” say ProEthics could probably get a $10,000 loan. She immediately and curtly said that she would have to call him back.

“This mailer says that a $41, 739 loan was pre-approved. She said. He said the most we could get was $10,000. That mailer is a lie!”

“Correctamundo!” I ventured.

Now Steve was in trouble; you don’t want to cross Grace. Really. She called Steve back, and went on the attack: Continue reading

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Some Ethics Comments On The SCOTUS Hobby Lobby Decision

Hobby-Lobby1. First, read the decision, here. When you do, you will be disgusted at the blatant exaggerations and outright misrepresentations by various pundits, advocates, activists and reporters. In the case of the latter, this is incompetence and a breach of duty to the public. In the case of the rest, it is either dishonesty and willful deception, or stupidity. For example, as an exercise, count the number of misrepresentations and misstatements inherent in this tweet, from MSNBC ‘s Cenk Uygur:

 “I love that conservatives are now on the record as against contraception. Brilliant move to be against 99% of women!”

I count five, but I could be off by one or two. Is this genuine misunderstanding, or just intentional rabble-rousing? Who can tell, with shameless partisans like Cenk? Continue reading

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