Tag Archives: professionalism

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/6/2019: State of the Union Ethics, And More

Hello, Austin!

At least, that’s what I’ll be saying later today, as I arrive in the Texas capital to give my country music ethics seminar, sung by the remarkable Mike Messer, to a group of over a thousand corporate lawyers. It’s certainly better than lying around coughing, which is what I’ve been doing lately.

1. Update: Facebook still won’t accept Ethics Alarms links. This is seriously depressing me. I can’t get Facebook to respond or explain, and so far WordPress hasn’t been any help either. In the past, posts here have attracted tens of thousands of Facebook shares; most got at least a couple. Now there are none. This affects traffic, it affects everything. On one level, I’m tempted just to leave Facebook entirely. It’s not a very pleasant place these days, and the company is despicable. That doesn’t solve the problem though. After all the work and time I have spent trying to develop the blog, watching its readership and circulation go backwards is infuriating. I also don’t know how paranoid I should be about all of this.

2. State of the Union notes. The speech is always political theater, and largely irrelevant unless it is botched or something weird happens, like “You lie!” or Obama attacking the Supreme Court. I find it amazing that so many pundits couldn’t keep their cognitive dissonance in check, and give some semblance of an honest, if grudging, analysis of what one would have to call an excellent performance—and that’s all the SOTU speech is, a performance— by Donald Trump standards, and a wise performance from a Presidential perspective. At a time of near maximum divisiveness, the speech was upbeat, optimistic, and patriotic. You have to really, really hate the man to condemn that speech….and that’s how most of journalists and pundits feel. I especially liked Salon’s “Donald Trump 2019: Same lying racist he was last year.”  CNN’s Van Jones was also self-indicting, saying,  “I saw this as a psychotically incoherent speech with cookies and dog poop. He tries to put together in the same speech these warm, kind things about humanitarianism and caring about children, and at the same time he is demonizing people who are immigrants in a way that was appalling.”  On the other side of the wacko divide, Ann Coulter called the speech “sappy” and was upset because Trump didn’t talk more about the wall. Is there anyone other than Coulter than wants him to talk more about the wall? We need a special confirmation bias clinic for these people. Also: Continue reading

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Ethics Poll: How Bad Does A Theatrical Performance Have To Be To Ethically Obligate A Refund?

Apparently audiences were unhappy with an allegedly subpar performance  of “The Wiz”  at the Brown Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky. An unusual number of customers called to call demand refunds, based on complaints ranging from botched lines to a bad Cowardly Lion costume (he looked like e bear) and to a cheesy projection of magical land of Oz  from a laptop projector.

“The Wiz” is the hit Seventies Broadway adaptation of the “The Wizard of Oz,” but with an all-black cast, rock-style music, hip-hop dancing and contemporary slang. It was made into a successful film starring Diana Ross and Dorothy and Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow.

Tickets cost between $35 to $65. Despite the complaints, Lavarious Slaughter, the show’s producer for Island Entertainment KC, of Kansas City, Missouri has said that there will be no refunds.

(Lavarious Slaughter? He sounds like an escapee from a Harry Potter book.)

It’s hard for me to tell just how bad the performance was based on second hand accounts. (I wouldn’t pay 65 bucks for the greatest production of “The Wiz” ever. The whole concept behind “The Wiz ” was cynical, and all-black casts are a divisive gimmick. How bad was it?

Helen Barnett was one malcontent who talked to the press. “It was terrible,” Barnett said. “Dorothy was wearing a Walmart dress. They forgot their dialogues … at one point Dorothy said she wanted to go back to Texas!” (In “The Wiz,” Dorothy is from Harlem while Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” is from Kansas.) Other complaint noted that the computer projected set kept  being uninterrupted by pop-up dialogue boxes.

Yeah, that sounds pretty bad.

But funny!

One of the actors, Kori Black, who played the role of the Good Witch of the North tried to explain, “The three o’clock show ended up being pretty much our dress rehearsal because we didn’t have enough time to do the show full-out at the venue before we performed it.”

I have mixed feelings about this, as a former professional theatrical producer and a long-time director and performer. There is no excuse for a badly rehearsed, done-on-the-cheap production that isn’t aimed at giving the audience genuine entertainment. On the other hand, one of the features of live theater that TV and movies lack is that nothing is guaranteed. Stuff goes wrong; things don’t work, actors botch line and entrances, costumes rip, props break, lights blow out. The show goes on. Going to the theater is the ultimate caveat emptor—“Let the buyer beware.” I’ve demanded refunds when projectors broke down in movie theaters, and I’ve given refunds or rain-checks to theater audiences when a performance couldn’t be completed. (Among the causes for those catastrophes: a power outage, a smoke machine that went crazy and blinded everyone, and a lead actor who got knocked cold on stage.) I’ve also had to open shows that were not as ready as I would have liked, but that is a common occurrence everywhere. You can’t give refunds for missed lines. Getting Dorothy’s home wrong is bad for sure, but if that ruins the show for someone, they weren’t going to like anything. One of the most popular and best reviewed productions I ever directed was Orson Welles’ adaptation of “Moby Dick.” One night, the actor playing Ishmael forgot the first line of the play, which is “Call me Ishmael”–one of the most famous opening lines in literature, and also the character’s own name. I got some flack, but the rest of the show recovered.

I fear that audiences are so unfamiliar with live theater that they expect movie-like special effects and the slick perfection that digitally created, multiple  take filming provides. Live theater’s imperfections are part of what makes it dynamic and exciting. On the other hand, those pop-up dialogue boxes sound like the work of a production staff just trying to make a quick buck off the locals and then get out of town.

My policy would be that if a patron asked for a refund, I’d approve it. In 20 years, however, not one of our audience members demanded one.

Now, your poll. Vote for as many answers as you like:

________________________

Pointer: Luke

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 7/13/2018: Trump And Strzok

Good Morning, London!

1. Trump Trump Trump. You know, I was on a political Facebook page in 2016 where an idiot kept posting “Trump Trump Trump” despite everyone, including the moderator, telling him to cut it out. Eventually he was banned from the site. Unfortunately, there is no similarly simple solution to this problem when a combination of the Trump-hostile news media and the President himself forces a variety of ethics issues on me, when I would rather be musing about baseball, old sitcoms, and guys in lobster hats.

  • The pardons. President Trump  pardoned Dwight L. Hammond, now 76, and his son, Steven D. Hammond, 49, a pair of Oregon cattle ranchers who had been serving out five-year sentences for arson on federal land, which had sparked the armed occupation of a wildlife refuge in 2016. Naturally these pardons were attacked, because anything Trump does will be attacked. The resulting conflict brought widespread attention to anger over federal land management in the Western United States,and that’s a good thing. How can the federal government justify owning almost half of Western land?

As for the pardons, both men have served most of their sentences already, and not only were the sentences unusually harsh for their offenses, the cases had the whiff of political prosecutions about them. They were perfectly legitimate objects for Presidential pardons, but then so are hundreds of thousands of other cases. Presidents should issue as many pardons as possible, which means eliminating a lot of the red tape. So far, Trump has sucked the tape by cherry-picking beneficiaries in his own, eccentric, biased way, using his unique, unassailable Constitution-based power to court supporters, celebrities and particular constituencies—not that there’s anything wrong with that, as long as other deserving citizens also get pardoned, and really, all but the most unrepentant, vile and dangerous felons deserve mercy and compassion eventually. Unless the pardon power is used broadly and constantly, its blessings too often depend on who you know. In the case of the ranchers, for example, a large donor to Vice-President Pence lobbied for the pardons. Again, that doesn’t mean the pardons can’t be justified. It does mean the process is skewed by factors not related to justice or fairness.

I found this to be the most ethically intriguing paragraph in the Times story about Pence pal, tycoon Forrest Lucas, and his likely influence on the pardons:

“While other presidents have also gone ahead of Justice officials to pardon apparent allies, they have often waited until their final days in office to do so. Mr. Trump, by comparison, has issued high-profile pardons early and comparatively often — seemingly unconcerned by the appearance of leaning his ears toward those at the top.”

So is Trump being unethical in a more ethical fashion than his predecessors?

  • Bad host, worse guest. The President’s derogatory comments about the British Prime Minister were indefensible, of course. We know how he thinks: Great Britain, as he has said, with justification, has made him feel unwelcome—that insulting “Trump baby” blimp over London is a real diplomatic low—and thus, in Trump’s rudimentary ethics system, akin to that of a lizard, the proper response is tit-for-tat. None of this is unexpected, and nobody who voted for Trump can say that they didn’t give him license to behave this way by electing him.

I do wonder now why I ever thought that he would react to being elected by moderating the very conduct that, in his mind and probably in reality, got him where he is today. My role model for him was President Arthur, who was about as different in character and background from Donald Trump as a human being could be.

I’m an idiot. Continue reading

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Let’s Play “Fake News, Professional Incompetence, Or Just Plain Stupid”!

NEWS FLASH from MSNBC: Most Americans don’t do this…

Hello everybody!

It’s time to play the game show that is sweeping the nation, thanks to the escalating bias and partisan activism of the mainstream news media!

For today’s episode, our question concerns veteran broadcast news reporter Andrea Mitchell, once widely considered a trustworthy professional, now  member of the cabal of hacks that fill up the slanted hours on MSNBC.

Today, pumping for the NFL to turn itself into a weekly infomercial for anti-Trump protests, Black Lives Matter propaganda, and general progressive agenda agitation, Mitchell said this about the NFL’s ban on kneeling during the pre-game playing of the National Anthem:

The hypocrisy is so profound Take a look at any NFL stadium and people are getting hot dogs, people are getting beers. They’re not standing and saluting the anthem for a large part. They’re not. They’re distracted. They’re fans at an event.

Of course, as anyone who has ever attended a sporting event knows—and anyone who has any understanding of this nation and its poeple should know anyway–virtually everyone stands, respectfully, hats off, many with hands over their hearts, during the National Anthem at every sporting event, at every level from high school to the pros. What was Mitchell doing? Was she just lying to make her case? Was she stating as fact something she assumed was true but had not bothered to check, a gross  breach of professionalism? Or is Andrea Mitchell just dumb as stuffed cabbage?

So without any further ado,  let’s play “Fake News, Professional Incompetence, Or Just Plain Stupid”!

 

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, April 13, 2018: Past, Present, And Future

Happy Morning, everybody!

1. On the Future News front…The Michael Cohen raid has prompted a new outbreak of this particularly odious journalism and punditry trend: writing hysterically about what might happen. I spend so much time telling my wife that it is absurd and self-destructive to spend energy and emotion on dire “what if?” speculation, when sanity only reigns when we deal with what happens, when it happens, and not freak out because it might happen. Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer isn’t just for alcoholics, you know:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;courage to change the things I can;and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time;enjoy ing one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace…”

The news media, however, pummels us with dire future news to undermine serenity, create fear, encourage anxiety, distrust, panic and hysteria. All the better to undermine President Trump, after all.

MSNBC’s Joy Reid, for example, admittedly one of the worst of the worst, speculated about what might happen should the president refuse to allow himself to be arrested by federal marshals. Note that there is no evidence that there is anything to arrest him for, but never mind. This is Future News. “What if he refuses to open the White House door? What if he fires any Secret Service agent who would allow the federal marshals in? What if Donald Trump simply decides, ‘I don’t have to follow the law? I refuse to be held under the law. No marshal can get into this White House and any Secret Service agent who defies me is fired,'” she asked.

Today I am reading that Michael Cohen might have incriminating tapes of Donald Trump saying incriminating things. Yes, and he might have 12 toes and three nipples, too. Cohen apparently surreptitiously taped some of his conversations. Now, it is true that Cohen is a uniquely sleazy lawyer, but surreptitiously taping a client is a serious legal ethics breach that would pretty much end his career, not to mention his bar license, it it were proven. Never mind though: what if he taped Trump having sex with a marmot? What if he taped the President speaking Russian?

What might happen isn’t news. There are exceptions, but extensive concentration of speculation and projections, as with the Russian investigation coverage, is misleading and unethical journalism.

2. Incompetent prosecution to the rescue! For some reason, Bill Cosby’s prosecutors, allowed to choose from the more than 70 alleged victims of the serial sexual predator a representative five to show his  modus operandi that victimized Andrea Constand, chose Janice Dickinson, an aging ex-model, huckster, reality show star and publicity hound with the approximate trustworthiness and credibility of Stormy Daniels. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/23/2017: Robots And “Star Wars” And Whiskers On Kittens

Good Morning!

1 When Darth Vader cuts off Luke’s hand, that’s not news. When Mark Hamill bites the hand that feeds him…In recent interview, Mark Hamill, the one-trick pony, one-role actor who had been playing cameo parts on SyFy cable channel movies because he wasn’t enough of a draw to put in “Sharknado 6,” criticized how director Rian Johnson had him play Luke Skywalker in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” “He’s not my Luke Skywalker,” said Hamill in a recent interview, who originated the part four decades ago, when he had a career.

This is astounding ingratitude, and shows a lack of professionalism that suggests it wasn’t only limited range that strangled Hamill’s non-“Star Wars” prospects. The movie is still in theaters. The fact that he is in the latest trilogy at all is a gift. If he wants to knock the film in about ten years or so when he’s doing Fishin’ Magician informercials on cable and his comments get him 12 and a half minutes of fame on TMZ, that’s fine, but right now, he has an ethical obligation to the studio and his fellow artists to do everything he can to make the “Star Wars” geeks want to see the film.

You know Luke—can I call you Luke?—most of those other actors aren’t as lucky as you were, and don’t have a cushy guaranteed lifetime income from a single surprise hit that easily could have ended up on the second half of drive-in double features.

May the Force slap some sense into you.

2. Update: Governor Kasich is an idiot. But I bet you knew that. Yup, John Kasich signed into law that Ohio bill that made it illegal to abort a fetus diagnosed with Down Syndrome. This law is going to be struck down as unconstitutional, and it makes no sense. Signing it into law displays a bad combination of incompetence and cowardice.

BOY, that was a horrible crew of Republicans who all were thinking about Donald Trump, “Well, at least I know I can beat THIS guy!” I know many people like me, including some moderate Democrats, who were rooting for Kasich because he seemed preferable to having another Bush, the theocracy craving Mike Huckabee, the corrupt Chris Christie, weird Rand Paul, diabolical Ted Cruz, not-ready-for-prime- time Marco Rubio, dumb-as-a-box-of-whoopie-cushions Ben Carson, scary Carly Fiorina, or, as the alternative, the venal, inept and frighteningly ambitious Hillary Clinton. No, he’s a conservative hack with an honest face. This proves it. Continue reading

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KABOOM! Roy Moore’s Lawyer Just Made My Head Explode. Or As He Would Say, Just Made My Head Exploded

I hate early morning head explosions. Among other reasons, those bits of skull and brain ruin the taste of my coffee.

No, I don’t blame Trent Garman for representing a vile creepazoid like Roy Moore. Creepazoids have rights too, and should have access to trustworthy and competent counsel. My problem with Garman arises from those last four words. Lawyers as untrustworthy and incompetent as Garman, in my opinion (don’t sue me, Trent, it’s just my opinion that you’re an idiot; I can’t prove it, but I do think you did), shouldn’t be representing clients. Garman, in truth, needs to go back to the sixth grade.

Here is the letter Garman authored on Moore’s behalf. I’ll follow it with the stuff that blew my head; you don’t have to read the whole thing unless you’re into inflicting pain on yourself, like that albino monk in “The Da Vinci Code.”

If you do read the letter, you will note that Attorney Garman never learned that the possessive “its” has no apostrophe, and that he writes English like it is a second, and perhaps third, language. Here are the best, as in worst, examples of his professional writing:

 Your client’s organization has made and/or supported defaming statements. This is due to the careless and/or intentionally refused to advance the truth regarding our clients. We also believe that your client, by and through its agents, have damaged our clients by being careless in how they handle headlines and report the contextual of the allegations.

The second statement  actually says “This is due to the careless and/or intentionally refused to advance the truth regarding our clients.” Diagram that for me. That head-scratcher is followed by “We also believe that your client, by and through its agents, have damaged our clients by being careless in how they handle headlines and report the contextual of the allegations.”This isn’t even the worst example of Authentic Frontier Gibberish in the letter. This is:

Thus, do you know this clearly, yet significant difference which your client’s publication(s) have failed to distinguish. And the legal requirement that your client retract the stories, to include the details which clearly are false.

I can’t even decide what to bold on that one.

Disturbingly, we learn in Trent’s biography that he earned a Masters in Theology from Regent University and  translated two books of the Bible from Greek.  I can just imagine what that translation was like.

I’m not nit-picking a blog comment or a hasty tweet. Roy Moore is fighting for his professional life and reputation, and this is the best legal representation he can find? That letter is a professional product. Garrman is obligated to be competent and diligent, not to send the message far and wide that the former judge thinks that this is persuasive logic and deft prose. Do they not proofread at Garman & Liddon? Do they know what proof-reading is? Do they know what syntax, punctuation and grammar are? Coherence? Professionalism?

Shame on the Troy University and Birmingham School of Law for graduating this careless, inarticulate boob. Heck, no high school should graduate someone who can’t write a letter better than that. Shame on his high school too. Shame on his the Alabama Bar for giving him a license.(I would use words other than “shame,” just to reliev the monotony , but as I’m sure you understand, my vocabulary is affected when my brains are on the ceiling…)

The legal field’s dirty little secret is that lawyers who can’t write or articulate a coherent argument are not as rare as they should be, and they should be extinct.  Nonetheless they get fees from innocent clients who assume that these hacks are smart and skilled because they call themselves lawyers.

But Roy Moore called himself a judge, didn’t he?

Hmmmm…

Maybe this is what George Will calls “condign justice.”

______________________

Pointer: Red Ipsa Loquitur

 

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