Saturday Ethics Alerts, 1/16/21: “Nevermore!” If Only…

Raven Addams

The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, prohibiting the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes,” was ratified by the requisite number of states on this date in, 1919. It was a great, botched, ethics experiment. Alcohol was too far embedded in the culture for too long and in too many ways, and the laws prohibiting alcohol were badly drafted and engendered public resentment and contempt. Still, as the Ken Burns documentary on the topic made clear, the damage being caused by alcohol abuse before Prohibition was permanently slowed down and reversed by the ban, though the ban itself was doomed from the start.

1. Quote of the Day: I just finished watching “We Bought A Zoo” again, and it reminded me of the quote, alluded to in the film, by the real life English man who did buy a zoo, and whose story was transferred to America in the film staring Matt Damon. Benjamin Mee said in his book (with the same title as the film) about the adventure, “You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”

He’s absolutely right, and this principle has enriched my own life too many times to count.

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Ethics Hero: Sportswriter Jason Whitlock

Often where we find an Ethics Hero, there is an Ethics Dunce that helped to reveal him. That’s certainly the situation here. In this case, the Ethics Dunce is Shannon Sharpe, the NFL Hall of Fame tight end turned sports commentator, like Whitlock, an African-American.

According to reports, Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy set out to inspire his team with a locker-room stunt stolen from the old prop comic “Gallagher” (whose charms, I admit, always eluded me). McCarthy produced a sledgehammer at a team meeting and smashed numerous watermelons, each with a point. NFL Network reporter Tom Pelissero described the scene after the Cowboys won the game (See? It worked!):

“Mike McCarthy gets up and says, ‘Guys, I want to apologize. I don’t think I did a good enough job emphasizing our objectives for the week’ — one of which was to hammer the ball out of [Minnesota running back] Dalvin Cook’s hands. At that point McCarthy pulls out a sledgehammer, not a prop, a full sledgehammer you could knock a wall down with, and someone rolls in a bunch of watermelons.Each one has a different objective written on it McCarthy reads the objective — BAM! — smashes the watermelon. He goes down the row doing this. The players are roaring, McCarthy’s pants are soaked. He finally gets to the watermelon with Dalvin Cook’s picture on it, DeMarcus Lawrence jumps up and goes, ‘I’ve got to get that one.”[McCarthy] hands the sledgehammer to Lawrence, and he smashes that watermelon.”

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Afternoon Ethics Wind-down, 11/17/2020: Greenwald, Kelly, Typical Irresponsible College Professor, And “Name Withheld”

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1 Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias… Glenn Greenwald, the gadfly journalist who was cut off at the metaphorical knees for not supporting the media black-out of the Biden family influence peddling story in the waning days of the campaign (Hey! It worked, so it must be ethical!), is apparently just warming up in his campaign to expose the mainstream media’s hypocrisy and bias. Here’s a recent thread on Twitter.

Of course, it’s just a matter of time before Twitter suspends his account…

2. I LOVE this guy! He’s the perfect example of so much that’s wrong with academia, Black Lives Matters, and the entire race-baiting phenomenon! (But why is he allowed to teach anyone?) Bucknell University will be featuring a scholarly debate over the new film “What Killed Michael Brown?,” with participants considering “whether the idea of systemic racism today is a truth about what needs to be addressed in shaping a just America, or a ‘poetic truth’ that as a strategy exacerbates social division in America.” (Strange…it is beyond question that what killed Michael Brown was his fatal and perhaps drug-aided decision to resist arrest, try to grab an officer’s weapon, ignore a lawful order to stop, and to direct his entire bulk in a charge at a police officer. It will be a short webinar.) Roosevelt University journalism Professor John Fountain, one of the participants, asserts that “questioning the existence and impact of systemic racism in the United States is itself offensive and racist.”

3. Whew! I almost lost this one. From an October 6 column by “The Ethicist.” “Name Withheld” writes: Continue reading

A Case Study In Intimidation: The Self-Cancelling Children’s Book Author

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This could have been a standard Ethics Dunce post, but I think it warrants more attention than that category might suggest.

One of the reasons it is fair to say that the President had the election stolen from him, or, as he likes to say (and shouldn’t) “rigged,” is that his supporters have been relentlessly intimidated and indoctrinated into attitudes designed to make them doubt their own judgment and values, especially those that aligned with the President’s policies. The tactics have ranged from threatening and even physically attacking citizens for wearing MAGA hats, to forced resignations of company officials and academics for the “crime” of endorsing Donald Trump’s actions in office.

Self-censorship triggered by fear of rejection and social isolation allowed Facebook, for example, to become a progressive echo chamber with minimal dissent. (I haven’t posted on anything related to the election for a month. It’s just a waste of time, and I end up losing respect for people I would like to keep as friends while having to defend views that should require no defense.) We are also seeing the related phenomenon of self-flagellation, self-shaming and self-cancelling of the sort demanded by the “Silence is violence” mobs. Like tortured and brain-washed North Korean prisoners of war,  we are ordered to denounce our great sins, such as engaging in “systemic racism,” enjoying “white privilege,” defying the political correctness police, and daring to support the President of the United States. When Black Lives Matter terrorists burst into restaurants and demand that diners raise their fists or hands in support of the Marxist, racist, anti-law enforcement group, the photographic evidence is that they do as ordered in hopes that they be left alone. What nation’s citizens from the past, say, 85 years ago do these timid souls remind you of?

Never mind. I digress…

Adam Pottle’s children’s book “The Most Awesome Character in the World” tells of Philomena, a young deaf girl whose  deafness  has made her vibrant and  imaginative person. (The author is also deaf.)  .

Pottle did not have approval over the illustrations his publisher chose to complete his book, and with the nudging of some negative reviews online, was horrified at the illustration above.  He concluded that the single drawing was “racist,” and Pottle asked that it be changed. The publisher, Reycraft Books, refused (the profit margin on any book is small, and this would guarantee a money-losing project), so Pottle took to social media and asked people not to buy his book and retailers not to stock it. Several retailers supported him.

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Tolerating The New Racism

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How long will it be before fair social critics, principled elected officials and ethical Americans firmly and decisively say “enough”?

Freed from the restraints of common sense, fear of hypocrisy and language by the George Floyd Freakout as well as the resulting Black Lives Matter Great Terror, writers, educators and politicians are openly engaging in racist speech and assertions without, apparently, fear of condemnation. After all, it is easy to tar any critics as racists themselves, because the new, acceptable racism is targeting whites. They think being characterized as monsters, murderers and habitual oppressors by virtue of the color of their skin is cruel and dehumanizing, the fools! Don’t they know it’s true?

I reached my limit regarding this Orwellian farce even before the ugly death in Minnesota of a career criminal from a likely drug overdose was exploited to justify riots, property destruction and the demonization (or intimidation) of anyone who couldn’t claim to be “of color.” Surely others unjustly vilified are reaching their limits as well. I hope so. History’s record of what happend to groups that meekly accept denigration and blame-casting in the vain hope that it will all “blow over” is not encouraging.

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High Noon Ethics Shoot-Out, 10/21/2020: Religious Bigotry Vs Anti-Gay Bigotry! “Whitewashing” Vs Anti-Semitism! Google Vs Trust!

As you may (and should) know, the classic Western “High Noon” was and is regarded by some conservatives as anti-American. I think it is, as excellent as it is. The ending, where the heroic law man (played by Gary Cooper in an Academy Award-winning performance) throws his star in the dirt in disgust (imitated by “Dirty Harry” for very different reasons in that conservative film years later), is widely seen as a rejection of American society as hypocritical. (The fact that the screenwriter, Carl Foreman, was a Communist doesn’t help.)

My favorite scene in the movie, where Cooper begs the church congregation to help, plays like a “Twilight Zone” episode, with the whole town rationalizing furiously to avoid helping the desperate law man minutes away from having to face, alone, vengeful thugs determined to kill him. (The whole scene is not on YouTube; I searched.) “Rio Bravo,” one of the best John Wayne Westerns and a personal favorite, was devised by director Howard Hawks as a direct rebuke of the selfish and craven America “High Noon” posits. In the Duke’s movie, the lawman, Wayne, constantly rejects the offers of help he receives, though he knows hired killers are massing to free his prisoner. Yet people go out of their way, at great personal risk, to help him anyway, time after time. “High Noon” is a better movie (maybe), but “Rio Bravo” is a fairer depiction of American values and history.

1. This is why I tell lawyers and government employees that it’s unethical to use Google for professional communication and client matters. Mac programmer Jeff Johnson has discovered that if you set Google Chrome to eliminate all website cookies and site data when you close the browser, the data remains un-erased for YouTube and Google itself.

What a coinkydink!

“Perhaps this is just a Google Chrome bug, not intentional behavior, but the question is why it only affects Google sites, not non-Google sites,” Johnson says. “I’ve tested using the latest Google Chrome version 86.0.4240.75 for macOS, but this behavior was also happening in the previous version of Chrome. I don’t know when it started.”

Bottom line: Don’t trust Google. Like I’ve been saying….

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Ethics Dunce: Yelp

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Oh yes, this will work out well.

Yelp,  the online review company, has announced its plan for a submissive grovel to Black Lives Matter and an atack on “systemic racism”: it will post alerts that a business has been accused of racism. The key word is “accused.” The company claims that following the “alert,” it will investigate the claims, but that is absurd: Yelp has neither the staff, expertise nor credibility, and definitely not the authority or access, to investigate such accusations.

Yelp has had well-documented problems with reviews from angry employees, fake customers, and real customers with dubious complaints or sinister agendas. However, in the corporate rush to show alliance with the mostly-peaceful protesters savaging so many cities, Yelp has decided to go all in and buy a ticket on the George Floyd Ethics Train Wreck. From the announcement of the new race-baiting initiative:

 “Over the summer, Yelp rolled out a number of initiatives to help users find and support Black-owned businesses. We partnered with My Black Receipt on the launch of a Black-owned business attribute and joined the 15 Percent Pledge to further amplify Black-owned businesses. While searches for Black-owned businesses surged on Yelp, so did the volume of reviews warning users of racist behavior at businesses. Today, in response to this, we will now place a distinct Consumer Alert on business pages to caution people about businesses that may be associated with overtly racist actions.”

Here is the “alert”:

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The Name Game

It’s “racist” to get someone’s name wrong now?  What will the grievance bullies think of next?

The latest irritating aspect of life that has been appropriated to serve as a “microaggression” and proof of the U.S.’s “systemic racism” is people mispronouncing names. The complaint has gotten a boost from mispronunciations of Kamala Harris’s name, although I’ve never heard one. (I just call her “that phony” or “the jerk” and largely avoid the problem.) This is a continuation of the current trick: if something bad happens to a “POC,” like, say, getting shot while resisting arrest, it’s racism; if the exact same thing happens to a white person, that’s just bad luck, or the dude deserved it, or “Who cares?”

Admittedly, I am especially unsympathetic to the name game. My parents both were terrible at pronouncing names; it was a running joke between my sister and  me. It wasn’t just people’s names either. There was an ice cream store on Cape Cod called “Emack and Bolio,” and we used to ask Mom about it just to hear her say “E-MACK-a-Bowlee.” Because my mother was Greek, all ethnic names magically became Greek names to her. A Boston Red Sox infielder named Gutierrez became “Gouttarras.” My father mispronounced names like he mispronounced many words, and it didn’t matter how many times he was corrected. He thought, for example, that the words “fiasco” and “fiesta” were the same word, “fiesca.”

But in the New York Times weekly column “Work Friend,” this phenomenon was used for race-baiting, aided by the new narcicsism in which everyone’s name is some kind of badge of honor. “Call me what you want, just don’t call me late for dinner!” Dad would say when the misnaming issue came up. Of course, that Jack Marshall, like this one, went through life being called “John” and seeing his name spelled with only one “L.” He didn’t take it personally. He knew that what matters in life is what you do, not what you are called while doing it. Continue reading

Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/5/2020: Welcome To The No Nervous Breakdown Zone!

Apropos to this morning’s post: I just read a thread on Facebook entirely populated by people I knew, some of whom have befriended me. They are mostly lawyers, and after reading what was written, I could only comment that their conversation was deranged. I didn’t feel like arguing with people who could really write that if the Democrats didn’t win in November, Americans would lose their civil rights (when it is the ideological compatriots of these individuals who are stripping away the rights of free speech and association, championing race-based policies, and condemning the President for insisting that universities observe due process when a student is accused of sexual misconduct. How can they write that? What happened to them? Then there was the section of the thread in which they discussed that the President was certain to refuse to leave office if he is defeated, and my personal favorite, the assertion that those defending Kyle Rittenhouse are racists.

These are lawyers. They were taught about the requirement that every individual has a right to a fair trial, which means that he or she must not be pronounced guilty in the court of public opinion before all the facts are known, and proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. They should know, as I do, D.C. Rule of Professional Conduct 1.2 (b), which says, “A lawyer’s representation of a client, including representation by appointment, does not constitute an endorsement of the client’s political, economic, social, or moral views or activities.” Moreover, it is very likely that Rittenhouse, if he is ever tried, will be found not guilty. Did these deranged lawyer watch the video? I hope not, or they have really lost it. Rittenhouse acted in self-defense, and appears to be in the process of being railroaded by a racially biased justice system in Wisconsin, driven by the media and uninformed public opinion. I’ve seen the video. I’ve also been a prosecutor. I would not charge him, just as would not charge the officer who shot Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta. I’ve also been a defense attorney, and  I would take on Rittenhouse’s defense confident that I had a winning case.

I also was struck by the snide comment about those who object to “Black Lives Matter” signs being obvious racists. I flagged that group as being a racist hate group when it first raised its ugly, divisive head, and damn right I object to seeing signs extolling a group responsible for riots, arson, and terrorizing diners in D.C. by demanding that they raise their fists.

Finally, these formerly rational professionals—who were once even as you or I! —-had the gall to talk about how Republicans and conservatives were promoting violence and a civil war. Yes, the end of the spectrum that includes the antifa, the rioters, and a party that has worked for four years to undermine our democratic processes, is really accusing others of seeking division and violence. This warrants FOUR standard Ethics alarms clips: This one,

…this one, of course,

…I have to use this one, though these people one were not morons…

And finally,

Get well quick, friends. Please. Continue reading

Among All The Smoking Guns Showing The Mainstream Media’s Willingness to Lie Outright To Impugn President Trump, This Might Be The Smokingest

Here’s a sequence from yesterday’s news conference:

Watch it, please. Here’s a summary of what transpires:

Step 1.:  A reporter asks the President about his thoughts on the theory floated by a Constitutional law professor in Newsweek that Kamala Harris shouldn’t be considered a ‘natural born citizen” and thus technically isn’t eligible to be Vice-President or President.

Step 2: The President offers no opinion on it whatsoever, and makes it clear he didn’t read the article (who reads Newsweek?). He says 1) he heard about it 2) it is his understanding that the author is a genuine authority 3) he doesn’t know what the guy actually argued (Trump asks the reporter if the problem is that Harris “wasn’t born” in the U.S.)

Step 3.The reporter quickly summarizes the professor’s point.

Step 4. The President says, first, that he has no idea if the professor’s claims are right, and  concludes by saying he “doesn’t know about it” that he “just heard about it” and will “take  a look.”

And Step 5?

CNN headlines, “Trump promotes another birther lie, this time about Kamala Harris”

Reporter wrote,

” President Donald Trump spent years pushing lies about the birthplace and presidential eligibility of President Barack Obama, the first Black president. On Thursday, he started floating a new birther lie about Sen. Kamala Harris, who, if elected, would be the first Black and Asian American vice president. Trump’s incendiary nonsense about Harris was part of a Thursday self-described “news conference” he largely used to campaign against his Democratic election opponents…”

Three reporters wrote this completely false story, and CNN published it!

Let’s count the lies: Continue reading