KABOOM! “Human Sacrifice, Dogs And Cats Living Together, Mass Hysteria!”… If I Hadn’t Seen This, I Wouldn’t Have Believed It, And My Head Wouldn’t Have Exploded

Remember, Donald Trump is the fascist who is trying to crush democracy. Just repeat that to yourself as you consider this, and maybe…no, it still will still make your head explode.

Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, in the persons of  Biden’s top aides Anita Dunn and Kate Bedingfield, sent a letter  to the heads of the major news and cable networks, as well as top news anchors, demanding that they refuse to book Presidential advisor Rudy Giuliani. It read in part,

“We are writing today with grave concern that you continue to book Rudy Giuliani on your air to spread false, debunked conspiracy theories on behalf of Donald Trump. While you often fact check his statements in real time during your discussions, that is no longer enough. By giving him your air time, you are allowing him to introduce increasingly unhinged, unfounded and desperate lies into the national conversation, We write to demand that in service to the facts, you no longer book Rudy Giuliani, a surrogate for Donald Trump who has demonstrated that he will knowingly and willingly lie in order to advance his own narrative…Giuliani is not a public official, and holds no public office that would entitle him to opine on the nation’s airwaves.”

Then the letter demands that if the former mayor is put on the airwaves, “an equivalent amount of time” be given “to a surrogate for the Biden campaign.”

Frankly, I still can’t believe Biden approved this, but of course, he must have. What’s going on here?  Incredibly, this: A former Vice President and current (though doomed) Presidential hopeful is asking the news media to actively censor a political critic. Continue reading

Policing Ethics, Part Two: When Those Expected To Stand Up For The Law Can’t Stand Up For Themselves

Cellphone videos of New York City police officers being doused with water while trying to do their jobs became an internet sensation this week, and an unsettling (but inevitable) controversy for New York City.  The officers were trying to disperse rowdy groups at fire hydrants during a three-day heat wave, and allowed themselves to be assaulted and humiliated while  crowds cheered the attackers on.

The police arrested three men who were caught on video hurling water at police in two incidents. This also caused controversy. “Why is a man facing more severe punishment for dousing a police officer than Officer Daniel Pantaleo is for choking Eric Garner?” asked a Times article. That shouldn’t be a difficult question, but you know—the Times. Eric Garner was a petty criminal resisting arrest. The officers were doing their jobs, and Garner died as the result of an accident, in great part because of his own actions in defying the police. The police were also trying to do their jobs when they were doused with water, in an act that threatens the peace and order of the community.

The Police Department’s highest-ranking uniformed officer, Terence Monahan, the police chief, lit the fuse on a larger controversy, saying,

“Any cop who thinks that’s all right, that they can walk away from something like that, maybe should reconsider whether or not this is the profession for them.We don’t take that.”

But they did take that, and the Mayor of New York wants them to take that, because the whole idea of law enforcement is now, and has often been, anathema to progressive ideology. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/3/19: Morons, And More.

Good morning!

Still working on the appellee brief in my defense against the frivolous law suit by an angry banned Ethics Alarms commenter whose boo-boo I bruised. How do you write a professional, respectful, effective rebuttal of a 70 page brief that is basically nonsense? I know how to argue against a real good faith legal assertion–indeed, my enjoyment of brief-writing nearly got me stuck in the traditional practice of law. But “this is deranged crap that doesn’t constitute a valid appeal and that wastes the time of everyone involved” isn’t a professional response, just a fair one.

1. “You know…morons!” At least two people—I can’t find the link for the second one, but it was a child—were wounded when spent bullets shot into the air by New Year’s Eve celebrants fell back to earth and hit them. This happens every year. Why do people think shooting guns into the sky is safe? In WW II, my father had to promise a court martial for any soldier under his command who shot a weapon into the air.  This is basic Law of Gravity stuff, but it seems to elude an amazing number of gum owners. I’m only aware of one move that ever featured a death from a falling bullet: “The Mexican,” a failed 2001 Brad Pitt-Julia Roberts comedy.

2. “You know…morons!” (cont.) The Netflix horror hit “The Bird Box,” which involves a blindfolded Sandra Bullock leading her similarly burdened children on an odyssey to escape an apocalyptic threat that only strikes when it is seen, has spawned a web challenge in which people are encouraged to try doing everyday tasks wearing blindfolds. This prompted a warning from Netflix:

“Can’t believe I have to say this, but: PLEASE DO NOT HURT YOURSELVES WITH THIS BIRD BOX CHALLENGE. We don’t know how this started, and we appreciate the love, but Boy and Girl have just one wish for 2019 and it is that you not end up in the hospital due to memes.”

Boy and Girl are what Bullock’s character’s children are called, because she is so certain they are doomed that she doesn’t want to name them. I am tempted to say that anyone so stupid as to try this challenge should not be discouraged, because their demise will only benefit the rest of us. But that would be mean.

True, but mean.

3. Follow-Up…The Federalist has more on the unfolding Steele Dossier scandal. I do not see how any result of the Mueller investigation can hold up in court, no matter how much the mainstream news media spins it, with the degree of procedural irregularity and prosecutor misconduct we already know is behind it. Presumably this is why the focus has shifted to the extremely dubious theory that Trump violated election laws by paying off a sex partner, something he would have probably done whether he was running for office or not, and also a transaction that didn’t involve campaign funds. The media keeps reporting the latter as if it is an unquestioned crime (apparently because Michael Cohen was induced to plead guilty to it), but it just isn’t a crime, and I believe in the end that theory will be thrown out of court too. Continue reading

Fake News Watch: “Truth Isn’t Truth”

Okay, if “enemy of the people” is too strong, how about “incompetent and malicious professionals abusing the public trust by misleading and misinforming citizens for the purpose of destabilizing the government and undermining democracy”? How’s that? Better? But doesn’t such conduct make someone an enemy of the people? And it’s so much shorter!

I didn’t see the interview, but still knew immediately that Rudy Giuliani didn’t literally say and mean “Truth isn’t truth” as the news media was widely reporting yesterday. Rudy may have lost his edge, but he’s no idiot, and he is not going to fall into an “alternate facts” gaffe like Kellyanne Conway. If you didn’t know that with relative certainty, if you didn’t assume that the biased news media was intentionally trying to make Giuliani, and hence the Trump Administration, and thus Trump himself, inherently dishonest and ridiculous,  then you are gullible, dangerously ignorant of the complexity of language and the critical role of context, or stubbornly unwilling to accept what is res ipsa loquitur now, which is that journalism has become overwhelmingly partisan and cannot be trusted.

If one witnessed the interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd that produced the fake “gotcha!” and didn’t find that false representation outrageous, then one is simply a hopeless, principal-free “resistance” fanatic.

Here was the actual exchange: Continue reading

Lunchtime Ethics Warm-Up, 5/29/18: Lies, Boycotts, Boos, and More Lies

1. Update: We discussed earlier the accusations by former staff that Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Va.) had used his Congressional staff to perform personal tasks for him, his wife, and his dog. Now he has announced that he will not seek re-election, because he needs to deal with his alcoholism. As we know from many previous example, alcoholism is the go-to excuse for all manner of misconduct. In truth, it doesn’t make anyone misuse public funds, it doesn’t make anyone turn their staff into domestic help. This is a face-saving lie in most cases. In any case, good riddance.

2. Never mind football, what matters most is division and protest. DNC co-chair Keith Ellison actually tweeted this:

Yes, he is advocating a boycott of the NFL because the owners have decided that their ticket-purchasers should not be required to watch protests on the field before kick-off. Ellison and the other fans of making every aspect of American life a source of political discord believe that the protests, incoherent as they are, are more important than the games. He would inflict financial losses on a business for a completely reasonable policy, because it doesn’t further a progressive agenda. And, of course, those most harmed by a successful boycott would be the players. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/11/2018: The Yankees Get Nasty, The Times Keeps Distorting, Rudy Is Sacked, And Dangerous Advice From An HR Expert

A lovely May morn to all!

1 As I have always said, the Yankees are evil. Most serious baseball fans,  and presumably all Baltimore Orioles fans, remember how in the 1996 ALCS play-offs,  a young New York Yankees fan named Jeffrey Maier turned what should have been a crucial out for his team into a game-tying home run by Derek Jeter in the 8th inning of Game 1, by reaching over the fence and catching the ball before it could fall into O’s rightfielder Tony Tarasco’s glove. This was interference, but it was before the challenge and replay rule, and the umpires, as is too often the case, missed the play. The Yankees won the game, the series and the World Series, and the Yankees and their city celebrated Maier as a hero—for, in essence, cheating on their behalf. The rules announced at the beginning of each game dictate that such conduct will result in an offending fan being thrown out of the stadium, but never mind: the ends justify the means, consequentialism, moral luck, double standards, hypocrisy…readers here know the litany. Misconduct was rewarded and extolled because everyone loved the result. New York, New York!

Now let’s go forward 22 years to last night’s tense game between the Yankees and their eternal rivals, the Boston Red Sox, also in Yankee Stadium (the new version.) The Yankees, as they had the previous two nights, rallied late against the hapless Boston bullpen and tied the game, 4-4, in the 7th inning. In the Sox 8th, J.D. Martinez hit a lazy fly that just got over the short right field fence and leaping gargantuan Yankees rightfielder Aaron Judge’s glove, into the outreached glove of another young fan, except that this one did not reach over the fence, and did not, as the replay showed clearly, interfere with Judge in any way.

Ah, but the home run he caught was hit by a Red Sox player, and put the Yankees behind in the game, after the fans’ hopes had been raised.

Yankee Stadium security hauled the fan out of the stadium.

The Red Sox won the game.

Good.

2. The Good Illegal Immigrant on stage…just to remind us of how pervasive false narratives are..I have kept an April 10 New York Times feature around just to raise my blood pressure in case I need a jolt. The article hails “Miss You Like Hell,” a new musical produced at Manhattan’s Public Theater. The show is about the pain and suffering endured by people who are in the United States illegally, having presumed to take what they want in defiance of our laws and policy, but no sense of wrongdoing is even hinted at in the story. The Times uses the deceitful cover-phrase “undocumented immigrant,” which was devised deliberately to blur the illegal immigration issue.

Today, as has been increasingly the case throughout the news media, a front page Times article uses “immigration” interchangeably with “illegal immigration.” This, of course, advances the lie that the those who oppose illegal immigration—that is, those who oppose law-breaking without consequence as national policy–are anti-immigrant.

This same story was headlined by the Washington Post, “Trump unloads on Homeland Security secretary in lengthy immigration tirade.” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/3/2018: Katie’s Rationalization, Teachers’ Extortion, Rudy’s Zugswang, And Kanye’s Influence

Goooood morning!

(I thought it was time for “Singin’ in the Rain” again. Of course, it is always time for “Singin’ in the Rain”…)

1. And that’s when you know…When alleged sexual harassers are accused, the way you know whether they are guilty or not often depends on whether the floodgates open, and large numbers of other women step forward. This was Bill Cosby’s downfall. Now we learn that 27 more victims of Charlie Rose have raised their metaphorical hands. Sorry, Charlie!

The mystery to me is why  current and former colleagues of outed abusers and harassers so often rush to defend them, even post #MeToo, and even women. I suppose is cognitive dissonance again: the defenders have high regard for the harasser, and simply can’t process the fact that they may have been engaged in awful conduct. Katie Couric’s defense of Matt Lauer, however, is especially damning.

Variety reported that Lauer’s office had a button that allowed him to remotely lock his office door when he had female prey within his grasp…

“His office was in a secluded space, and he had a button under his desk that allowed him to lock his door from the inside without getting up. This afforded him the assurance of privacy. It allowed him to welcome female employees and initiate inappropriate contact while knowing nobody could walk in on him, according to two women who were sexually harassed by Lauer.”

Yet on “The Wendy Williams Show” this week, Couric “explained”…

“I think the whole button thing, you know? I think — NBC — a lot of stuff gets misreported and blown out of proportion. A lot of NBC executives, they make it sound like some kind of den of inequity. I don’t know what was happening. A lot of NBC executives have those buttons that opened and closed doors… They did. I mean, it was really just a privacy thing. It wasn’t..Honestly I think it was an executive perk that some people opted to have and I don’t think it was a nefarious thing. I really don’t. And I think that is misconstrued….”

Wowsers. First, Couric is intentionally blurring the facts, using “open and close” as a euphemism for “unlock and lock.” I guarantee that no button would cause the office door to swing open or swing closed, as Couric suggested. I’ve searched for such a device: all I can find are remote office door locking mechanisms. Second, while it is true that other NBC execs once had that feature, it appears that Lauer was “was one of the few, if not the only, NBC News employee to have one,”a senior NBC News employee told the Washington Post.

Second, Couric is engaging in The Golden Rationalization: “Everybody does it.”

2.  Extortion works! Arizona’s governor signed a 9% pay increase for the state’s teachers, because the teachers engaged in a wildcat strike, kids were missing school, and parents couldn’t go to work without their state funded child-sitters. I’m not going to analyze whether the teachers demands were right or wrong, because it doesn’t matter. The teachers’ tactic was unethical, just like the Boston police strike in 1919 was unethical, just like  the air traffic controllers strike in  1981. In the former, Massachusetts governor Calvin Coolidge (what happened to that guy?) famously fired all the striking cops, saying in part that  “The right of the police of Boston to affiliate has always been questioned, never granted, is now prohibited…There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.” President Reagan quoted Cal when he fired the air traffic controllers and eliminated its union.

Striking against children and their education is also a strike against the public safety. What now stops the teachers, in Arizona or anywhere else, from using similar extortion tactics for more raise, policies they favor, or any other objective?  What was lacking here was political leadership possessing the integrity and courage to tell the teachers to do their jobs during negotiations, or be fired.

This precedent will rapidly demonstrate why public unions are a menace to democracy Continue reading

TV Critic Neil Genzlinger’s Absurd Quote, Samantha Bee, And The 9th Circuit’s Travel Halt Decision]

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First, a quote…

“There is a lot of bravado in this series about how comics are society’s truth-tellers. As Keegan-Michael Key puts it: “The comic has become the person who pulls back the curtain to show the world that: ‘Do you see that this is happening? We didn’t make this up.’”Of course, we’ve just been through a period in which comedians of all sorts joked about one possible outcome of the American presidential election as if it could never actually come to be, and it came to be anyway. Now, the comics holding that curtain may be realizing that, sometimes, the world isn’t listening or doesn’t care.”

—New York Times TV reviewer Neil Genzlinger, in his conclusion to the review of CNN’s documentary on the history of television comedy.

Ugh.

The reason, Neil, that the world “isn’t listening or doesn’t care” is that with very, very rare exceptions, the political pronouncements of comedians are simple-minded, ignorant, juvenile or worse. Unfortunately, comics are increasingly laboring under the delusion that their junior college degrees, narrow life experiences and success at making drunks cackle imbues them with some genuine authority to pass judgments on complex policy issues. This is manifestly untrue. The clowns are on TV because they are, or were, allegedly funny, not because they have anything more sophisticated to offer regarding foreign policy or tax reform than the average guy on a barstool.

I have now seen an ad for Samantha Bee’s comedy show “Full Frontal” approximately a million times, or so it seems. If she is really this  ignorant, her show should be banned by the NEA. All of her featured riff is about how horrible the President is—well, at least that’s original—and it ends with her statement, complete with “any idiot should know this” facial mugging, that “lawyers call” Trump’s temporary immigration halt from seven nations “unconstitutional.”  Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: “Late Night” Host Seth Meyers

meyers-giuliani

Seth Meyers is a comedy writer and performer, and his job, on the show following the Tonight Show, is to be funny, not to use the program as a platform for his political views. His predecessor twice-removed, David Letterman, increasingly ignored that line as time went on and he moved to CBS. This stratified his audience, and abused his role, but massaged Letterman’s massive ego. (Meyers’ immediate predecessor, current Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon, may not always be funny, but he knows his place.) Meyers is relatively new to the job, and this week went much, much farther than Letterman ever went, while being supremely smug about it. Here were his hilarious comments last night:

MEYERS: So there were some incendiary and counterproductive responses to the tragedy in Dallas, but there were perhaps no worse response than that of former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who complained, in perhaps the most galling and offensive way possible, that those peacefully protesting for police reform should shift their focus.

RUDY GIULIANI (on video): If I were a black father and I was concerned of my child, really concerned about it, and not in a politically activist sense, I would say, “be very respectful of the police. most of them are good. some can be very bad. and just be very careful.” I’d also say, ‘Be very careful of those kids in the neighborhood and don’t get involved with them, because son, there’s a 99% chance they’re going to kill you, not the police.’

MEYERS: Okay, first of all, don’t ever start a sentence with the phrase, “if I were a black father.” If you are black father, you don’t need to say it. And if you’re not, you should probably just shut the fuck up. And if Giuliani’s willing to say that some police can be very bad, you would think he’d see the value in the Black Lives Matter protests. But instead, he condemned them.

Observations: Continue reading

Ethics Observations On Beyonce’s Super Bowl 50 Halftime Performance

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On the eve of her Super Bowl 50 half time show performance, Beyoncé released  “Formation,” a video full of references to Black Lives Matter tropes and propaganda, including “Hand Up! Don’t Shoot!”  (You can view it here. The earlier version of this post had an unofficial version: I apologize for the error.) Then in her portion of the Super Bowl 50 halftime show, the pop star gave the sold-out stadium and world-wide audience a live version of the video, including  backup dancers wearing Black Panther berets who formed  an X, apparently alluding to black Muslim activist Malcolm X, and raised their fists in the “black power” salute. African-Americans activists wrote that they saw the performance as a tribute to the 50th Anniversary, not of the Super Bowl, but to the Black Panthers.

The halftime show was part of a marketing plan messaging across multiple platforms, from social media to mainstream media. Once the show was seen in the context of the more explicit video, a controversy emerged, just as Beyoncé ‘s marketing geniuses hoped it would. Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani was among the vocal critics, calling the show “outrageous” said telling Fox News,”This is football, it’s not Hollywood, and I thought it was really outrageous that she used it as a platform to attack police officers who are the people who protect her and protect us, and keep us alive.”  Protests are planned at NFL headquarters.

What’s going on here?

1. Stipulated: Beyoncé’s sole intentions are to sell, make money, and get buzz. If she has a genuine political motive, and I doubt it, it is secondary to the good ol’ profit-making motive that has made her a mega-millionaire. She and her husband Jay-Z have been linking their brand to Black Lives Matter because they see profit in it, that’s all. Is it crass and ethically inert? Sure it is…just like the music business and the rest of show business. Is it particular disgusting, at a time of dangerous racial division in this country heightened by liars, crooks, complicit activists and cynical politicians, to try to make money by glamorizing it? Yes indeed, but the Julie Principle needs to be applied here. Fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly, and if you are paying any attention to people like Beyoncé, you can’t be shocked or overly angry at them when they show that their motives are purely non-ethical at all times. Yes, Beyoncé’s conduct was culturally irresponsible and unethical. “This is my shocked face:”

shocked face

2. That said, hijacking the Super Bowl halftime show to make a race-baiting, divisive, anti-police demonstration out of what is supposed to be a unifying, fun, family-friendly cultural event, by extolling the racist Black Lives Matter, the criminal and racist Black Panthers, and destructive lies like “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” is indeed outrageous. The stunt deserves every bit of criticism it has recieved and more. Continue reading