“We Need A Little Ethics”

earworm

After posting Jerry Herman’s insidiously cheery Christmas ditty from “Mame,” “We Need A Little Christmas” yesterday, the earworm kept me awake much of the night but with different lyrics. Consider this post as an exorcism of sorts…

Dust off your values
Revue those handy, dandy Pillars of Character!
Spruce up your conscience
You may get mocked by some but be a patriot now…
For we need a little ethics, right this very minute
Finding truth is tricky for the media will spin it
Yes, we need a little ethics, right this very minute

When they intimidate a jury, let’s help the jurors not to worry…

Re-read old Plato!
Make sure that Golden Rule is on your mind again;
Don’t be a weenie…
Don’t ever ask forgiveness when you’ve done nothing wrong!

For life’s grown a little rougher, grown a little meaner
So we must be all tougher while we keep our tactics cleaner
With our arguments put forward with a civil, fair demeanor
We need to sing this ethics song.

So no rationalizations and no “Everybody does it”
And no “tit for tatting” payback: you know why, and it’s because it
makes society turn rotten…let’s all find the rot and pause it.
We need a little ethics now!

 

Open Forum, Most Ethical Time Of The Year Edition…

Hit it, Andy!

It’s the most ethical time of the year!
With the generous giving
As people start living like everyone’s dear
It’s the most ethical time of the year!

It’s the Gold-Goldenest Rule time of all
When the ethical virtues call us to assert news

That Hope is on call!
It’s the Do Unto-est season of all…

There’s epiphanies coming
And carols for humming
Reminding us how to be kind
There’ll be joyful surprises
As Man realizes the good will a Christmas can find…

It’s the most ethical time of the year
With Emanuel Kanting
And wishes for granting
When loved ones are near
It’s the most ethical time of the year!

“The Twelve Lies Of Rittenhouse”

Sadly, this is how my mind works and has always worked, if you can call it “working.” Once I wrote in the previous post that my mention of twelve lies in regard to the Kyle Rittenhouse case suggested a Christmas song parody, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head until I wrote it. Fortunately, there were more than twelve lies to play with, or the challenge would have been impossible.

Here it is; do with it as you choose. The video above is provided so you can sing along: Continue reading

In Which I Am Admonished For A Slur, And Am Unapologetic

Former US senator John Edwards speaks 30

An episode today raised echos of a couple of Ethics Alarms topics this week, such as incivility and the use of uncomplimentary words.

Today’s presentation of the musical legal ethics seminar “Ethics Rock 2021” began with my partner Mike Messer singing “Ethics Man,” a parody of Billy Joel’s classic “Piano Man.” It was about the tenth version of that wonderfully adaptable song that I have written. This was today’s chorus (it’s usually a sing-along, but not on Zoom):

Sing us the Rules, you’re the ethics man!
Sing us the Rules today!
We’re stuck in an ethics dilemma here
And it’s your job to show us the way!

I had returned an old verse to this installment because I felt the issue of character and the fitness to practice law was an especially relevant topic. The verse was first written shortly after the John Edwards scandal was exposed.. Edwards, as you may know, never faced any professional discipline from the North Carolina bar despite what I have been told were thousands of complaints, though none were related to his legal practice…

Now John, he was running for President
While running around on his wife
And he fathered a daughter and lied like a rotter
Constructing the scam of his life.
But some lawyers say, “Hey, all that’s personal!
He isn’t unworthy of trust!
Like that guy with the huge student loan he owes
So his bar application’s a bust.”

The last part was a reference to Robert Bowman, a hard-working, honorable law grad denied membership in the New York bar for years because his student loan debt had ballooned due to no fault of his own. (He was eventually admitted.) Bowman was found to lack the character to practice law, while Edwards was (and is) still officially a lawyer in “good standing.” This is a sore point for me; I have said many times that I wouldn’t trust Edwards to mail my water bill, and for the profession to assert that he has the “moral character” to practice law is not just a double standard but a ridiculous one.

Somewhere in my riff on Edwards versus Bowman I used the term “scumbag” to describe the former Senator, and quickly got a message from one of the participants claiming that it was “inappropriate” to refer to Edwards with that slur.

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Ethics Warm-Up,12/10/2020, Even Though You’re Probably Warm Already From Your Head Exploding

head explosion

Gag me with a spoon. The Times this week published yet another dreamy, worshipful portrait of Barack Obama…

Obama yecchh

… along with the kind of journalistic fawning we became used to during his eight years of weak and feckless leadership:

A Promised Land” uses his improbable journey — from outsider to the White House and the first two years of his presidency — as a prism by which to explore some of the dynamics of change and renewal that have informed two and a half centuries of American history. It attests to Mr. Obama’s own storytelling powers and to his belief that, in these divided times, “storytelling and literature are more important than ever,” adding that “we need to explain to each other who we are and where we’re going.”

Has the Times ever published a single paragraph, much less an entire article, about the current President with such an admiring tone? Has anyone published a photo like that of President Trump, rather than one which made him look sinister, manic or brooding? I’m trying to think back and determine if any President has been as insufferably smug as Barack Obama, or acclaimed despite such a dearth of positive accomplishments. Clinton would be the closest in the first category, Kennedy in the latter.

1. Don’t encourage him. Donald Trump will be a disqualifying 78 years old when 2024 rolls around. He will have no business running for President at that age, but if trend hold, he will do it anyway, essentially playing Teddy Roosevelt in 1912 and letting his unrestrained ego wreck any chances the Republican might have of finding new leadership and defeating whoever the Democrats run. Trump will be back where he was in 2012 and 2016, running for President without any concern for the damage it may do.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/12/2020: The “I’m Sorry I Ignored Veteran’s Day But I Was Distracted By The Enemies Of The People” Edition

The reason for the choice of song will reveal itself at the end of the post…

1. No 2020 Election Train Wreck update this morning, because there are only a few items to report. One stinker from yesterday: the New York Times had an across-the-front page, “This is important!” headline that read, “ELECTION OFFICIALS NATIONWIDE FIND NO FRAUD.”

How did the Times’ ethics fall so far, so fast? That headline is pure propaganda, deceitful on its face. Do the editors think even the most partisan of their readers are that gullible?

2. Then there’s the Washington Post. I almost hate to post this after trying to talk commenter of the day Steve Witherspoon off the ledge in the previous Ethics Alarms entry. USPS whistleblower Richard Hopkins has demanded Tuesday that the false Washington Post story claiming he ‘recanted’ his sword statement regarding directions he was given by his Erie, PA postmaster to backdate ballots mailed after Election Day. He did not recant. In a video, the veteran says,

“My name is Richard Hopkins, I’m a postal employee who came out and whistleblew on the Erie, Pennsylvania postal service, postal office. I am right at this very moment looking at an article written by the Washington Post—it says that I fabricated the allegations of ballot tampering. I’m here to say that I did not recant my statements, that didn’t happen, that is not what happened. You will find out tomorrow, and I would like that the Washington Post recant their wonderful little article that they decided to throw out there, out at random.”

He has been placed on non-pay status by the Erie Post Office, which seems like a violation of whistle-blower laws to me, but I haven’t checked. GoFundMe, based on the Post story, erased the effort to provide him and his family financial support while he is being punished by the USPS.

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Unethical Quote Of The Week: Cher

Cher

“Right now our country’s gloomy
Fear is in the air
But when Joe’s President
Hope is everywhere
Troubles fly away
And life will easy flow
Joe will keep us safe
That’s all we need to know….”

Cher, singing a really bad parody of “Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe” a Harold Arlen-Yip Harburg song from the 1943 all-black film musical “Cabin in the Sky,” at the 2020 “I Will Vote” Concert last night.

The original lyrics were,

“It seems like happiness is just a thing called Joe
He’s got a smile that makes the lilacs want to grow,
He’s got a way that makes the angels heave a sigh
When they see little Joe passing by…”

It’s not fair to hold campaign songs that put new lyrics to popular tunes to too high a standard. They are all pretty dreadful, and since rap and hip-hop took over popular music, the once-common practice has almost become extinct.

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Monday Musical Ethics , 8/31/2020: A Number From Today’s Seminar!

Good afternoon!

We ran out of time and had to dash through our last number on today’s version of Ethics Rock (By the way, Mike Messer really looks like the logo, which was designed before we found him), so I’ll let the legal ethics whizzes here (and everyone else: non-layers often do better on these quizzes than lawyers do—take a shot at the questions…Are you ready? “NJSBA” means “New Jersey State Bar Association,” you stress the “J” to make it scan.

“The Day My Ethics Died”

[A ProEthics legal ethics parody to the melody of “American Pie” by Don McLean]

A long, long, time ago,
I can still remember
Legal practice used to make me smile
And I knew if I could get my shot
I’d win my cases, like as not,
And then I could drink Chivas for a while.

But ethics rulings made me nauseous
I’m no good when over-cautious.
Clients give a cruel look
When they see you check the rule book.

I can’t remember if I cried
When I finally knew my brain was fried…
I took the rules and looked inside,
The day my ethics died.

So, hey, hey, NJSBA
Your committee has no pity for us lawyers today;
When black and white start to fade into gray
We ask, “Do you really mean what you say?”
“Do you really mean what you say?”

Oh, I’m the king of slip and falls
My suits make safer lawns and halls
(At least my wallet tells me so.)

My client, Mick, is lame and sore
Since he hit his head on a banker’s floor
And his injury has left him kinda slow.

Now his father has me change his will
To take out Mick and give him nil;
I know its Dad’s estate—
But doing this to Mick I hate!

Then there’s the day when Mick pulls out his gun
And points to strangers in the sun
He says, “I’d like to shoot them, one by one!”

The day my ethics died.

And I am singing,

Hey, hey, NJSBA
Your committee has no pity for us lawyers today;
When black and white start to fade into gray
We ask, “Do you really mean what you say?”
“Do you really mean what you say?”

Crying, lying, everything I’m trying
But Mick is nuts, there’s no denying
I do what he says and we’re dead.

This guy hears commands from Outer Space
And that strange expression on his face
Tells me something has pulled loose inside his head.

He’s pushing theories that won’t fly
And making arguments that I
Would never use in court…
Perhaps I should abort!

Or instead, before his fate is sealed
A guardian can make him yield;
I should have found a better field
Before my ethics died.

So now I’m singing,

Hey, hey, Mister VSBA
Your committee has no pity for us lawyers today;
When black and white start to fade into gray
We ask, “Do you really mean what you say?”
“Do you really mean what you say?”

Then, surprise! Just as I’m feeling sick
A settlement is offered Mick…
A deal like this won’t come again…
So come on Mick, be prudent, don’t be slow!

Drop the claim and take the dough
I’m sayin’, as your lawyer and your friend!

But Mick says no, it’s not enough
I argue, beg, and then get tough:
“You take it, or I’m through!
I’ll quit unless you do!”

Then as a last resort, I shout out, “Hey!”
“The Space Lords dictate what I say!”
And Mick says, “Really?! Then okay!”
The day my ethics died.

So I was singing

Hey, hey, NJSBA
Your committee has no pity for us lawyers today;
When black and white start to fade into gray
We ask, “Do you really mean what you say?”
“Do you really mean what you say?”

When the check arrived for Mick to take
He admitted that his pain was fake,
And I just groaned and turned away.

I tried to learn from CLE
But I fell asleep so rapidly
Though the man there gave me credit anyway.

And in the court the judges screamed
The juries drooled and the clients schemed
But nothing really mattered
My ethics all were shattered.

And the three things that inspired me
Justice,
Love, and a
Giant fee
Just seemed to be a mockery
The day my ethics died.

We started singing…

Hey, hey, NJSBA

Your committee has no pity for us lawyers today;
When black and white start to fade into gray
We ask, “Do you really mean what you say?”
“Do you really mean what you say?”

[SING ALONG!]

Hey, hey, NJSBA
Your committee has no pity for us lawyers today;
When black and white start to fade into gray
We ask, “Do you really mean what you say?”

Questions… Continue reading

Emergency Open Forum!

 

I just can’t mount the energy or mental acuity to post anything coherent right now, but if I don’t at least open the lines, I may go nuts. I actually just had a WordPress nightmare…I’m serious.

If anyone wants to use this as an opportunity to play “Ask The Ethics Man!,” that might be fun. I think I could respond to direct questions and inquiries I often feature a song called “The Ethics Man” in my musical legal ethics seminars. Sung wittily and well, as always, by my partner Mike Messer, it’s a singalong. There are several versions; I keep updating it. I’m pretty sure you know the Billy Joel classic song it parodies:

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A Diversion….

A friend on mine from the Gilbert and Sullivan crowd issued a challenge to write a parody of Koko’s “I’ve Got A Little List” from “The Mikado.” Well, I couldn’t pass that up: I wrote my first parody of the song when I was 16 and played The Lord High Executioner in high school. I wrote another one years later when I played the part again in my 20’s, and yet again, several times, when I wrote and directed a political satire revue that played at a D.C. hotel for several months.It’s also a very easy song to write new lyrics to, which was by Gilbert’s design.

This took me only a bit longer to write than it took to type it. It’s not an ethics post, but hell, if I can’t post something on my own blog just because I feel like it, what’s the point?

I promise not to abuse the privilege.

Here’s the Wuhan virus version of Koko’s list…

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