Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/25/19: The Rotten Standards Edition

I feel like hearing my favorite hymn this morning.

1. How TV makes the public ignorant and unethical. On a 2008 “Law and Order” episode, “Knock Off,” a New York Assistant DA tells a lawyer that since his former client is dead, attorney client privilege no longer applies. “The privilege does not survive the client,” he says, authoritatively. This is exactly 180 degrees wrong. Privilege and client confidences do survive clients; lawyers are bound by them forever, with some rare exceptions.

The show had legal advisors.  There is no excuse for this. What were Law and Order’s standards? Would it deliberately misstate law and regulations just to accommodate the plot? Apparently so.

2. According to the New York Times, we’ve been mistaken. People don’t kill people, Guns kill people, apparently all by themselves. One of the infinite ways news organizations practice unethical and biased journalism is by falsely framing facts and issues to encourage a particular public perception. The “paper of record” just went for a new record in this event with a piece titled “One Handgun, 9 Murders: How American Firearms Cause Carnage Abroad.”Incredibly, the article personifies a gun:

She came to Jamaica from the United States about four years ago, sneaking in illegally, stowed away to avoid detection. Within a few short years, she became one of the nation’s most-wanted assassins. She preyed on the parish of Clarendon, carrying out nine confirmed kills, including a double homicide outside a bar, the killing of a father at a wake and the murder of a single mother of three. Her violence was indiscriminate: She shot and nearly killed a 14-year-old girl getting ready for church.

With few clues to identify her, the police named her Briana. They knew only her country of origin — the United States — where she had been virtually untraceable since 1991. She was a phantom, the eighth-most-wanted killer on an island with no shortage of murder, suffering one of the highest homicide rates in the world. And she was only one of thousands.

Briana, serial number 245PN70462, was a 9-millimeter Browning handgun.

The thrust of the rest of the article is that the terrible murder rate in Jamaica and other third-world counties is the fault of the U.S. for guaranteeing its citizens gun rights, and not the corruption, weak government, poverty and rotten cultures, not to mention the killers they produce, in those nations themselves. “Law enforcement officials, politicians and even gangsters on the street agree: It’s the abundance of guns, typically from the United States, that makes the country so deadly,” the article says. “And while the argument over gun control plays on a continual loop in the United States, Jamaicans say they are dying because of it — at a rate that is nine times the global average.”

That’s right: all those murderous Jamaicans would become as harmless as lambs if the United States would just get with the program.

This isn’t news reporting, it’s anti-gun propaganda. Continue reading

Mid-Day Moldy Ethics Snack, 5/8/2019: Bad Charge, Bad School, Bad Father

Yechhh!

1. Do something, blame someone…In Plano, Texas, police have charged Lindsey Glass with violating a law making it a misdemeanor to negligently sell alcohol to a “habitual drunkard or an intoxicated or insane person,.” It seems she served Spencer Hight two gins, two beers and a shot of alcohol during two visits to the bar where she was working in September 2017, before Hight killed Meredith Hight and seven other people. After  police officers shot and killed him, an autopsy found that Hight’s blood alcohol level was about four times the legal limit. The  arrest affidavit said surveillance video shows  that Hight was unsteady, spun a “big knife on the bar,” and could be seen “pulling out a gun” from his waistband.

It’s a terrible charge, and an unethical prosecution.  Glass  texted a co-worker, another bartender, saying that Hight had been spinning the knife and told her had had to go “do some dirty work.” A report by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission said  that the other bartender had called an owner of the bar, who instructed that  police should not be called. Glass was so concerned that followed Hight to his ex-wife’s home and then called 911, according to local station  Fox 4.

A lawyer for Glass emphasized  that his client had called 911 and said she had been commended by police. “It is shameful of the Plano Police Department to go after the person who was vital in trying to stop the horrific events of that evening,” he told Fox 4 and NBC in a statement. Exactly right. Police, spurred by public anger and frustration, want to find someone to blame. The fact that the drunk  went off and killed eight people is pure moral luck. It seems that the bartender went above and beyond her civic duty, at some personal risk, to follow Hight. She was originally commended by police for her actions. [Pointer: ABA Journal]
Continue reading

Ethics Alarms Reader Poll: Will The SCOTUS Decision on “Fuct” Be Unanimous?

It should be. It’s amazing to me that this issue has to take up the time of the Supreme Court, it’s so obvious.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review that case of Iancu v. Brunetti, and decide whether the Lanham’s Act’s ban on “immoral” and “scandalous” trademarks violates the First Amendment. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had refused to register a trademark for a line of clothing called “FUCT,” reasoning that “FUCT is the past tense” of a vulgar word and is “therefore scandalous,” a federal appeals court said. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit had struck down the ban on scandalous and immoral trademarks in December 2017,  but clothing designer and artist Erik Brunetti had agreed that the Supreme Court should hear the case even though he had won.  The cert petitions are here and here.

The Supreme Court struck down another provision of the Lanham Act in June 2017,  when it held that the ban on “disparaging” trademarks violated the First Amendment. The case, Matal v. Tam, was filed by an Asian-American rock band that wanted to trademark the name the Slants. The vote was 8-0 because Justice Neil M. Gorsuch did not participate in the decision. That decision also squashed efforts begun by Democrats and the Obama Administration to force the Washington Redskins to give up their “offensive” team nickname. The team’s trademarks had been cancelled in 2014 following complaints from “offended” non-football fans and a small minority of Native Americans. Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the Court,”It offends a bedrock First Amendment principle: Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend.”  The opinion rejected the government’s argument that protected trademarks become a form of government, rather than private, speech. Continue reading

New York Times: ‘Now That The Supreme Court Has Ruled That Our Position Was Progressive Censorious Jack-Boot Political Correctness Enforcement, We Didn’t Mean It’

 

How can anyone take the New York Times seriously anymore as an objective source of commentary, reporting and analysis?

Here is a hilarious section from today’s editorial celebrating the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Matal v. Tam as a victory for free speech:

Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito said the law violates a “bedrock First Amendment principle: Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend.” That’s the right call. The First Amendment bars the government from discriminating among speakers based on their viewpoints. In this case, the Trademark Office did that by blocking only registrations for trademarks it determined to have negative connotations. …The decision is likely to help the Washington Redskins, who lost their trademark protections in 2014 after years of complaints from Native American groups. At the time, this page supported the Trademark Office’s decision, and we still regard the Redskins name as offensive. Based on this case, however, we’ve since reconsidered our underlying position.

Really? When did the Times reconsider that “underlying position”? It reconsidered it only when the Supreme Court made it crystal clear that the government’s attempt to bully the Redskins into changing their name was a neon-bright, obvious First Amendment breach that any non-partisanship-addled person of moderate intelligence should be able to discern, thus constituting an embarrassment for a renowned First Amendment-protected entity—the Times—that couldn’t discern it, or that didn’t have the integrity to oppose its ideological allies by stating the inconvenient truth.

The Times endorsed the underlying position that the government could dictate what was “acceptable” speech because Harry Reid’s Democrats and the Obama Administration were doing the dictating on behalf of a core Democratic Party constituency and the progressives that constitute the Times’s readership.

What a cynical, biased, dishonest, corrupt and untrustworthy news source the New York Times has become.

The Supreme Court Rules Against Government-Enforced Political Correctness

The Supreme Court affirmed today that a Trademark law’s restriction on registration of disparaging marks violates the free speech guarantees of the US Constitution. In the case of Matal v. Tam, the Court (as Ethics Alarms predicted over a year ago) ruled that the government cannot legally  deny a trademark to companies or other applicants solely on the basis of the name being regarded as “offensive.”

Good.

The case concerned  an Asian-American band called The Slants, but the decision effectively settles the Washington Redskins’ fight to retain the trademark on its nickname. Harry Reid, also engaging in unconstitutional infringement of free speech, had his Democrats in the Senate send a threatening letter to team owner Dan Snyder, while the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), taking its cues from the Obama Administration theme that race and victim-mongering  trumps basic rights, ruled that the Washington NFL team’s name was “disparaging to Native Americans,” and cancelled six of its federal trademark registrations. The team appealed that verdict, and team owner Dan Snyder has vowed not to cave to illegal bullying from the government.

Thanks to the ruling—did I mention that it was unanimous?—the PTO will begin allowing registration of disparaging marks and will not cancel Registered marks because they are disparaging.

The last time I addressed this issue, in December of 2015, I wrote,

“I would like to see Snyder fight off the unethical government speech bullies, foil the political correctness hordes, and then, after he hasn’t heard a peep about team for a couple of years quietly change the anachronistic team name on his own volition. It’s time. The message sent by capitulating to the activists trying to force him to change, however, would be the same dangerous message sent by today’s college administrators, which is that a claim of offense doesn’t have to be reasonable to effectively muzzle speech, just persistent.”

I also wrote, somewhat more passionately ,in an earlier post, Continue reading

The Redskins Native American Poll: Integrity Check For Progressives And Race-Baiters

Washington-Redskins

My Washington Post is filled with articles and columns reacting to the “surprising” poll results released yesterday—a poll taken by the Post itself— that appears to settle a manufactured controversy of long-standing. If it doesn’t, that will tell us more about those who resist than it does about the merits of the controversy itself.

The Washington Post-commissioned poll shows that 9 in 10 Native Americans are not offended by the Washington Redskins name, despite a steady tom-tom beat of complaints and insults from activists, pandering politicians, cultural bullies and politically correct journalists insisting otherwise. The poll, which was analyzed by age, income, education, political party or proximity to reservation, shows that the minds of Native Americans have remained unchanged since a 2004 poll by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found the same result. (Actually,  Native Americans are somewhat less offended by the name than twelve years ago.)

The immediate question that the poll raises is one that Ethics Alarms has raised repeatedly as a rhetorical one. As the Post wrote today, speaking specifically of the segment of the sports media that had been so doctrinaire in attacking the name, even to the point of censoring it:

“Can they be offended on behalf of a group that they’re not part of, especially a group that appears, overwhelmingly, not to be offended by the word media figures object to?”

To ask the question is to answer it.  If the name in fact isn’t offensive to the group it is claimed to offend, then it is ridiculous for non-Native American to continue to be offended on their behalf.

Thus the poll results pose an excellent test of integrity and honesty for all of the liberals, politicians, political correctness junkies, pundits, social justice warriors and fringe Native American activists who have been so insulting and shrill to supporters of the name. Do they have the courage and fairness to admit they were wrong? Can the ideologically programmed ever do this: do facts matter, or is it essential for them to interpret the world according to cant rather than bend, adapt and compromise to inconvenient, messy reality?

Well, we shall see. The Post’s early results do not speak well for the anti-Redskins zealots. Continue reading

A Merry Christmas For The Washington Redskins, “The Slants,” And The First Amendment

Yes, The Slants were apparently, disparaging. themselves.

Yes, The Slants were apparently disparaging. themselves.

The political-correctness obsessed Democratic component of our government has decided that forcing Dan Snyder to change the name of his football team due to its alleged offensiveness to people who don’t care about football is a legitimate government function, or so they would have us believe. Actually, they believe it is a legitimate political function to lick the moccasins of progressive activist groups who thrive on opportunities to tell others what they can safely say.

After Senate Democrats signed an unethical  missive threatening the Washington Redskins if the team wasn’t renamed something that an enterprising race-baiter wouldn’t find offensive—not as easy as it may seem— the Patent and Trademark Office canceled the registration of “Redskins” using the excuse that Federal trademark law excludes the registration of “scandalous, immoral, or disparaging marks” as well as trademarks that a “substantial composite of the referenced group” perceives as disparaging to a religion, nation, ethnic group, or  belief system. [ You can read my opinion on this ruling here. I’d quote from it, but it’s Christmas Eve.]

The ruling was upheld in the Fourth Circuit, despite the fact that it seem to be fairly blatant viewpoint-based restriction of speech, or in other words, unconstitutional. To his credit, Snyder is not allowing the Democrats to bully him or illegally try to control his speech either, and has the resources to fight. The betting is that the Supreme Court will tell the Trademark Office to stop playing politics.

The Patent and Trademark Office also barred the registration of “The Slants,” the trademarked name of Simon Tam’s Asian-American band. Now the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit just held, in the case of In re Tam, by a 9-to-3 vote, that this exclusion of “disparaging” trademarks, and, by extension, the Redskins ban as well, violates the First Amendment.  This means that the Redskins case is likely to go to the Supreme Court if the government doesn’t agree to let people trademark whatever the want to, regardless of who or what it might “disparage.” Continue reading