A Line That Will Echo Through The Annals Of Legal Ethics And Technological Incompetence: “I’m Not A Cat”

Lawyer cat

I apologize for missing this wonderful story from last week.

In a civil forfeiture case hearing held via Zoom in Texas’ 394th Judicial District Court, Rod Ponton, a county attorney in Presidio County, Texas, couldn’t figure out how to turn off a filter he had somehow turned on. That filter made him appear to be a talking kitten.

“Mr. Ponton, I believe you have a filter turned on in the video settings,” Judge Roy Ferguson, presiding over the case, says with admirable restraint. “Augggh,” says. Ponton. “Can you hear me, Judge? I don’t know how to remove it. I’ve got my assistant here and she’s trying to.”

Then he adds, “I’m prepared to go forward with it. I’m here live” and “I’m not a cat.” “I can see that, ”Judge Ferguson replies.

Here’s the video:

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Now THIS Is Zoom Incompetence…[Corrected]

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National University of Singapore (NUS) mathematics Professor Wang Dong (Behave!) discovered at the conclusion of his two hour lecture via Zoom that he had been on mute the entire time.

He learned the horrible news when he asked for questions.. Eventually one of the 20 or so students who hung around the entire, dead, two hours informed him what had happened. The screen had frozen just eight minutes into the presentation. Prof. Wang eventually got up the courage after his humiliation to say that he would reschedule his lecture. HA! Good luck with that. I would demand that he send the students a written version. He had his opportunity to present orally, and botched it. It appears that he muted himself by accident, and students tried to alert him but to no avail. They unmuted themselves, but he couldn’t hear them. The message function didn’t work. They tried to call his phone, but he didn’t have it on.

The main problem was that Prof. Wang was doing the entire lecture from his iPad, and that isn’t wise. Now he leaves his phone by his side when lecturing on Zoom.

“My Cousin Vinny” Meets Zoom

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Once again I have to say “I don’t understand this story at all.

If you recall “My Cousin Vinny,” as almost all lawyers do (and fondly), Joe Pesci’s fish-out-of-water defense lawyer annoyed imposing Southern judge Fred Gwynn by first appearing in court wearing a leather jacket, and then showing up in the suit above because it was the only one he could acquire at short notice.

At least he tried.

While Ethics Alarms has taken the unalterable position that when children are forced to attend school via Zoom, what may appear in their homes are not, in fact, “in school,” a lawyer who appears before a judge via Zoom is still, in fact, “in court” and before a judge. Why? Because the judge says so, that’s why. And as Vinnie soon learned, when a judge says “Jump!” the only responsible response is “How high, Your Honor?”

Perhaps a Delaware lawyer named Weisbrot has never seen the movie. He complained to Delaware Vice Chancellor Joseph R. Slights III i ex parte “that [the court] would not consider an application from him because he “was not wearing a tie.” The Vice Chancellor responded, “That is true, as the record reflects.” BUT…

What the record also reflects is that Mr. Weisbrot appeared in court for trial (via Zoom) on Tuesday in either a printed tee-shirt or pajamas (it was difficult to discern).

In other words, “It’s true you weren’t wearing a tie, but a greater problem is THAT YOU WERE WEARING FREAKING PAJAMAS!”

Mr. Wiesbrot responded by channeling his inner (and outer) Vinnie by, in his next appearance via Zoom before the same judge, in something less than the kind of attire he had to know the judge expected:

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Weird Tales Of “The Great Stupid”: Another Kid Is Suspended Because A Teacher Saw A BB Gun In His Home

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What are normal, reasonable people who are concerned about the shrinking liberties around them to do?

(I don’t have an answer right now, but that is the urgent question episodes like the ones described in this post raise.)

In 2020, I’ve written about two head-exploding stories involving innocent children forced by their school’s hysteria over the Wuhan virus to allow Big Brother’s eyes into their homes, and who found themselves being demonized and punished because of the completely legal and harmless items a teacher saw there.

First there was the asinine June incident in Baltimore County Maryland, where a 5th grade teacher at the Seneca School saw a BB gun hanging on the wall in an 11-year-old student’s bedroom. She took a screenshot of the child’s room, then notified the principal, who alerted the school safety officer, who called the police. They, in turn, made an unannounced visit to the student’s home.

At least they didn’t kneel on his neck. “I feel like parents need to be made aware of what the implications are, what the expectations are,” the child’s mother, a military veteran, told reporters. “No,” Ethics Alarms concluded, “Parents need to tell schools, administrators and teachers, what parents will tolerate, and the public education system needs a thorough upgrade and overhaul.”

Then, in September, we discussed an even more ridiculous episode. Colorado seventh grader Isaiah Elliott was attending on online art class when a teacher spied Isaiah’s  toy gun, a neon green and black plastic “weapon” with an orange tip and the words “Zombie Hunter” printed on the side. The teacher notified the school principal, and the school called the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, which conducted a welfare check on the boy without calling his parents first. Isaiah, meanwhile, was suspended for five days. The conclusion here on that fiasco:

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Daybreak Ethics Warm-Up,12/4/2020: An Ancient Judge, A Non-Binary Actor, An Idiotic Team, An Icky Teacher, And An Absurd Columnist Walk Into An Ethics Bar…

1. Political, not logical, honest or competent…Actress Ellen Page, 33, best known for her performance as the pregnant teen in “Juno,” announced this week that she was “non-binary” trans. “My pronouns are he/they and my name is Elliot. I feel lucky to be writing this. To be here. To have arrived at this place in my life,” she wrote. Immediately, Netflix began changing Ellen Page’s name to Elliot in the credits all Netflix movies and series she had participated in. Now, for example, the IMDb page for the Netflix original series “The Umbrella Academy” says Elliot Page was in the cast. This is being called an “update.” It isn’t an update. It’s a lie, and airbrushing history.

When Al Hedison starred as “The Fly” in the original horror movie, that’s who he was. Later, Al changed his name to David Hedison for some reason, and that was the actor we watched in “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea,” Irwin Allen’s wonderfully cheesy Sixties TV sci-fi series, and as one of the many Felix Leiters in the James Bond films. They didn’t change his credit on “The Fly.” Nor do you see the name Jack Palance in the credits as the evil gunslinger in “Shane” In that film, the actor we now know as Jack was going by “Walter.” And that’s who he was…then.

Identities are not retroactive. Actress Linda Day had a substantial career in television before she met and married actor Christopher George in 1970. Thereafter, she performed under the name of Linda Day George, but no one changed her credits on the shows she had previously performed in as Linda Day, because Christoper George was barely a twinkle in her eye then. This isn’t hard. Netflix is rushing to retroactively alter history not because doing so is accurate or true, but to demonstrate that the company is “woke,” and thus supporting Page as well as trans people everywhere. It’s virtue-signaling, and a particularly dumb and misleading version of it.

Oh, I should mention that Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner was not Caitlyn Jenner when he won his Gold medals in male events. Olympic records were not changed to claim a falsehood and an impossibility.

2. “Was that wrong? Should I not have done that?” The New York Daily News reports that a Staten Island high school teacher, so far unnamed, was seen naked and masturbating during a Zoom conference this week.

Apparently he tried to invoke Rationalization #3, The Unethical Role Model: “He/She would have done the same thing,” pointing out that “Jeffrey Toobin did it!” (Kidding!)

As with Toobin, I don’t understand the thought process, if you could call it that, that could produce such conduct. I also don’t understand the various statements in the aftermath of the Staten Island incident as described in the story. It wasn’t clear if the teacher intentionally exposed himself or if the video call involved students, the Daily News noted. So what? The conduct is nuts and requires firing for cause either way. I suppose intentionally behaving like this on Zoom is a crime, or more likely, evidence of mental illness.

I also enjoyed the Captain Obvious aspect of the statement by the school:

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Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/30/2020: Zoomed Out”

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Once again I am horribly behind in posting deserving Comments of the Day, or even announcing them. I apologize for this; there are many reasons, but no excuses. This COTD , authored by Null Pointer, is three weeks old, and there are some unposted ones that are older still. Fortunately, the topic is ever-green, at least as long as Shut-Down Hell is upon us: the curse of Zoom.

Here is Null Pointer’s Comment Of The Day on the post, “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/30/2020: Zoomed Out”

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/30/2020: Zoomed Out

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Why is it that running a Zoom seminar from my office is far more exhausting than standing up and talking for three hours?

On the positive side, I was actually allowed to post an Ethics Alarms link today! I wonder if Sean Lennon reads Ethics Alarms…

1. And this woman was an early participant in the Democratic primary debates, in case you’re wondering how the party ended up with Joe Biden. New Age guru Marianne Williamson tweeted,

Williamson debate

Oopsie! Missed that “Thou shalt not steal” thing. So she came back with, “Actually, ‘Thou shalt not steal’ is of course in there. But my point about priorities remains the same.”

Wait, what point would that be? A) It sounds a lot like Rationalization #22. So because stealing isn’t as bad as murder, stealing is OK? B) Is she making a technical legal point that a man waving a knife around and refusing to drop it is “innocent” because he hasn’t been proven guilty? Or is her point that because the victim in the Philadelphia shooting may have been out of his mind meant that he couldn’t form the “mens rea” to be technically guilty of a crime? By these calculations, nobody who is shot by the police is ever guilty, because they are resisting the arrest that would eventually put them on trial.

2. Actual quote from Joe Biden yesterday: “Spending! We’re gonna roost. And we are gonna reduce prescription drug crisis experts acknowledge.”

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OK, I Just Have To Do An Afternoon Ethics Potpourri So I Can Write About The Jeffrey Toobin Exposing Himself On Zoom Story…..

 

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I wake up from a nap and have to think about this???

1. Zoom ethics?  I don’t understand this story at all.

The New Yorker suspended legal reporter Jeffrey Toobin because he—wait, WHAT?—exposed himself during a Zoom call last week between members of the staff and WNYC radio.

Huh? Toobin has long been one of Ethics Alarms’ least favorite legal commentators dating back to his excuse-making for Bill Clinton during the Monica madness, but I thought he was just despicably biased, not insane. What’s going on here?

Toobin said in a statement: “I made an embarrassingly stupid mistake, believing I was off-camera. I apologize to my wife, family, friends and co-workers. I believed I was not visible on Zoom. I thought no one on the Zoom call could see me. I thought I had muted the Zoom video.”.

See you doing what, and why??? Was it a bathroom Zoom call? The New Yorker says: “Jeffrey Toobin has been suspended while we investigate the matter.” What’s there to investigate? If he exposed himself accidentally, it’s a Zoom mistake, and it should have been ignored and forgotten, because Zoom is evil. EVIL!!!! On the other hand—okay, bad choice of metaphors—If he whipped it out and ran around the room on camera singing “My Ding-a-Ling,” Toobin needs to be hospitalized.

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Labor Day Ethics Break, 9/7/2020: Ironically, Somebody Needs To be Fired In All Of These Stories….

1. “Boy, he’s strict!”* Novak Djokovic, the top seeded player, defaulted from the United States Open after the ball he hit toward the back of the court in frustration hit a line judge in the neck. This violated the Grand Slam rule book’s  “physical abuse” provision, which states that players “shall not at any time physically abuse any official, opponent, spectator or other person within the precincts of the tournament site.” The  fine for this is to $20,000 for each violation of this rule, with the possibility of even more if it is deemed a “major offense.” In a statement, the United States Tennis Association said: “In accordance with the Grand Slam rule book, following his actions of intentionally hitting a ball dangerously or recklessly within the court or hitting a ball with negligent disregard of the consequences, the U.S. Open tournament referee defaulted Novak Djokovic from the 2020 U.S. Open. Because he was defaulted, Djokovic will lose all ranking points earned at the U.S. Open and will be fined the prize money won at the tournament in addition to any or all fines levied with respect to the offending incident.”

As I read it, if the ball bounced back and missed the line judge, the rule wouldn’t apply. If it did hit the judge, even though the result was unintentional, then the player gets the full penalty. What a moronic rule! I guess they’ve never heard of moral luck in the tennis world. Either it should be a serious offense to slam the ball anywhere on the court in anger whether someone is hurt or not, or it should be a violation to intentionally harm and official. The rules is incompetent and unethical.

Naturally, none of the stories about the episode point this out.

2. Oh no! Not this again! Seventh grader Isaiah Elliott of the Grand Mountain School just south of Colorado Springs, Colorado, was attending on online art class when a teacher saw Isaiah’s  toy gun, a neon green and black plastic “weapon” with an orange tip, and the words “Zombie Hunter” printed on the side. The teacher, an idiot, hysteric and bully,  notified the school principal, and Isaiah was suspended for five days. The school also called the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office to conduct a welfare check on the boy without calling his parents first. Here’s the toy:

This is even more idiotic than this story, which was discussed here in June, about the kid whose teacher called the cops on him because she saw his BB gun.

The teacher should be fired and the principal should be fired. Isiah’s parents appear to be raising  hell. Good.  They would be terrible and irresponsible parents if they didn’t. There is an ethical  duty to confront this creeping state child abuse and indoctrination. Continue reading

Friday Ethics Round-Up, 8/21/2020: Democratic National Convention Hangover Edition

No, John Wayne doesn’t speak Spanish in “Red River,” but this was the only clip I could find of its iconic “Yahoo!” sequence. This may be the best Western ever; I don’t know, I go back and forth on it. Amazingly, Howard Hawks never won an Oscar…but then neither did Orson Wells, Alfred Hitchcock, or Cecil B. De Mille.

1. Now this is uncivil and unethical political speech (Pointer: Tim Levier):

No, it’s not justified by “tit for tat,” but the ugly, ad hominem abuse heaped on President Trump by the Democrats this week was hardly better.

2. Oh, it’s Friday; why not check in with Paige Spiranac? You remember Paige, right? I posted about her here. She’s not much of a professional golfer, but she is now a “social influencer.” She has power and influence because, let’s be frank, she looks like this, and makes sure everyone knows it:

Now she has a viral ethics tweet about slow golfers:

That’s slowLY, Paige. Mustn’t enable those “dumb blonde” jokes.

This has actually sparked a controversy in social media, though there shouldn’t be any question that excessively pokey golfers are being rude and inconsiderate. The rationalizations being offered by defenders of slow play are, sadly, illustrative of the ethics skills of too much of the public. For example:

That’s a dumb comment. Golf is a leisure sport. You are meant to enjoy the sport with friends and family and take time while doing it. Especially if you’re not playing for millions.”

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