Tag Archives: The View

Ethics Dunce: Joy Behar

These things never happened at the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts, but then, those comics were pros, not wannabe political pundits...,

These things never happened at the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts, but then, those comics were pros, not wannabe political pundits…,

The View edged up in my estimation a tic or two when Joy Behar exited it for her own show, now mercifully ended. Admittedly, this enhancement still left that offensive ABC daytime talk-fest well below water, but anything was an improvement over Behar, the epitome of a loud and opinionated celebrity with nothing to contribute of substance to any discussion except misplaced arrogance and noise. I’m sure I’ve flagged at least one or two of her stunts…let’s check. Why yes, here is one: I wrote this when Joy led a walk-out on guest Bill O’Reilly because he had the bad taste to suggest that Muslims took down the Twin Towers. (They did, you know.)

Given her antics through the years, I was stunned to discover that anyone would compensate this awful woman to give her a podium, but someone did. On April 1, Behar was one of a group of New Jersey comedians hired to participate in a “roast” of former New Jersey governor Brendan Byrne, who is in his nineties. On the dais with Byrne was the current governor Chris Christie, who, this being a roast, came in for more than his share of the jibes from the comics, who were generally clever about it. Behar, however, decided to make her act personal and nasty. Continue reading

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Encore: “Forgetting What We Know”

Rosemary's director is more horrible than her baby...because he's real.

Rosemary’s director is more horrible than her baby…because he’s real.

I noted with horror that Roman Polanski has a new film out that is, as usual, garnering rave reviews. Polanski is a perpetual burr under my metaphorical saddle, and when he is out of the spotlight I am a happier person. One of the early reviews, under the heading “About the director,” describes him this way:

“Roman Polanski is a Polish film director, producer, writer and actor. Having made films in Poland, Britain, France and the USA, he is considered one of the few truly international filmmakers.”

This leaves out what I would argue are the most important parts of his biography, namely that he is a child rapist and a fugitive from the law of the United States. He is also an ethics corrupter on a grand scale. When his name once again made its unwelcome intrusion on my senses, I recalled that one of the very first posts on Ethics Alarms, on Halloween of 2009, was inspired by Polanski. I read it again last night, and reflected on how the blog recently passed its 1,000,000th page view since its launch that same month. I like it, and not many people read it at the time. With a few small edits, I decided to post it again.

Here it is:

Ethics evolves. It isn’t that what is right and wrong actually changes, but that human beings gradually learn, sometimes so slowly it can hardly be detected. For example, slavery was always wrong, but for centuries very few people who weren’t slaves understood that fact. There was never anything immoral about being born gay and living accordingly, but it has taken all of the collected experience of civilization to make this dawn on most of society. While we are learning, and even after we have learned, there are always those who not only lag behind but who work actively to undo the ethical progress we have made. We assume these individuals will come from the ranks of ideological conservatives, misapplying valid concepts like respect for tradition, suspicion of change for change’s sake, and a reliance on consistent standards, making them slow to accept new wisdom . Sometimes, however, the people who try to make us forget what we know come from the left side of the political spectrum, misusing values such as tolerance, freedom, empathy and fairness in the process. This is especially true when it comes to the topic of sex. Liberals fought so long and well to break down the long-established taboos about sex that many of them lost the ability to comprehend that unethical conduct can  involve sex in any way.

The most striking recent example is the bizarre defense of Roman Polanski, best known as the director of the horror classic, “Rosemary’s Baby.” Continue reading

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A Reminder: Why “User Pays” Is Unethical

The View

[Back in 2007, a ridiculous lawsuit spawned an even more ridiculous pronouncement from "The View's" Rosie O'Donnell, which prompted the following post (originally titled "The Pants, the Judge, and Rosie's Mouth")  on this blog's predecessor,  The Ethics Scoreboard.The two law-related issues that the public has the most difficult time grasping are why lawyers defend guilty people, and this one: the contingent fee system for civil plaintiffs.  While I was pre-occupied the last couple of days by two challenging ethics programs and 10 hours of driving back and forth into West Virginia to deliver one of them, I missed the outbreak of another "loser pays" discussion in one of the comment threads. It's clearly time to run this one again (I last put it on Ethics Alarms in 2010), with a few tweaks.]

The tale of Roy Pearson, the infamous Washington, DC administrative law judge who is suing his dry cleaner for damages of $65.5 million for a lost pair of pants, would normally warrant scant comment beyond this obvious one: Pierson is a bully, his lawsuit is unreasonable and unethical, and he deserves whatever sanctions the legal system can devise. A Washington Post editorial suggested that the lawsuit, which Pierson says is justified by his inconvenience, court costs, and the mental anguish caused by the loss of his beloved pants, is proof enough of bad character and terrible judgement that he should not be reappointed to another ten-year term.  [ Update: He wasn't.] That would normally end the issue, freeing me to move on to more important matters, like global warming and American Idol.

And then Rosie O’Donnell opened her big mouth. Continue reading

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Ethics Train Wreck Chronicles: Villains, Victims, Hypocrites and Unlikely Heroes In the Contraception / Limbaugh / Fluke Debacle

If this isn’t the Ethics Train Wreck of the Year, we have something truly horrible in store for us down the line. A no-so-brief brief re-cap:

  • The Obama Administration announces that church-run institutions like hospitals and universities will still be required to offer insurance coverage for abortions, sterilizations and other medical matters that might be in direct opposition to church beliefs. It’s a cynical move, designed to cater to the Democratic base at the expense of religious institutions. It is also irresponsible, since it jeopardizes the huge proportion of medical services performed by church institutions.
  • Conservatives scream that the measure is a breach of religious freedom. The is either ignorant or a lie. The Constitution has no provision requiring the government to make special accommodations for churches or church-operated institutions.
  • Caught by surprise by the intensity of the backlash, the Administration crafts a “compromise,” which is essentially deceitful sleight-of-hand, form over substance. The insurance companies now have to provide those services but the religious institutions don’t have to pay for it. But of course they will, through increased premiums elsewhere.
  • Flagging the deceit, Republican attacks on the measure continue. Democrats successfully frame the debate as a conservative attack on contraception, which it is a misrepresentation, and a “war on women,” which is ridiculous and unfair. The issue is churches being forced to provide or pay for services that violate their faith—which the government has every right to do.
  • The controversy activates GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who is a fringe extremist in sexual matters and toes the Roman Catholic line. He really thinks birth control is immoral. This position, which is unethical, is suddenly given exposure it doesn’t deserve in the 21st Century Continue reading

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FLASHBACK: What’s Wrong With “Loser Pays” (and Rosie O’Donnell)

[Back in 2007, a ridiculous lawsuit spawned an even more ridiculous pronouncement from Rosie O'Donnell, which prompted the following post (originally titled "The Pants, the Judge, and Rosie's Mouth")  on The Ethics Scoreboard. I had forgotten about it, but the issue of "loser pays" still comes up, and Rosie (and Joy Behar) continue to require periodic slapdowns, so here it is again---Jack]

The tale of Roy Pearson, the infamous Washington, DC administrative law judge who is suing his dry cleaner for damages of $65.5 million for a lost pair of pants, would normally warrant scant comment beyond this obvious one: Pierson is a bully, his lawsuit is unreasonable and unethical, and he deserves whatever sanctions the legal system can devise. A Washington Post editorial suggested that the lawsuit, which Pierson says is justified by his inconvenience, court costs, and the mental anguish caused by the loss of his beloved pants, is proof enough of bad character and terrible judgement that he should not be reappointed to another ten-year term.  [ Update: He wasn't.] That would normally end the issue, freeing me to move on to more important matters, like global warming and American Idol.

And then Rosie O’Donnell opened her big mouth. Continue reading

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Joy and Whoopi’s Unethical Bully Tactic

To have seen it live, you have to watch The View, which is not good for your brain or digestion, and be willing to watch Bill O’Reilly, which requires a tolerance for arrogant certitude that is only present in certain genetically gifted individuals. But on the video clip, you can see O’Reilly explaining why about 70% of Americans think that the Muslim center being planned for construction near the site of the September 11 terrorist is “inappropriate,”  saying “Muslims killed us on 9/11.” The View’s co-host Whoopi Goldberg took violent offense at the statement, exclaiming, “No! Not, oh, my god. That is such bullshit!” [Note: It is not "bullshit." Muslims indeed performed the attack, in the name of Muhammad no less. ] O’Reilly, understandably confused, said, “Muslims didn’t kill us on 9/11? Is that what you’re saying?” Continue reading

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Forgetting What We Know

Ethics evolves. It isn’t that what is right and wrong actually changes, but that human beings gradually learn, sometimes so slowly it can hardly be detected. For example, slavery was always wrong, but for centuries very few people who weren’t slaves understood that fact. There was never anything immoral about being born gay and living accordingly, but it has taken all of the collected experience of civilization to make this dawn on most of society. While we are learning, and even after we have learned, there are always those who not only lag behind but who work actively to undo the ethical progress we have made. We assume these individuals will come from the ranks of ideological conservatives, misapplying valid concepts like respect for tradition, suspicion of change for change’s sake, and a reliance on consistent standards, making them slow to accept new wisdom . Sometimes, however, the people who try to make us forget what we know come from the left side of the political spectrum, misusing values such as tolerance, freedom, empathy and fairness in the process. This is especially true when it comes to the topic of sex. Liberals fought so long and well to break down the long-established taboos about sex that many of them lost the ability to comprehend that unethical conduct can  involve sex in any way.

The most striking recent example is the bizarre defense of Roman Polanski, best known as the director of the horror classic, “Rosemary’s Baby.”

Polanski has been a fugitive from American justice since 1978. In 1977,  he was charged with raping a 13-year old girl, who told a grand jury that the director had plied her with champagne and drugs, taken nude pictures of her in a hot tub, and then had sexual intercourse with her despite her pleas to be taken home. His lawyers negotiated a plea agreement that dropped the rape charge in exchange for Polanski pleading guilty to the lesser charge of “unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor.” ( Polanski was 44 when he had sex with the young teen.) When it appeared that the judge in the case might not accept the plea deal and force him to face the rape charge, Polanski fled the U.S. Since that time, he has directed in Europe, staying out of countries that could extradite him, and traveling primarily between France, where he was protected by that nation’s limited extradition practice, and Poland. He got careless this year, and on September 26, 2009, was arrested at the Zurich airport when he arrived to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Zurich Film Festival. Swiss authorities are preparing to send him back to the U.S.

This is not a complicated situation. Statutory rape. A rape under circumstances—drugging—that would be rape with an adult victim, with the drugs rendering consent meaningless. Fleeing from justice. By what logic could someone argue that Polanski is a victim, and that law enforcement officials are the wrongdoers? There is none. Logic will never lead us to such a conclusion. Despite this undeniable fact, many individuals with respect and following in the entertainment industry as well as some journalists, argued that Polanski was being mistreated.

Some arguments were offensive: on “The View,” Whoopie Goldberg argued that drugging and having sex with a 13-tear-old wasn’t “rape-rape,”  implying that statutory rape is an archaic crime rooted in outdated concepts of sex, rather than the real crime of forcing a woman to have sex in an alley at the point of a knife. Some were ignorant: the eminent legal scholar Debra Winger pronounced Polanski the victim of “technicalities,” and suggested that the case should be “dead” because it was three decades old. Winger is apparently unaware that major crimes like rape are not subject to any statute of limitations, and that’s no technicality. She and others also claimed that Polanski had a right to flee because the judge  “reneged” on the absurdly lenient plea deal agreed to by the prosecutor at the time. Wrong: judges are not bound by plea agreements that they feel are inappropriate; watching any TV lawyer show would teach them that. Some of the arguments for Polanski were just jaw-droppingly stupid, such as the claim by some of his fellow directors that international film festivals should be respected as sanctuaries from arrest, like a church.

Even more legitimate commentators lost their bearings. In a stunning Op-ed called “The Outrageous Arrest of Roman Polanski,” Washington Post columnist Ann Applebaum argued that it was wrong to arrest Polanski because:

  • Polanski’s mother died in Auschwitz and his pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, was butchered by the Manson clan. This is a non-sequitur. Personal tragedies and hardship never can justify or mitigate harm done to another.
  • Polanski has suffered for his crime “in notoriety, in lawyers’ fees, in professional stigma. He could not return to Los Angeles to receive his recent Oscar. He cannot visit Hollywood to direct or cast a film.” An astounding statement. He has lived well in Europe and continued to work as a film director. The justice system does not acknowledge lawyer fees as punishment, and rightly so. If fees, notoriety, and professional stigma are sufficient punishment for child-rape, surely Bernie Madoff, currently in prison for the remainder of his life, should go free for the lesser crime of defrauding investors out of billions of dollars.
  • His victim, now in her forties, says she forgives him. Victims do not, should not and can not waive the criminal laws. Forgiveness is an excellent ethical value, but there is understandable self-interest in Polanski’s victim’s attitude: she has moved on in her life and has no desire to revisit this traumatic experience. She is not the only stake-holder here, however. Society has a legitimate interest in prohibiting rape and sexual violence against children, and that means that rapists must not evade punishment, no matter what the preference of their victims may be.
  • Polanski is 75. The fact that Polanski is facing his just punishment for a crime he committed now, in his Golden Years, rather than when he younger is 100% his own fault. Applebaum made the equivalent of the apocryphal plea by the defendant who murdered his parents that he deserved leniency because he was an orphan.
  • If Polanski wasn’t famous, “no one would bother with him.” I think she’s wrong about this, but even assuming she is correct, famous fugitive rapists advertise to the world that if you are rich and powerful, you can get away with rape. There are excellent, practical, societally valuable reasons to take special care that famous criminals are brought to justice.

The real, and true conclusion, is that if Polanski’s crime didn’t involve sex, neither Applebaum nor his other defenders would lift a finger to support him. It took liberals and women’s rights advocates decades and decades to get across the concept that rape, sexual domination, sexual discrimination and harassment were not about sex, but about misuse of power, abuse of trust, and the disrespect and unfair treatment of women. Yet all it takes is a popular and artistically respected director to make some forget that lesson.

Or a popular TV talk show host. David Letterman, forced by an extortion scheme to admit on the air to a series of sexual affairs with staffers, was able to cast himself as the victim and avoid professional consequences. Yet he was essentially no different from the infamous male corporate executives of the pre-sexual harassment era, using their female subordinates as company-paid harems. Gloria Steinem and other feminists fought to hammer into American culture the concept that when an individual has power over one’s livelihood, there can be no true “consent” to sexual relationships initiated by the boss. I would have written “successfully hammered,”  but the lesson vanished when the boss was funny old Dave.

Talk show host (and Letterman employee) Craig Ferguson tut-tutted against “holding late-night talk-show hosts to the same moral accountability as we hold politicians or clergymen.” The code word here is “moral”: Ferguson and others were suggesting that objections to Letterman’s conduct were rooted in moral rectitude, the idea that sex—recreational sex, older man/younger woman sex, adulterous sex— was wrong. But Letterman is accountable, exactly as any supervisor (including a politician or clergyman) is accountable when he abuses his position and influence to turn the workplace into a personal sexual hunting ground. His escapades weren’t “personal conduct”—another of the bogus defenses raised on Letterman’s behalf—because they occurred in and affected the workplace. Letterman’s predatory sex was thus workplace conduct, and legally prohibited conduct at that. This was classic third-party sexual harassment under Title IX, a “hostile work environment” created when other female employees receive the message that they are required to be sexually accessible in order to succeed. Letterman’s conquests’ “consent,” invalid anyway because of his position, couldn’t mitigate the toxic and inherently unfair culture the illicit relationships created.

It should have been no surprise when former Letterman writer Nell Scovell, writing on Vanity Fair’s website, recently revealed that the sexually-charged atmosphere on Letterman’s show caused her to feel demeaned as a woman and led to her resignation. All those “consenting personal relationships,” in other words, caused her professional hardship. Yet even Scovell, good industry liberal that she is, has forgotten the lesson. “I don’t want compensation. I don’t want revenge. I don’t want Dave to go down (oh, grow up, people). I just want Dave to hire some qualified female writers and then treat them with respect,” she wrote.
“Oh, grow up people.” Grow up: don’t require accountability or consequences when unethical, harmful workplace conduct involves sex…because sex is good, remember?  Remember the pill, abortion rights, Woodstock? Except that sex, like many good things, can be involved in very unethical, harmful conduct. Until individuals like David Letterman and Roman Polanski “go down” for such conduct, it will continue, and innocent people will continue to be hurt.
We should have learned that by now.

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