Sunday Before Christmas Ethics Ornaments, 12/22/19: Googling Ethics, “Cats,” Goldman Sachs, De Niro, Trump Derangement

Here’s hoping that the the next three days rescue the Spirit of Christmas…

…because the last few weeks have been a downer, man.

1. Googling ethics:  Phillip Galanes, at Social Q’s was consulted by a woman who had bad vibes about her girlfriend’s new love, so she googled him, and found out, as she suspected, that he had some serious red flags in his past. She told her friend, who had discovered the bad news herself, but who was hurt and angry that the inquirer did a background check on her boyfriend. “Was I wrong?” she asked. In his answer, Gallanes implies that she was, although “everybody does it.” I’d like a nice, succinct, substantive explanation of by what ethical theory it can ever be wrong to access publicly available information about anyone. This isn’t an issue of privacy, because the information isn’t private. There was nothing wrong with the inquirer’s motives, because she was concerned about her friend.

I’d call this the Ick Factor at work. It seems unethical because the fact that anyone can check our lives out online is creepy. The research itself, however, is ethically neutral. The ethics comes in with how the information is used.

2. I guess I have to mention “Cats”…since it is getting the most spectacular negative and cruel reviews since “Showgirls,” and maybe before that. “Exorcist II, The Heretic” perhaps. Oddly, the usually hyper-critical New York Times is not one of the worst defilers, but here was what the reviewer really found objectionable :

“It’s too bad that no one seems to have thought through the semiotics of Victoria’s chalky white cat face, given that Hayward is of mixed race and that the heavy is Idris Elba’s predatory Macavity. Elba seems to be having a fine time, but come on!”

Ah! The old “mixed-race actress in whiteface being menaced by a black actor playing a cat” racist imagery!

I can’t wait for them to write down these rules.

3. No surprise. Goldman Sachs Group Inc is in talks with the U.S. government and a state regulator to possibly pay up to $2 billion and admit guilt to resolve investigations into its role in the 1MDB Malaysian corruption scandal. The case involves a plan to siphon off more than $2.7 billion from a Malaysian development fund known as 1MDB. A former Goldman partner already has pleaded guilty in the case, and another bank executive faces criminal charges.

This is not only an unethical firm, but a firm built on an unethical culture. Back in 2010, I discovered that the company’s “Ethics Code” was not only buried many screens deep on its website, but also included a provision allowing its provisions to be waived any time the  company felt  it could make more money by ignoring them. This, you no doubt recall, is the same firm that paid $225,000  to Hillary Clinton  for three speeches to Goldman Sachs executives in 2015, and the firm that was the #1 donor to Barack Obama in 2008. President Trump also had a strong Goldman Sachs connection, although his was the only one Democrats and the news media found ominous. Gary Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs COO, become President Trump’s National Economic Council director, and such creepy Trump hires as Steve Bannon and Anthony Scaramucci, as well as  deputy national security adviser Dina Powell, all once worked for Goldman, and all are now out of the White House.

4. This kind of thing might have influenced my opinion of “The Irishman”… Hobnobbing via podcast with Michael Moore, actor Robert De Nero explained that that he didn’t want to “literally punch [President Trump] in the face,” but he wanted to make the President feel the same way that others have felt when Trump went after them. Moore  disagreed, saying, “It would feel kind of good to punch him. Not hurt him. Just punch him in the face. Just cathartic.”

Classy as ever, the Oscar-winning actor responded, “I’d like to see a bag of shit right in his face. Hit him right in the face like that, and let the picture go all over the world. And that would be the most humiliating thing. He needs to be humiliated. He needs to be confronted, and he needs to be humiliated by whoever his political opponent is.”

Sir Anthony Hopkins  told fellow actor Brad Pitt in Interview Magazine why he didn’t opine on politics:  “I don’t have any opinions. Actors are pretty stupid. My opinion is not worth anything.”

5. Good. Earlier this month I wrote about the neat trick Tufts University was pulling, stripping the Sackler name from its buildings while announcing that it would keep the millions the family donated in exchange for putting them there. Ethics Alarms concluded:

What about all the money the Sacklers gave Tufts? Oh, Tufts plans on keeping that; it just won’t give the family the credit it bargained for. That may be legal—I’d have to read the agreement behind the donation to know for sure— but it’s wrong. Giving 30 million dollars to higher education is an ethical, virtuous, praiseworthy act, and by itself, it deserves respect and recognition. Now, any university can decide to reject the gift of someone it feels is unsavory under the very dubious) “dirty money” theory, and indeed, sometimes a prospective donor is so unsavory that there may be good reasons to do so. However, once a boon has been received, that virtuous act is in the book, and no subsequent act can or should undo it, or the obligation to give the donor his, her or its due.

Well, it looks like the Sackler family will take Tufts to court. Says the New York Times, ridiculously, “some family members are crying foul.” Imagine that! Crying foul after an institution reneges on a deal, keeping 30 million dollars to spend as its pleases, while airbrushing the donors into obscurity! Some people!

The Sackers sent Tufts a letter, saying in part that Tufts’ decision to remove the name was “contrary to basic notions of fairness” and “a breach of the many binding commitments made by the University dating back to 1980 in order to secure the family’s support, including millions of dollars in donations for facilities and critical medical research.”

If this goes to court, I cannot imagine that Tufts could prevail.

6. Now THIS is Trump derangement! Elizabeth C. McLaughlin, CEO of the GAIA Project for Women’s Leadership, tweeted,

My daughter just ran downstairs. “Honey, while you were in the bath, Donald Trump was impeached.” She cheered like a banshee. “Now the trial!” It’s been a long path since she was scared to be on my shoulders during the Women’s March because “Donald Trump might grab me.”


Converting her terror to power, and my son’s tears on the election night at three years old to years of talk about masculinity and integrity and maintaining sensitivity and defending others, has been among the most important work I will ever do.

Two words: child abuse.


Okay, I’ve stalled long enough. On to the Christmas tree lights. My colonoscopy was more fun…

13 thoughts on “Sunday Before Christmas Ethics Ornaments, 12/22/19: Googling Ethics, “Cats,” Goldman Sachs, De Niro, Trump Derangement

  1. 1. I think of this as a more personal wrong. She’s hurt that her friend didn’t think she was smart enough to look this information up herself or that her friend doesn’t trust her judgment.
    2. Oh, you know racist imagery is everywhere and that’s why we have to purge the culture of everything that existed before 1980.
    4. I have greater esteem for Hopkins now.
    6. Any child of three years old up on election night late enough to know the result is up too late. If he’s crying, it’s because he’s been inundated with horror stories too young for his psyche to handle. I wonder what her kids’ reactions will be once Trump isn’t convicted in the Senate?

    • 1980? These fools want to purge everything prior to 2008, and when that’s done, they’ll come for the rest.

      As for the woman terrorizing her kids, if karma is real, her kids will grow up and realize they’ve been manipulated and used as political props by an abusive mother and become hardcore conservatives out of spite.

  2. DiNiro and Moore are the worst clowns since Pennywise. This is to be expected since Michael Moore has become irrelevant and Di Niro has turned into a caricature of himself. This is what happens when washed up celebrities are bored and their best work is behind them.

  3. 1. That’s why some people pay good money to scrub the internet of any reference to them at all, so idle people and busybodies can’t look into their lives for any reason or no reason.

    2. Speaking of too much time on their hands…

    3. This place also produced Jon Corzine, yet another one-term Democratic governor of NJ. The state elected him to be a financial wizard who would fix the budget and pension problems. His answer was simply to put taxes on things not previously taxed and tell everyone else they would just have to pony up more of their paychecks for the same services. He went on to oversee the collapse of MF Global, one of the ten biggest bankruptcies in US history. Chris Christie may have been a blowhard and a bully, but he never reached this level of sliminess.

    4. At least he didn’t say someone should shit in the President’s mouth like Martin Bashir said of Sarah Palin.

    5. If the money was that dirty, then Tufts should have returned it. This is an obvious attempt to have their cake and eat it too.

    6. Those kids are going to seriously be in therapy later in life.

  4. 6. Those kids are going to seriously be in therapy later in life.

    It looks as though Trump may win the next election — unless something really weird happens — so those kids and the mom will need therapy in the near-future. Trump was elected by either 85% or 90% white vote if my source is correct. So, Trump represents — obviously — a white movement. That is I guess why Charles Blow determines that ‘Trump is definitely a racist’. Because in *their* way of seeing things whiteness is the problem. And indeed it is, from their perspective. This gain, this triumph, is a shallow triumph, because in a few years the demographics will change.

    To be more honest and realistic, as things go forward — speaking of the next 10-25 years — it is the white demographic that will need therapy. Already of course it is becoming less and less possible for Whites to identify and celebrate as Whites. They have been supplanted in many different ways and areas, and this supplanting, displacement and dispossession, though it began 50 years ago, is now maturing.

    I assume that people in business — America is run and *owned* by business — closely study demographics and they can *read the writing on the wall*. So, it will be their objective not so much to inhibit or reverse this present demographic shift, but to ‘welcome’ it and ride it like a wave. In this sense the business class is a traitor class. You certainly could not depend on them to define conservative ground nor to ‘conserve’ anything especially: except their access to markets, access to cheap labor (and it is American business that seems to benefit from importation of immigrants because it depresses labor cost.

    Trump is an aberration and not the herald of a new cycle of time. I think that if a reason for the ‘hatred’ could be identified it is that the Democrats simply made a terrible mistake, and there was an opening by the Trump figure (a group of people really, not merely the man Trump: as Bannon said before Trump: “Our man will come along”).

    I do not think anyone on this Blog has ever recognized that what they are, what they represent, is in its final phases. It is true that things could be done. But will they be done? If I had to base it on the totally lukewarm and passive attitude of most who write here, I would say the battle is definitely lost.

    You may win some battles now but unless you change the way you look at things you will definitely lose the war.

    Just a matter of time . . .

    Demographics Are Destiny.

  5. 3. Ethics? At Goldman Sachs? Ethics among baseball agents? Jack, I know you’re in the business of selling ethics, but… come on, get real.

      • I watched ‘The Terminator’ this weekend, just to contrast the interminable Hallmark movies my wife subsists on this year. Did you know the late Bill Paxton was in this movie? He is the purple haired ‘Punks Leader’ at the telescope that makes the mistake of accosting a naked T101 who politely asked for his clothes.

        Linda Hamilton actually got better looking after this movie, I think. She was very cut in T2, anyway. I may end up watching that one as well.

        I am considering watching ‘Aliens’ again… extended cut, as God intended it. Fun fact: these movies share a lot of actors. For instance, Michael Biehn plays the ‘hero soldier’ in both films, which feature strong female leads (Hamilton gets there in the end, after a lot of whining, anyway.) Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton (of the ‘Game Over, man!’ meme), William Wisher Jr. (T2), and others.

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