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…