Category Archives: Journalism & Media

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/19/2017: #MeToo, A Fact-Denying Fact-Check, And A “Resistance” Hit Job

Good Morning to you!

1 The contrived anti-Trump controversy over his conversation with a Gold Star widow is so disgusting and cynical that I hesitate to comment on it. This was so obviously a set-up: an anti-Trump woman, angry and grieving over the death of her husband, allowed a virulently anti-Trump Democratic Congresswoman to listen in on the call, then collaborated to make the accusation that Trump’s words that her husband “knew what he was signing up for” were a calculated insult. The New York Times somehow found this worthy of an above the fold article. No other President would ever be subjected to this kind of despicable “gotcha!” attack. No matter how clumsy Trump’s words might have been, and we can only take the word of two women who were predisposed to interpret them in the worst light imaginable, a President must be accorded a presumption of good will in such a situation. This, however, has been withheld from him in all situations by major segments of the Left from the beginning. Representative Fredricka Wilson (D-Fla) boycotted the President’s inauguration, and has made her motives and character explicit by laughing about how this latest controversy has made her a “rock star.” Well, maybe in “the resistance”–I have a somewhat different description for her. Now she’s race-baiting too, calling John Kelly a racist for referring to her, in his defense of the President, as an “empty barrel” who “makes noise.” Yup, I remember hearing stories about Klansmen calling blacks “Empty barrels.”

What did the wife of La David Johnson expect such a partisan, vicious hack like Wilson to do when she chose her to listen to the conversation with the President? It was another episode in the fake “the President is a white supremicist” pageant, and to anyone with a scintilla of objectivity, a blatant one. The Washington Post’s resident race-baiter, affirmative action Pulitzer Prize winner Eugene Robinson, wrote an unforgivable column calling Trump’s comment “mindless cruelty”he never never made a genuine case that there is anything wrong with what Trump said…because, you see, there isn’t. If the wife of a soldier doesn’t understand that when he enlisted in the armed services he was putting his life on the line for his country and knew it, then that’s her misconception. My father, who had his foot blown up in World War II, made this point more than once: if you enlist to fight, you can’t say you didn’t know that the possibility of being killed or sounded wasn’t part of the decision. It it wasn’t, there would be no innate courage in volunteering for service. This, like so much else that the President does and says, is only wrong because it is hi saying it. This is the plan. This is how “the resistance,’ Democrats and their core seeks to cripple the government and undermine the President of the United States. They don’t even hesitate to politicize a simple condolence call and the death of a soldier toward that un-American end.

I think my favorite part of the negative spin put on Trump’s conversation with Mrs. Johnson was that “he appeared not to know the name” of the fallen soldier. Any parent who can’t resist excessive creativity and who names a boy “La David” has condemned him to having everyone hesitate to say his name for the rest of his life, as “Wait, this can’t be right…” locks their brains. This is Naming Ethics. Similarly, don’t name your girl “Mister Nancy.”

Accolades are due to another Gold Star widow, Natasha De Alencar, who has released the audio of a call the President made to her in April after her husband, a  member of the 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) became the first American killed in combat in Afghanistan this year. That conversation shows the President as compassionate and willing to spend all the time necessary to express his respect—and she and her were Hispanic, and we all know that Trump just hates Hispanics. That call alone should ensure the President the benefit of any doubt regarding whether he would “insult” a military widow, but it won’t; not for those who want to assume the worst, and want to  make as many people as possible believe that the President of the United States is a monster.

This was an unconscionable hit job. The Democrats and the news media seem incapable of comprehending that the more ruthless, unjust and vicious they behave in their opposition to Trump, the more those who are not already incurable Trump-haters will conclude that their cure is worse than the disease. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/19/2017: Gwyneth’s Mom, Harvard’s Airbrush, Salon’s Favorite Conservatives

Yes, I KNOW it’s Thursday, but I meant to use this song yesterday, but didn’t, because I thought it was Tuesday…

GOOD MORNING!

1 We have several Ethics Train Wrecks barrelling along. The Harvey Weinstein Express is still picking up expected passengers, like Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African and African American Research. The Executive Committee unanimously voted to award Weinstein the 2014 W.E.B Du Bois medal for contributions to African and African-American culture. In the midst of complaints by the African American community that Hollywood was slighting black artists and themes in its films, Weinstein’s Miramax studio had stood out as a notable exception.

The same professors voted Tuesday night to rescind the honor in the wake of the Weinstein’s (long-known but only recently publicly exposed) sexual predator proclivities, announcing in a statement: “We have voted unanimously to rescind the Du Bois Medal awarded to Mr. Weinstein in 2014. We stand with the women who have courageously come forward to fight for themselves and indeed for all of those who have experienced similar abuse.”

Wrong, and cowardly. What does sexual harassment have to do with African American culture? The mania among progressive missions groups to insist that only those who satisfy all broad progressive agenda mandates are worthy of any honor is why the nation’s continued celebration of Jefferson, Washington and other founders is hanging by a thread. Did Weinstein deserve the award in 2014? Yes, I assume. Has anything changed regarding the producer’s contributions to black culture through his movies? No.

I covered this substantially identical situation here, in 2015. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/18/2017: Welcome To My World! Special Legal Follies Edition

Good Morning!

1  Oh, let’s begin the day with Roy Moore, the former Alabama judge and present wacko whom Alabama Republicans voted to represent the GOP in the 2018 U.S. Senate election, thus proving that there are a lot of deplorables in the state. As was completely predictable given his record, Moore recently told his drooling followers (after being introduced by Abraham Hamilton, Alexander Lincoln being unavailable),

“Somebody should be talking to the Supreme Court of the United States and say, ‘What gives them a right to declare that two men can get married?. . . Tell the Congress: Impeach these justices that put themselves above the Constitution. They’re judicial supremists and they should be taken off the bench.”

Comments Jonathan Turley,

So Moore believes that he should not have been removed from the bench for putting his personal religious beliefs above the Constitution, but justices should be removed if they interpretation the Constitution in a way that contradicts his religious beliefs.  This, he insisted, would ‘solve the problem….such a view would violate not just fundamental principles of judicial review but it would violate the impeachment clause.  As the last lead counsel in a judicial impeachment case (in defense of Judge Thomas Porteous), Moore’s view is deeply troubling.  As I have previously written, the Good Behavior Clause of Article III was designed to protect the independence of the judiciary and insulate it from political pressures.  It was meant as a guarantee of life tenure against precisely the type of threat that Moore is endorsing. 

But it’s pointless to make genuine legal and historical arguments against someone like Moore. He’s a theocrat, a fanatic, a bigot and a demagogue. The Republican Party should endorse his opposition and campaign against Moore. This fiasco is their fault, and someone like Moore should be kept out Congress at all costs.

2. Now to someone who is, incredible as it seems, somewhat less ridiculous, this gentleman, Christopher Wilson…

 

No, that’s not a botched tattoo on his forehead: the blurry words are “fuck” and “sluts”, making the whole, eloquent message, “I’m a porn star. I fuck teen sluts.” This roughly translates into  “Look at me! I’m an idiot!”  The newspapers that refused to print the blurred words (the police had the mugshot altered) that are essential to the story, meanwhile, are telling us, “We don’t understand our profession.” The story is incomprehensible if the actual words aren’t clear, literally or figuratively.  Fox News and the NY Post, for example, say, “The Cincinnati man has the words “I’m a pornstar” tattooed on his forehead” and “another vulgar message” tattooed below.” Since the issue is whether the message on his FACE is going to prejudice the jury in his trial for sexual assault, this is juvenile coverage omitting key information to avoid “giving offense.”

Ethics Alarms to the news media: Grow up.

Turley (again…he loves the tattoo stories) writes,

“The court will be left with a question of whether the tattoo is too prejudicial or whether it is unavoidable as a personal choice of the defendant….Yet, these tattoos contain an admission to the crime at issue in the trial.  In the end, a judge could legitimately conclude that this falls into the category as bad choices bringing even worse consequences.”

What? First, the defendant is not charged with fucking teen sluts while acting as a porn star. That conduct could well be consensual and legal.  Turley is also wrong that the judge could “legitimately” allow the jury to see his message. In both cases involving a defendant’s prejudicial tattoos, the judges agreed that they had to be made invisible, in one case using make-up… Continue reading

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The NFL Is In Ethics Zugswang, But It’s For A Good Cause

Remember this, the essay a University of North Carolina athlete submitted to one of his courses—he got an A—leaked to the news media in 2014?

On the evening of December Rosa Parks decided that she was going to sit in the  white people section on the bus in Montgomery, Alabama. During this time blacks had to give up there seats to whites when more whites got on the bus. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. Her and the bus driver began to talk and the conversation went like this. “Let me have those front seats” said the driver. She didn’t get up and told the driver that she was tired of giving her seat to white people. “I’m going to have you arrested,” said the driver. “You may do that,” Rosa Parks responded. Two white policemen came in and Rosa Parks asked them “why do you all push us around?” The police officer replied and said “I don’t know, but the law is the law and you’re under arrest.

I think about this when I’m reading manifestos from pro football players who think the on-field protests that they can’t adequately explain are vital to national discourse. The protests aren’t, and the protesters aren’t. All of the articles about how protests are inherently patriotic are revealed as lies when the protests they are extolling are this divisive, this costly, and this pointless. The Kneelers are almost entirely filthy rich, maleducated, pampered, narcissist dead-heads whose critical thinking skills are infantile, and whose literacy is dubious. What entitles them to a national canvas every Sunday upon which to scribble their graffitti? Nothing. And by continuing to scribble, they are gradually reducing the visibility of that canvas, as well as the viability of their own occupation, which is short-lived already.

The NFL, meanwhile, is stuck in ethics zugswang by its own incompetence. Allow the players to continue making a mindless Fall ritual of mob ecstasy over the visceral pleasures of watching behemoths in armor crush each other an exercise in cognitive dissonance, and the NFL betrays its ticket-buyers, business partners, sponsors and stock holders. Tell the players to protest on their own time, and the NFL is siding with a President who crossed a line by telling a private business how to manage its employees, and setting itself up as opposing “police brutality,” thus Black Lives Matter, thus African Americans.

Meanwhile, the liberal punditry and news media, which doesn’t give a fig about football, is cheering on the Kneelers even as it drives the NFL into cultural harikiri. It’s a little like some of the more disgusting of the anti-gun fanatics when they reacted to the Las Vegas shooting: “Well, it was a lot of conservatives, so who cares, as long as we can use it to ban more guns.” Same here: Liberals, who are far from the core audience for pro football, are quite happy to see the NFL form a circular firing squad if it furthers “the resistance” and progressive narratives, if even for a little while.

An instructive example was a column earlier this month from the Times’ latest hard left op-ed writer, David Leonardt. Called “The Choice Between Winning And Kneeling,” it purported to be a “protest smart” exhortation to the NFL kneelers, without ever articulating exactly what this foggiest of all protests is supposed to win.

Leonardt begins with five inspiring and completely irrelevant paragraphs about the civil rights protests on the Sixties. This is intended to sanctify the NFL kneelers’ grandstanding, but accomplishes the opposite. That protest movement had clear and specific goals. Blacks and fair Americans wanted an end to Jim Crow. They wanted blacks to be able to vote, as the law said they could. They wanted an end to segregation, and discrimination by public commodities. They wanted to have equal justice under law enforced.

Making the intellectually dishonest leap from Selma to the football field, Leonhardt states, “The professional athletes doing political battle with President Trump are heirs to the civil-rights movement. They are protesting government-sanctioned violence against African-Americans,” thus falling flat on his face immediately. Wait: are they opposing President Trump, or are they “protesting government-sanctioned violence against African-Americans”?  Is he suggesting that Trump favors violence against African-Americans?  Who and what is the protest about?

Well, some are protesting one, some are protesting the other, and some are just going along for the ride. By what measure does Leonardt make the factually false statement that violence against African American is “government-sanctioned”? The U.S. government encourages people to kill blacks? No,  it doesn’t.  Leonardt dishonestly links to the Washington Post data base on police shootings, as if this supports his slur.  Among other things, those statistics show more whites shot than blacks. Never mind. Leonardt is just trying to pretend the NFL players have a clue what they want.

We know what legislative and societal measures Martin Luther King wanted. What measures would address the Kneelers’ concerns? A law declaring that police must never shoot blacks when the officers felt threatened? Officers counting to five before using their gun if a suspect is black, and just to three if he’s white? Automatically pronouncing any officer who shoots and kills a black man as guilty of murder? Dispensing with juries when white officers are involved, and using “innocent until proven guilty” as the standard when black officers are involved? Colin Kaepernick thought that any officer who shoots a black man should be automatically suspended without pay, before any investigation. Is that the goal? As I have noted before, “ending systemic oppression”  is just a slogan. It is meaningless. If it is meaningless, so is the protest calling for “something” to be done about it.

Leonhardt doesn’t care. He just wants to promote societal division; it’s the Leftist Way. “From a moral standpoint, this issue is clear. The athletes are right — and have every right to protest as they have. Trump is wrong, about the scourge of police violence and about freedom of speech,” he writes. Really? What are the athletes “right” about? Even they don’t know.  The President has never said that police violence was or wasn’t a problem, but I thought Leonardt just wrote a few sentences before that the protest was about “government-sanctioned violence against African-Americans,” didn’t he? But he linked to a source about police shootings involving all races. Whatever! This is an op-ed for the choir, and not its brightest members, either: there’s no genuine analysis or reasoning, just shotgun endorsement of broad progressive cant. Blacks oppressed. Police bad. Guns bad. United States racist. Trump racist.

Trump, of course, is completely correct about freedom of speech in this matter: employees don’t have a right to turn the workplace into their own, personal Sixties college campus. But, you see, Trump is intrinsically “wrong,” so even when he’s right, it’s wrong. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/16/2017: SNL, NFL, Collusion, Gossip, And Bribery

Good Morning.

1 Why am I only now getting around to today’s Warm-Up? It is because I spent more than 8 hours over the weekend, and three hours this morning, writing a Motion to Dismiss in response to a ridiculous, retaliatory, vindictive lawsuit by a pro se litigant with a grudge. The complaint has no legal cites, because no legal authority supports its claims. I, however, have to cite cases to show why the Complaint is completely without merit. Since the Complaint is a brain-rotting 18 pages, I have to carefully redact it to have a prayer of meeting the 20 page limit for motions. Even then, there is no guarantee that this won’t drag on for months.

No penalty will be exacted on the plaintiff for filing this spurious and groundless law suit. To do so would chill the right of citizens to seek justice and redress for wrongs through the courts. Thus the underlying objective of the suit will be accomplished: to force me to expend time and effort that I have far better uses for. Ethics Alarms readers are affected, my family is effected, my work is affected, my enjoyment of life is affected, and, of course, the system and the taxpayers who fund it are affected. This is an abuse of the system, but one that cannot and must not be impeded.

2. Does anyone have a theory about why the bribery trial of Democratic Senator Bob Menendez has received minimal mainstream media coverage that does not show bias? When Abscam was going on, the trials of the various members of Congress caught in a bribery sting were front page, Evening News headlines for weeks. The only U.S. Senator tried (and convicted) was a Democrat Harrison Williams. Has the news media become that much more partisan since the Reagan Administration?

3. As expected, exiled NFL kneeler (first) and quarterback (second) Colin Kaepernick has filed a grievance accusing NFL teams of colluding to prevent him from getting a contract with any team this season.

We’ve been here before. This is the Barry Bonds scenario all over again. Bonds, the definitive ethics corrupter in Major League Baseball and a flagrant steroid cheat and liar, was not resigned by the San Francisco Giants after the 2007 season. He was 42, but his season had been productive, with a 1.o45 OPS, close to the best in the game. I wrote an article for The Hardball Times arguing that Bonds would not be signed, because doing so would permanently scar any team that accepted him, injure the team’s culture, corrupt its young players, and wound baseball itself. The invective hurled at me and my article by sportswriters and readers was unrelenting. ESPN’s Keith Law said that my essay made anyone who read it stupid. MLB’s satellite channel’s hosts laughed about the idea that teams cared about such matters as integrity. Bonds, however, was not signed, and never played again. While he and his defenders claimed collusion among the owners, no evidence appeared. Continue reading

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Here’s Something The News Media Hasn’t Explained Regarding The Weinstein Scandal: Those Victim Confidentiality Agreements Are Unethical, And Maybe Illegal

Rose McGowan, the new Sexual Harassment Fury on social media, says she was raped by Weinstein and had to accept a $100,000 settlement with a confidentiality agreement as a condition of the deal. That means that if she subsequently told her story and accused Weinstein, she would be liable for damages, and would have to return the money. Right?

Not exactly. Most of the accounts in this sordid series of events make it seem like confidentiality agreements are iron clad and enforceable. Often they are neither. McGowan’s almost certainly wasn’t.

Debra Katz, an attorney specializing in sexual harassment law suits, recently explained that if employees or former employees came forward with information about Weinstein participating in criminal misconduct, their non-disclosure agreements or confidentiality agreements would probably be unenforceable, saying,

“These kind of very broad NDAs or confidentiality agreements typically violate public policy. Employees have to have the legal ability to discuss any concerns about unlawful behavior in the workplace … These broad provisions that would effectively silo people, make them feel like they can’t speak about this, are simply an instrument to put fear in people.”

My position has always been that lawyers who construct such agreements, knowing that they are unenforceable, are committing sanctionable ethical misconduct. The lawyer for the employee being silenced, moreover, has an obligation to let the client know that the requirement is unconscionable. Of course, it’s the client’s decision whether she wants to take the money.  It is also unethical to make an agreement you have no intention of honoring. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/13/17: All Aboard The Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck!

Good Morning, Hollywood!

I’m sorry to bombard you with this ugly topic again first thing, but I’d like to stop having to think about it as soon as possible.

1 My sister, a committed Democrat who naturally prefers that damning stories about her favorite politicians go down the memory hole as soon as possible, complained yesterday that she didn’t understand why Harvey’s demise was such a long-running story. He’s a pig, we’ve seen it before, he’s fired, big deal, she protested. There are more important things going on.

There are undoubtedly more important things going on, but from an ethics perspective, the importance of the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck and who boards it (and who has been riding it for decades) is as significant and chock full of lessons as a story can get. The Penn State-Jerry Sandusky-Joe Paterno scandal was important for some of the same reasons. It exposed the tendency of organizations to become corrupted when non-ethical considerations, usually money, freeze the clappers on multiple ethics alarms. It showed how “virtuous” people with power and influence can betray their values, admirers and supporters in the pursuit of personal or organizational goals. It showed how even usually complacent and biased journalists will suddenly become responsible when the details are juicy enough…and how some won’t. The Sandusky saga also was one more clue to how inherently warped an entire industry’s culture—in that case, big time college football—was (and is).

The Weinstein Train Wreck is worse, however, and also more significant. Weinstein is typical—extreme, perhaps, but typical—of  a popular and glamorous industry that has abused power to debase and exploit women for a century. The trade-offs and incentives turned many of the abused women into accessories of future crimes against other women, while some women, too powerful to have to fear the consequences of doing the obviously right thing, chose to protect the community and the industry rather than human beings. That they, and complicit men in the industry as well, did this while spending the past six years making angry public speeches about the sexist and misogynist attitude of Republicans flagged the kind of hypocrisy that demands substantive consequences.

It also demands reform. Anyone who  thinks Hollywood is going to retire the casting couch because of one especially disgusting and prolific predator is kidding themselves. Sexual harassment and gender discrimination is rampant at every level of the performing arts, from high school theater up through Broadway, and on to Hollywood. I question whether that culture will ever change significantly. At least this episode might educate the public that if they take moral grandstanding from the likes of John Legend, Meryl Streep and Jimmy Kimmel seriously, they are asking to be betrayed and disillusioned.

And that doesn’t even reach the political hypocrisy exhibited by the Democratic Party and progressives, which embraced and celebrated a sexual predator from Hollywood because he gave them money, just as they have been giving a sexual predator from Arkansas the King’s Pass on similar conduct because he gave them power. As long as the only voices calling attention to this are from the Right,  count on progressives to ignore or minimize the issue. After all, conservatives and Republicans accepted the devil’s bargain in allying themselves with Roger Ailes. Still, the criticism of the party and predator enablers like Hillary Clinton needs to come from the Left to do any lasting good. So far there has been some criticism from that direction, but not nearly enough.

2. Weinstein’s contract with The Weinstein Company  included a clause that allowed  his sexual harassment as long as he paid the costs of settlements out of his own pocket, TMZ reported yesterday. So much for the sham posture that the company was shocked and disgusted at his conduct. Poor Donna Brazile, desperately trying to join the futile virtue signalling by hypocrites who have been cheering on Hillary and her husband for decades, tweeted her admiration for the TWC board thusly

…only to have to delete the tweet later. Did Donna really believe that the TWC board, including Harvey’s brother, didn’t know what Weinstein was doing? Is she that stupid?

3. A lot of contentious debate on this topic at Ethics Alarms has arisen regarding the complicity and obligations of various Hollywood actresses. There are different categories, and conflating them only leads to confusion. Here are the categories and subcategories:

A. The powerless victims of harassment These are the young, aspiring actresses who were propositioned or assaulted by Weinstein, and convinced, rightly or not, that they would never have a chance if they complained

These are the equivalents of Bill Cosby’s victims, who only came forward after their abuser was wounded and vulnerable.

A 1. Powerless victims who accepted cash settlements. This means that since other remedies were unavailable to them, they at least triggered some kind of punishment and compensation. This required, however, allowing future victims to go unwarned, since the pay-offs were accompanied by confidentiality agreements.

B. Victims who were not powerless, due to connections in the industry. I place actresses like Ashley Judd, Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow in this category.

C. Victims who, over time, became powerful, wealthy, popular and influential enough that they could have exposed Weinstein, if they chose, but didn’t.

C 1 Victims who received cash settlements when powerless but whose careers  progressed to the point that they could forfeit the cash and accept any legal consequences of breaking the contractual agreements.

D. Rape victims. Sexual harassment is a civil offense; rape is a crime. Many rapes can be substantiated by medical examinations, and rapists are dangerous. Accepting a cash settlement for not reporting one’s rape when the rape could have been substantiated—this is what Rose McGowan did—is a breach of multiple civic duties.

E. Women in the industry who became aware of Weinstein’s conduct and did nothing about it.

F. Women in the industry who became aware of Weinstein’s conduct,  did nothing about it, and continued to praise him in public.

G. Actresses who accepted Weinstein’s proffered bargain, and exchanged sexual favors for roles and contracts, turning what is laughably regarded a a meritocracy into sexual commerce. We don’t know who these women are, but it strains credulity to think there were none.

Of course, many male Hollywood figures also fall into categories E and F.

Categories C, EF and G are the most unethical categories. D is problematic as well.

4. Jane Fonda revealed to Christiane Amanpour that she is in category E. She “found out about Harvey about a year ago,” said the certified Hollywood royalty, outspoken feminist and progressive champion.  “I’m ashamed that I didn’t say anything right then,” Fonda said. 

Well, that’s nice. As long as she is ashamed.

We can proclaim our principles and values all our lives, but if we don’t act according to them when the lives of others are at stake, all of what went before is meaningless. How many women suffered at Weinstein’s hands after Jane knew? Continue reading

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