Category Archives: Romance and Relationships

Now THIS Is Ethics Zugzwang! The Unfixable Catch-22 Of Sexual Harassment Law

A recent question to the New York Times workplace column “The Workologist” perfectly illustrates a permanent flaw in sexual harassment law. Believe it or not, I have no recommendation regarding how to fix it. I don’t think it can be fixed.

Here was the question:

I work at a blue-collar job, and I am one of four women in a crew of 40. The guys never touch or harass me, or any of the women, as far as I know.They do, however, constantly hug and grab and bump each other in a friendly way. It’s not unusual for one of the guys to go through a whole short meeting (a stand-up “huddle”) with an arm around another guy’s shoulder. No one ever touches me, and it’s not that I want them to. That would be weird. But I almost feel left out. Should I let this “bro contact” bother me?

I love it. Perfect. This is what using the law to dictate ethics can result in, and does result in frequently: hypocrisy, confusion, and a double-bind.

Let’s begin with the last sentence: “Should I let this “bro contact” bother me?” The whole point of “hostile work environment” sexual harassment law is to make sure no woman has to ask this question. A boss who responds to a female employee’s complaint of a hostile work environment-creating unwanted sexual attention in the office with “Don’t let it bother you!” has breached his or her duty under the law.

So what’s going on here? The men in the company have adopted the current fad (Yechhh.) of hugging each other to express a range of things—support, congratulation, sympathy, platonic affection—and quite properly do not hug the few women in their midst, lest one of the females, reasonably or not (or perhaps intentionally, to grab some power or cash) be made “uncomfortable,” take the physical contact as unwanted and sexual in intent, complain, and perhaps sue. By not hugging them, however, the men isolate the women, exclude them from the social fabric of the “team,” and, in essence, discriminate against them by signalling that they are “the other,” thus creating a hostile work environment.

Even if some of the women announced their consent to be treated as “one of the guys,” it would not solve the dilemma. One of those bro-hugs could still turn into a copped feel, or be perceived as crossing lines by the female huggee. Then there is the looming  third party harassment problem: a woman who has not consented to being hugged might see her female colleagues being man-handled (but completely innocently, of course) and assume that consenting to unwanted physical contact was a condition of employment, or that they would be adversely affected if they did not agree to participate enthusiastically in the hug-fest. Not treating the women in the company like the men is discrimination; treating them the same is an open invitation to a sexual harassment lawsuit. Continue reading

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A Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck Special: Roman Polanski’s Wife Authors An Unethical Quote For The Ages!

The feminist and her husband

Some background is in order.

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts And Sciences invited 928 artists  to join the Academy in a rough equivalent of packing the Supreme Court. The idea is to get nominees and winners of Academy Awards that will be sufficiently “diverse”—merit is not the primary concern here—to avoid criticism from minority activist groups of all kinds, colors and agendas, as future Academy Awards honor tribes and agendas, rather than, you know, movies. What fun.

The Academy also kicked director Roman Polanski out, only a few decades after he was convicted of raping a juvenile actress and fled the country, as it installed (in December)  a new code of conduct for its members now that sexual harassment is officially (but not actually) taboo in the film industry, thanks to Harvey. We are told that the Academy consulted experts and ethicists. Really? For this is boilerplate junk:

“The Academy is categorically opposed to any form of abuse, harassment or discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, disability, age, religion, or nationality. If any member is found by the Board of Governors to have violated these standards or to have compromised the integrity of the Academy by their actions, the Board of Governors may take any disciplinary action permitted by the Academy’s bylaws, including suspension or expulsion.”

Academy CEO Dawn Hudson emailed all members last week, reiterating:

“Academy membership is a privilege offered to only a select few within the global community of filmmakers. In addition to achieving excellence in the field of motion picture arts and sciences, members must also behave ethically by upholding the academy’s values of respect for human dignity, inclusion, and a supportive environment that fosters creativity. There is no place in the academy for people who abuse their status, power or influence in a manner that violates recognized standards of decency.”

All 8,427 members will be expected to abide by the new guidelines with “will be” the key phrase. Obviously many, many of the current members have violated—are violating, probably will violate—these ill-defined standards. Why has Polanski been singled out for expulsion, and not, for example, Casey Affleck? Where was due process? Why was Polanski punished for conduct that occurred long, long before the standards were announced? How is that fair?

Forget it, Jake..it’s Hollywood. Still, Polanski is suing the Academy, and he has a good case.

Then, inexplicably, or perhaps too explicably, the Academy invited French actress Emmanuelle Seigner to join its membership. She is Polanski’s wife. Is she a major artist, a significant artist, a worthy member? Hardly. Is there any good reason she should have been invited, other than the fact that she is female, and Men Bad/Women Good is the current motto in Progressive Land, and that she would provide the fugitive director of “Rosemary’s Baby” a way to have influence in the Academy without embarrassing it? Continue reading

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The NBA Coach, The Secrets, The Loving Wife, And Twitter

The Colangelos (though she goes by the name of Barbara Bottini)

This isn’t exactly a social media ethics story, not entirely. Yes, it reinforces the Ethics Alarms position that Twitter makes you stupid, and that it is an ethics disaster waiting to happen for the impulsive and the unwary. The main ethics lesson, however, lies elsewhere,

Bryan Colangelo resigned as the president of basketball operations for the Philadelphia 76ers two weeks ago despite leading his perennially doormat team to the NBA play-offs this season for the first time in many years. He resigned in the middle of a Twitter scandal. The Ringer, a sports website,  received an anonymous tip from someone who claimed that he  or she had linked five anonymous Twitter accounts to Colangelo. The accounts had all tweeted about internal matters relating to the 76ers players, personnel and business, even, in one tweet, defending Colangelo for his eccentric shirt collar style, which had been the topic of some social media mockery.

The Ringer contacted the 76ers, but only told the organization about two of the suspicious accounts, not all five. Colangelo informed the team that one of them, @Phila1234567, was indeed his, but insisted that he had never posted anything using it. Coincidentally, or probably not, the other three accounts that the Ringer had not revealed were suddenly switched from public to private after the  76ers had their little talk. After the Ringer published The Mystery Of The Insider Tweets,  the 76ers  hired a large New York law firm  to conduct an independent investigation. Over the course of a week, the firm collected several  suspicious laptops and mobile phones (well, it was the owners who were really the suspected ones; you can’t blame the devices), and retrieved text messages and emails. Investigators also analyzed the involved Twitter accounts to try to determine who was behind them. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/18/2018: Moral Luck, Non-Hypocrisy, Hypocrisy, Thomas Jefferson And WKRP

Good morning, Monticello, everyone…

1 The Inspector General’s Report and Tales of Moral Luck:  Stop me if you’ve heard this one: FBI staffer Peter Strzok, working on both the Hillary Clinton email investigation and the Russian collusion investigation, received a text from Lisa Page, Strzok’s co-worker and adulterous lover, that read, “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Strzok replied, “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it.”

 September of 2016, the FBI discovered that Clinton’s illicit emails had somehow ended up on the laptop of disgraced former Congressman. Anthony Weiner, who is married to Hillary’s top aide and confidante, Huma Abedin.  Strzok, we learn in Michael Horowitz’s report, was instrumental in  the decision not to pursue the lead, arguing that the Russia investigation was a “higher priority” at the time.”We found this explanation unpersuasive and concerning,” the report concluded. The laptop was available from September 29 until October 27, when “people outside the FBI” finally forced  the FBI to act on the evidence. “The FBI had all the information it needed on September 29 to obtain the search warrant that it did not seek until more than a month later,” the IG report stated. “The FBI’s neglect had potentially far-reaching consequences.”

“Comey told the OIG that, had he known about the laptop in the beginning of October and thought the email review could have been completed before the election, it may have affected his decision to notify Congress,” the IG report says, and also states,

“Under these circumstances, we did not have confidence that Strzok’s decision to prioritize the Russia investigation over follow up on the [Clinton] investigative lead discovered on the Weiner laptop was free from bias.”

Got that? The IG believes that anti-Trump, pro-Hillary bias led Strzok to delay the Weiner laptop investigation, and it may have backfired, helping Trump and hurting Clinton rather than the reverse. But the fact that moral luck took a hand and foiled his intent doesn’t change the fact that this is strong evidence that partisan bias DID infect the Clinton investigation, and probably the Russian inquiry as well. This makes the media’s spin that the IG report dispels accusations of bias even more unconscionable.

That Strzok’s biased and unethical tactics to help Hillary intimately failed spectacularly doesn’t change or mitigate the fact that a prime FBI staff member was intentionally trying yo manipulate the investigation for partisan reasons.

2. The Web thinks you’re an awful person.  A tease from a “sponsored site” in the margins of my NBC Sports baseball feed  says, “Jan Smithers starred in hit sitcom “WKRP in Cincinnati.” Try not to smile when you see what she looks like now!” Wait…what’s that’s supposed to mean? Is she a circus clown? No, these and similar come-ons apparently assume that normal people love mocking formerly beautiful young stars when they no longer look young. “Heh, heh..well, Jan Smithers, I guess you’re not so hot now, are you? What kind of person takes pleasure in the physical decay of others just because they were once gorgeous?

Actually, the photo of Jan Smithers did make me smile, because unlike, say, Jane Fonda,

…who at 80 has allowed plastic surgeons to make her look like one of the fragile immortal female ghouls who shatter into pieces at the end of “Death Becomes Her,” Smithers (who is younger than me and a decade and a half younger than Hanoi Jane) has allowed herself to age naturally, and by my admittedly biased lights, is lovely still: Continue reading

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Bill Clinton’s “Today Show” Rationalization Orgy: Res Ipsa Loquitur*

WordPress doesn’t let me embed any videos but those on YouTube, so you will have to click on the link to see Bill Clinton, being grilled on “The Today Show,” access a basket of rationalizations to minimize his wrongdoing in the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Co-author James Patterson (Bill is the latest neophyte novelist Patterson is teaming with for one of his cookie-cutter thrillers) even jumps in to add one.

I think I’ll leave it at that, and challenge Ethics Alarms Readers to identify the rationalizations Bill grasps at here. NBC’s Craig Morton should be commended for asking the tough questions, and not lobbing the softballs Bill expected.

The segment is here.

The Rationalization List is here.

*“The thing speaks for itself.”

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up Overstock, 5/15/ 2018: It’s Use Them Or Lose them…

This is perplexing. I have a backlog of ethics stories and issues that I feel are better mentioned in the Warm-Up format, then that post run long, and the items in my basket of deplorable often get superseded by new issues, and are never seen here at all. The collective approach saves amazing amounts of time, so if I have to post each of the leftovers individually, that will preclude doing the work necessary on potentially more significant issues.

Well, today, at least, I’m posting on some of the morning issues that didn’t make the cut.

And this is why Royals used to avoid marrying commoners.

What an Ethics Dunce, and worse,  soon-to-be Royal father-in-law Thomas Markle is! Your daughter is unexpectedly in the middle of a world event (not that it should be that), and she is approaching the most exciting day of her life. One of your two duties is to be on hand to walk her down the aisle, and your other duty is not to screw things up for her and embarrass her. Markle couldn’t do either, because, it is evident, he is a low-life, the real equivalent of  Eliza Doolittle’s father in “My Fair Lady,” who after years of neglect has to try to cash in on his daughter’s good fortune.

The father of the soon-to-be royal bride couldn’t resist cashing in, doing several photoshoots with a paparazzi agency ahead of the wedding. The news reports of this provoked a negative reaction, predictably, except Tommy Boy was too greedy or dumb to predict it, and now he says that he will not attend because he does not want to embarrass Meghan or the royal family.

Too late!

Are there really people who think this is legitimate criticism?

I suppose there are, but wow.  A politically active genealogist named Jennifer Mendelsohn—she’s an idiot, by the way—spends her time digging into the ancestry of critics of illegal immigration and illegal immigrants to prove they are hypocrites, or something. Her latest target is Fox News’s Tomi Lahren (I am not a fan) and Mendelsahn really seems to think she has uncovered a “gotcha!,” tweeting…

Except the 1930 census says Tomi’s 3x great-grandmother had been here for 41 years and still spoke German. Her 2nd great-grandmother had been here for 10 yrs. Spoke no English. Her great-grandfather’s 1895 baptism from MN? Recorded in Norwegian…But as long as people like Lahren continue to push a specious agenda that suggests today’s immigrants are somehow wholly different from previous ones, I’ll keep showing just how alike they really are.

I really do think the wretched quality of thought here is more characteristic of most illegal immigration activists than people are willing to admit. I’m sure you can do this analysis yourself, but…

  • Illegal immigrants are not the same as legal immigrants. That what was once legal is no longer doesn’t make what the legal immigrants did in 1900 wrong, or what illegal immigrants doing now right.
  • There is nothing hypocritical about a citizen with immigrants in their lineage condemning illegal immigration. Indeed, there would be nothing wrong with someone with illegal immigrants in their family doing the same. If my great, great grandfather was a pirate, I can still oppose piracy. If I exist because my great-grandmother was raped, there is nothing wrong with my opposing rapists.
  • Did I mention that Mendelsohn is an idiot?

Just wanted to make sure.

Best rejoinder to her tweet: “Now do Elizabeth Warren!” Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/14/2018: Another Rushing Around In A Hotel Room Getting Ready For A Seminar Edition…

Good morning from Boston...

…where I always feel at home! I’m here for the morning, talking to young, newly minted Massachusetts lawyers about ethics.

1. This is a big deal, though only lawyers will care. Finally, California has ditched its confusing, multi-source (some ethics rules were laws, some were regulations), antiquated legal ethics rules, and became the last of the jurisdictions, including D.C., to adopt the American Bar Association’s template for legal ethics guidance. Yes, in one area, if not the most important ones, California is moving closer to the rest of the country! There is hope!

2. Ally’s lament. Ally Sheedy, whom you might recall from “War Games” and “The Breakfast Club,” is one of Hollywood’s more articulate and thoughtful performers. She recently penned a post condemning Hollywood sexism, and its effect on her career. Essentially the essay amounts to a complaint that Hollywood is obsessed with appearances and, with women, sex appeal.

I like Sheedy, and I was pre-inclined to respect her observations (which are certainly accurate), but I have to admit that unsympathetic blogger Amy Alkon has a point. She writes,

“..professional actress Ally Sheedy takes it upon herself to lament the looks-driven reality of Hollywood — which is kind of like lamenting how in professional baseball, somebody’s always throwing a ball your way. …This is the movies, dear, not the genetics lab. Her entire essay is an example of intrasexual competition — criticizing and trying to change the standards of female competition by one who falls a bit short of them.Because so many people are so ignorant of our evolved psychology and in denial of biological sex differences (and the psychological sex differences that come out of them), they don’t get that there is pressure on men, too, to meet women’s differing mating priorities.As for those differing priorities, well…you don’t see men writing essays about how rotten it is that you can’t get a hot girlfriend (or probably any girlfriend) while unemployed and sleeping on a couch in your grandma’s basement.”

Yikes. And they say I’m tough… Continue reading

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