Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/6/2019: Who’s The Worst? [CORRECTED]

Good morning!

The day got off to a grand start when the first thing that came up on TV was the ending of John Wayne’s “True Grit.” When the Coen Brothers did their (dark) remake starring Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn, I wondered which version would survive as the definitive one. Sometimes remakes of classic films obliterate the originals, like “The Thing,” or “Invasion of the Body-Snatchers.” Sometimes the original films are so obviously superior that the remake just vanishes. Sometimes it should vanish, but doesn’t, like the ugly “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” created by Tim Burton. Both “True Grit’s ” are excellent, but so far, at least, the Duke’s Oscar-willing performance has prevailed. Good.

1. From the “You can’t fool all of the people all the time, especially if you’re a callow, arrogant fool” files:  Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez offended an audience made up predominantly of African Americans when she slipped into assumed regional slang to lecture them about the dignity of menial jobs for life

“I’m proud to be a bartender, ain’t nothing wrong with that!” Ocasio-Cortez proclaimed. [CORRECTION NOTE: Originally, the version of this statement I had was an Ebonics-fest that I got off of a tweet from an attendee. This was incorrect: thanks to Chris Marschner for the fact check.]

Actually, the real offense was her content, not her delivery. This is communist cant for the proles: don’t aspire to more than your hum-drum jobs, for you are serving the greater good (and your superior overlords). That’s not the American values system, or American culture, which encourages productive dissatisfaction, personal initiative, and determination to be better and do better.

2. I knew Harvard wouldn’t be able to duck the college admission scandal! Harvard has launched  an “independent investigation” into a series of suspicious events that occurred in 2016. Wealthy businessman  Jie “Jack” Zhaopaid inexplicably paid $989,500  for a home in the Boston suburbs that was valued at only $549,300.  Seventeen months later he sold that home for $665,000, for a loss of $324,000. Continue reading

The Kamala Harris-Willie Brown Saga (That The News Media Wants You To Think Doesn’t Matter)-UPDATED

( A missing link to the “Truth or Fiction” site has been added.)

Enter this one under “Tales of Media Double Standards For Hypocritical Democratic Presidential Contenders Aren’t Elizabeth Warren.”

The mainstream news media has anointed Kamala Harris as one of its favorite Democrats, so it’s unlikely that we’ll see much objective or accurate analysis about her unethical relationship with Willie Brown while he was Mayor of San Francisco.  (Harris also appears to be on the road to dinging herself irrespective of this problem.) Watch a progressive “factcheck” site try to spin the Brown connection:try to spin the Brown connection:

Accusations that Sen. Kamala Harris (D-California) had an affair with a married man have hovered around her since the 2000s, back when Harris first made a run for public office.

These rumors stem from a relationship Harris had with former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown, but what it had to do with the beginning of her political career has been largely misrepresented.

Kamala Harris was elected to serve as the district attorney of San Francisco in 2003. In 2010, she was elected to serve as California’s state attorney general. Harris held that role office until she was elected to the United States Senate in November 2016.

Throughout her career, rumors that Harris had an affair with a married man (Willie Brown) and used it to launch her political career, have followed. We’ll take a look at the facts and provide a brief overview of the situation.

The Kamala Harris-Willie Brown connection

Kamala Harris and Willie Brown had a relationship in the mid 1990s. At the time, Harris was working as an attorney in various city offices. Brown, who is nearly 30 years older than Harris, had been elected mayor after serving in the state legislature for more than 30 years.

Willie Brown has led an eccentric, outspoken life, and his exploits with women have been well-documented. In 2001, news broke that Brown had impregnated his top fundraiser, for example. However, the claim that Kamala Harris had “an affair” with Brown, implying not only that they had a relationship but that it was furtive and seedy, doesn’t check out.

It’s true that Brown has technically been married since 1958. However, Brown and his wife separated amicably in 1982 — more than 10 years before his relationship with Harris began — according to a 1984 New York Times profile of Brown.

So again, claims that Kamala Harris had an affair with a married man just don’t check out.

Did Kamala Harris use her relationship with Brown to launch her political career?

Kamala Harris and Willie Brown made no effort to hide their relationship in the early 1990s. When Harris first ran for public office in 2003, long after the relationship ended, her previous relationship with Brown didn’t help her chances — it actually hurt them.

Harris’ opponents, incumbent District Attorney Terence Hallinan and local attorney Bill Fazio, turned her previous relationship with Brown into a campaign issue, arguing that Harris could not be trusted to hold Brown accountable as DA because they had been previously involved.

…Brown himself leapt into the fray in late January 2019 with a brief commentary in the San Francisco Chronicle just after Harris announced that she would be running for president, appearing to take credit for helping start her career:

“Yes, we dated. It was more than 20 years ago. Yes, I may have influenced her career by appointing her to two state commissions when I was Assembly speaker. And I certainly helped with her first race for district attorney in San Francisco. I have also helped the careers of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Gov. Gavin Newsom, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and a host of other politicians. The difference is that Harris is the only one who, after I helped her, sent word that I would be indicted if I “so much as jaywalked” while she was D.A. That’s politics for ya.”

Is this a masterpiece of obfuscation and spin, or what? Wow. Let’s look at a few details: Continue reading

The John Lasseter #MeToo Conundrum

What is the appropriate treatment for a leader, executive or artist who has been dismissed, disgraced, and exiled because of credible or proven instances of workplace sexual misconduct?

John Lasseter, the genius Pixar co-founder who was forced to resign from the Walt Disney Company in June after complaints that he engaged in unwanted “grabbing, kissing, and making comments about physical attributes” suddenly raises the question, because he is all of these, and now is one of the first men facing ruin in the #MeToo era to find a new position as impressive and lucrative—seven figures—as his old one.

David Ellison,  “Mission: Impossible” producer and founder of Skydance Media, a newish production company affiliated with Paramount Pictures, announced this week that Lasseter would become Skydance’s head of  animation and will start this month. “John is a singular creative and executive talent whose impact on the animation industry cannot be overstated,” Mr. Ellison said in a statement. “We look forward to John bringing all of his creative talents, his experience managing large franchises, his renewed understanding of the responsibilities of leadership and his exuberance to Skydance.”

BUT, he  continued: “We did not enter into this decision lightly. John has acknowledged and apologized for his mistakes and, during the past year away from the workplace, has endeavored to address and reform them.”

On his own behalf, Lasseter, who was the moving creative force behind multiple Pixar classics like “Toy Story” as well as Disney’s “Frozen,” said that he that he had engaged in “deep reflection, learning how my actions unintentionally made many colleagues uncomfortable, which I deeply regret and apologize for.” He added that he planned to build Skydance Animation in the same way he built Pixar, but with renewed dedication to the need for “safety, trust and mutual respect.”

Good enough? No, #MeToo is not pleased. Time’s Up, the #MeToo-spawned political group founded by Reese Witherspoon and Shonda Rhimes among others, protested in response to the announcement that offering a high-profile position to an abuser who has yet to show true remorse, work to reform their behavior and provide restitution to those harmed is condoning abuse.” The hire, Time’s Up added in a statement, “endorses and perpetuates a broken system that allows powerful men to act without consequence.”

Got it. Women, at least these women, want to see men ruined, shunned and reduced to living by crowdfunding and begging on the street if possible, without the certainly of due process and regardless of circumstances. How does someone like Lasseter show “true remorse”? They get to decide. What work do they have to do to reform their behavior? That’s the activists’ call too, I suppose. Meanwhile, absent a trial, what is restitution? If the women involved have a lawsuit, let them bring it. What is the cost of an unwanted workplace hug? Continue reading

Comment Of The Day (1): The Transgender Secret: Was I Right Then, Or Am I Right Now?

Many, many excellent comments followed this post. The issue, covered here before but long ago, was when a transgender individual is ethically obligated to reveal that fact to a romantic target, or partner. The Ethics Alarms poll on the question reached these results:

Here is the first of two Comments of the Day from The Transgender Secret: Was I Right Then, Or Am I Right Now?; this one is by Rich in CT.

I voted “before having sex” and/or “when the relationship becomes serious”; as these were the earliest stages on the list. I also included “when marriage becomes a possibility” as the latest possible time to reveal. (I did not include “first kiss”, as this is too vague a time period)

My take would be as soon as practical (including at soon as the overt risk of a violent reaction is ruled out). The current consensus is that gender and orientation are spectrums, not binary absolutes. Within this logic, we have a duty to understand and respect our romantic partner’s place on the spectrum. One (of ant orientation) might be exclusively attracted to the extreme end of the female gender spectrum, for instance. This might preclude attraction someone with a surgically transitioned body. Since gender and orientation are considered persistent traits, it is not necessarily bias alone that dictates this exclusive attraction.

One must also consider cultural values of a partner. Any relationship I’ve been in, I’ve made known early on that kids (naturally conceived) are a long term goal of mine. On this basis alone, I might decline to pursue any women with known infertility. Were such detail withheld, I would feel extremely hurt and betrayed. Continue reading

The Transgender Secret: Was I Right Then, Or Am I Right Now?

I recently wrote here that I have been pleasantly surprised when looking back on old posts to find that I am almost always in agreement with them. Naturally, I have immmediately been confronted with an issue where I now question Past Jack’s verdict.

Ebony has a “confession’ article—it may be fake, but the issue isn’t—by a trans woman who writes in part regarding her husband,

We were months into dating and contemplating sex before it ever occurred to me that Carlos might need to know… It was wrong, but I chose to keep the secret rather than risk losing him. Now, four years later, Carlos and I are happy and madly in love! It has been a roller coaster, but we couldn’t be happier. But it’s this happiness that is causing me such pain because Carlos feels that it is time to add to our happy family. He is excited to be a father and his face lights up at the very thought. So how do I break his heart? How do I tell him that all of our trying has been in vain because, despite my best efforts to be the person I always felt I was, I’m still not who he thinks I am?

My answer: Suck it up and tell him the truth. Maybe have him watch “The Crying Game” a few times. The relationship has already been built on a material lie, and now adding to the dishonesty by concocting a reason why children are not an option just damages the relationship further.

I do think that transgendered individuals have a difficult choice regarding the timing of this revelation as they enter a relationship, but that’s a different issue (There’s a poll on that one coming up.)

In 2012, however, I did post following an Emily Yoffe advice column (“Dear Prudence”) , and came to the opposite conclusion, in contrast to Yoffe. Then I wrote, Continue reading

Christmas Questions For A Thoroughly Confused Culture

In “A Christmas Kiss,” the 2011 Hallmark-style Christmas movie (that premiered on the Ion channel, but really would have been right at home on the Hallmark channel, or for that matter, the Crap Channel), Wendy Walton is an aspiring interior designer. One night, while preparing to go out with her roommates in glitter makeup,  she encounters an impossibly handsome, formally-dressed stranger in the elevator. When the elevator stalls and seems unstable, Wendy is thrown into the stranger’s arms….or perhaps grabs him for support, or in fear.  The elevator starts moving again, and he impulsively embraces her and gives  her a passionate, romantic kiss.  They part without her learning his name, and Wendy breathlessly tells her roommates about her magical encounter with the handsome stranger.

2018 questions:

1 Was the kiss sexual assault? Wendy did not consent to it. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 12/16/18: As Bing And I Dream Of A White Christmas, Pre-Holiday Ugliness

Good afternoon!

[For some reason, Bing’s version of the song that begins the film “White Christmas”–accompanied by a music box–is completely off-key. This has bothered me for decades. How could this happen?]

1. Our trustworthy news media. How many news outlets reported this story? In 2016, Tribune Publishing Co. owner Michael Ferro met with corporate leaders from within his news empire, including chief news executives from the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and The Baltimore Sun.  During the meeting, he engaged in old-fashioned Jew-bashing, railing about the “Jewish cabal” that ran Los Angeles. In 2018,  Tribune Publishing made the first in a series of secret extortion payments that totaled $2.5 million to avoid a threatened lawsuit filed by a fired newspaper executive who had been in that room, thus keeping Ferro’s anti-Semitic slur out of the news.

Yes, a news organization paid millions to suppress the news. The rest of the story is similarly disturbing.

2. KABOOM! This article made my head explode. Therein, CNN contributor Kate Anderson Bower attacks the First Lady, saying that “she doesn’t understand what it means to be first lady.” The article is perfect 10s all across the board: for arrogance, for bias, for Trump-bashing, for incompetence and historical revisionism. The accusation arose from statements Melania made in an interview with Sean Hannity, stating that the hardest part of her job was having to deal with her and her family being personally attacked by “comedians to journalists to performers[and]book writers.”  Bower writes that Melania was

“again making the job about herself and her family instead of taking the opportunity to talk about the challenges she sees other people facing…The entire moment was a lost opportunity to put attention on the families of struggling Americans she’s met in her role as first lady, especially since she spent time the very next day reading to children at Children’s National Hospital, some sitting in wheelchairs with IVs attached. And the Hannity interview took place on USS George H.W. Bush, a trip the first lady made to support members of the military and their families. Wouldn’t it have been heartening to hear her use that moment during the interview to talk about the women and babies she’s met struggling with opioid addiction, or the children who she has met as part of her “Be Best” campaign who have been bullied at school, or the people whose homes were destroyed in the California fires?”

I’ll tell you what, you presumptuous hack: when you’re First Lady, you show us how it’s done.

There is no job of First Lady for Melania to “understand.” Bower is imposing her values and priorities on the job, and claiming that she knows the job description, which has always fluctuated with the occupant and the times.  The job of the First Lady, to the extent there is one, is to do whatever is possible to help the President of the United States be successful and succeed, using whatever talents she has. There is no obligation for a First Lady to be Eleanor Roosevelt, nor is it written in ink or precedent that the President’s spouse has to concentrate on “the challenges she sees other people facing.”  Jackie Kennedy’s primary project was renovating the White House, where she lived. How did that help the poor and under-privileged?  Lady Bird beautified the shores of the Potomac. How was that a boon to the poor in Appalachia?  Nobody criticized their priorities. I wonder why? Continue reading