Category Archives: Romance and Relationships

Ethics Dunce: Glenn Weiss

Awww! YECCHHH!

Director Glenn Weiss made a surprise proposal to his longtime girlfriend Jan Svendsen during his Emmy Awards acceptance speech.

The Ethics Alarms rule, hinted at in other posts, is that anyone who issues a marriage proposal in public, putting unethical pressure on his or her loved one to accept, should be rejected on the spot. The act is unfair, disrespectful, and signature significance for a jerk and a bully who is unlikely to be a pleasant life partner. This goes for sports stadium TV screen proposals, but Weiss’s version is especially bad: the coast-to-coast live TV proposal.

It was unethical in other respects as well. The Emmys aren’t license for any winner to hijack the show  and divert it for his or her own  personal objectives.  Making an acceptance speech into political rant is wrong, but the recent culture of award shows has ratified the obnoxious practice: that’s why the ratings for awards shows are falling like ripe apples in October. In Weiss’s case, there was also the hypocrisy factor. He has produced and directed 18 Tonys telecasts for CBS, and is known “as an unforgiving stickler when it comes to keeping acceptance speeches to the allotted 45 seconds.” One theater exec told Page Six that “every year, Glenn gives this pompous speech to all the nominees, lecturing everyone about how the clock starts the second your name is called and that going long is unfair to your fellow nominees because it eats time for everyone whose categories come later in the evening. Leave it to him to completely flout his own rule in order to grab as much attention as humanly possible for him and his girlfriend.”

Good luck, Jan.

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Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 9/19/18: Conditional Authoritarianism, Fake Reparations, And Profitable Harassment

Having a good and ethical day?

1. Here’s a useful definition…that I formulated while reading another issue of the increasingly and inexcusably anti-Trump propaganda obsessed New York Book Review section. This past weekend’s addition was more obvious than usual. “Democracy at Risk!”  (Not by an opposition party setting out to topple a Presidency with the assistance of the news media—no no no! The risk justifies the opposition party doing this!) “Is Donald Trump a Fascist?”  Hey, what’s Bob Woodward reading, just to pick a celebrity out of a hat? (The interview highlights the lack of self-awareness among the Trump-haters: Bernstein points out how intolerance and hate destroyed Richard Nixon as the Times allows and promotes hate in its war against the current President.) There’s an essay about…white nationalism! A Times reporter has written a book that pronounces the United States as “DOOMED!” And here’s Andrew Sullivan extolling an American revisionism exercise while referring to the current “spasm” of authoritarianism, and Doris Kearns, my old presidential power prof in college, with a new book about her faves, Lincoln, Teddy, FDR, and LBJ. These were great leaders.

The definition: Authoritarianism is when a President you don’t like exerts strong leadership within his powers to accomplish policy goals you disagree with. When a President you do like stretches and exceeds his Constitutional powers to achieve policy goals you approve of, that’s not authoritarianism. That’s great leadership.

As an aside, Andrew Sullivan tells us in his review that “the 2008 Heller decision rejecting a D.C. handgun ban is quite obviously bonkers.” All righty then! I guess that settles it!

2.  Speaking of Bonkers: Emmys Ethics. Michael Che appeared in a pretaped bit in which he handed out “reparation Emmys” to  black performers who supposedly were overlooked by the voting academy. These included Jaleel White (Urkel  on“Family Matters”), Marla Gibbs (nominated five times for her role as Florence on “The Jeffersons”), Tichina Arnold (“Martin,” “Everybody Hates Chris”) and Kadeem Hardison (“A Different World”).
Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/28/2018: Short, But Disturbing…

Good Morning!

1. Am I a chicken? Today I am doing an early morning CLE seminar for prosecutors and government lawyers, and there are a lot of juicy issues that I am staying away from. Last year’s seminar on this topic with this audience bogged down almost immediately in political arguments, and later I received complaints, which I almost never do. Despite the fact that the ethics of government lawyers have never been more under a microscope than  now, today’sthree-hour course is going to almost (almost) completely avoid the controversies surrounding the Mueller investigation, Rosenstein, Strzok and the rest. I am going to mention Andrew McCabe’s use of GoFundMe, but only in the context of lawyers crossing ethics lines while using the web.

Is avoiding the political controversies wrong and cowardly when they are so relevant to the topic of government ethics? I’ve been thinking about this for months. In the end, I have decided that the distraction and static is more damaging to the mission—giving government lawyers a chance to tune up their ethics alarms—than the embargoed topics are essential. There is more to cover than I have time for anyway.

2. More on the baseball mind-control front. Back in 2015, then-Mets second-baseman Daniel Murphy said in an interview that he “did not agree with the lifestyle” of a gay former player. Now, two teams later, he is playing for the Chicago Cubs, and the news media has resuscitated the “scandal”—apparently not agreeing with someone else’s lifestyle when that lifestyle has been officially sanctified is a scandal now—and Murphy is being examined, prodded and watched. Are his anti-gay—apparently not “agreeing” with something is to be “anti-“ too—attitudes a burden on the team? Are they “harming” gay fans? Gays in general? It is clear that Murphy will never stop being a target of political correctness-besotted reporters until he publicly embraces his inner gayness, announces that he has forsworn his sincere religious beliefs (they are  behind the times), and publicly endorses every LGBT issue under the skies. Of course, gay baseball fans in Chicago will be happy with Murphy as long as he hits and helps the Cubs win games, which is all that should matter, and in fact is all that does.

The lesson of Murphy’s ordeal is, I suppose, that no celebrity or public figure should dare utter non-conforming opinions or views, unless they are willing to be hounded by the political correctness Furies to the grave.

I don’t believe this condition is compatible with freedom of thought and expression, but then, neither are the Furies. And those who would deny Murphy leave to “disagree” with whatever he choose to disagree with want freedom of thought and expression to be constrained, or as the Supreme Court put it, “chilled.”

3. Flag up, flag down. Apparently there are people who have nothing better to do than watch flag poles. In response to Senator McCain’s death, The White House lowered its U.S. flag to half-staff on Sunday, raised it back up and on Monday lowered it again after the death of Senator John McCain, in a break with the tradition following the passing of a national leader. Based on the reaction of my Facebook friends, this was far more outrageous than the Catholic Church facilitating child rape for the last 50 years or so. Finally, under pressure from the news media, veterans and members of Congress, President Trump  ordered flags to half-staff, and came out with a late, grudging tribute to McCain.

Yes, the President should have treated McCain like prior departed leaders of his stature and duration on the national scene.

Yes, his response was petty.

Yes, he is petty, and yes, apparently Trump being Trump will perpetually be news.

Yes, John McCain is dead, and his orders that the President of the United States isn’t welcome at his funeral still stand.

Yes, the news media’s attitude is that McCain’s pettiness was justified, because any anti-Trump attitudes are per se virtuous and just, and Trump’s pettiness is just more proof that he should be impeached.

Got it.

4. Lanny Lanny Lanny…In July, CNN published a story claiming that President Trump knew about the planned Trump Tower meeting with some Russians bearing gifts of dirt on Hillary Clinton, or so they had claimed delegation. According to their anonymous source, former Trump fixer and Olympics-level slimemeister Michael Cohen claims Trump was briefed on the meeting. It now appears that the only source for CNN’s story was Lanny Davis, Hillary Clinton’s and Bill’s fixer and Olympics-level slimemeister. Now Lanny is saying that he was somehow “misunderstood.” You see, his client testified under oath to Congress that Trump did not know, so Lanny’s leak to CNN implicated his own Client in a crime—one that he hasn’t pled guilty to yet. Now all of the media outlets, notably the Washington Post, that went into full impeachment heat over the CNN story are having to backtrack, just like Lanny. [Pointer: Liberty Girls]

Nah, Chuck Todd is right, there’s no news media anti-Trump bias!

Sarcasm aside, I find it impossible to believe that a majority of the public isn’t sick of this.

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Ethics Dunce And Awful Human Being: Thomas Frieden’s #MeToo Victim…And Also, “KABOOM!”

Like “Advice Goddess” blogger  Amy Alkon, when I heard that Dr. Thomas Frieden, Obama’s former head of the CDC, had been arrested for sexual assault, I just assumed that he was one more prominent serial predator who has used his power to abuse women in the workplace, and a pretty serious one, if he ended up in cuffs. After all, nobody has arrested Matt Lauer or Charlie Rose.

Then I read the whole story, and my head exploded. But not because of what Frieden had allegedly done.

A 55-year-old woman, so far unidentified in the media (I want that woman’s namecame forward to the police in July and said that Dr. Frieden squeezed her buttocks without her permission nine months earlier, on October 20, 2017.  She told investigators the incident occurred  as she was leaving a gathering at Dr. Frieden’s residence in Brooklyn Heights. She said Dr. Frieden groped her while their spouses weren’t looking, and he later apologized, citing personal problems.. Dr. Frieden says the woman is a long-time friend and acquaintance of more than thirty years.

Got that?  Almost a year earlier, at a party, a male friend squeezed her butt. He apologized. She waited all this time, and then humiliated him professionally and publicly by having him arrested.

How can this conduct possibly be excused, and I mean hers. His conduct was wrong—I have never groped a woman’s ass or any other part of her body without clear consent in my life, indeed I have heard complaints that I don’t grope enough— and it was technically civil battery, but far, far from criminal. Having the man arrested is nothing less than a hateful, cruel, vindictive abuse of him, his family and the justice system.

We are told that this women—I want her name!—is a New York artist who has been a vocal #MeToo activist since the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck started rolling and squishing, and  has been creating artwork related to the movement. She also wrote an article in an online publication describing that single grope, from a friend, at a party, as the moment she was transformed from activist to victim. Ah! Then treating an old friend this way is completely justified!

No, it’s not. She’s not just an ethics dunce, she’s an asshole.  Alkon–who gets the Ethics Alarms Pointer for this one— calls the grope, which is not sexual harassment, not occurring in the workplace or between superior and inferior, and not creating a hostile work environment, Continue reading

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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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