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Your Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck Update, With The Ethics Quote Of The Week From Screenwriter Scott Rosenberg

In 2009, after fugitive cinema auteur/child rapist Roman Polanski was arrested by Swiss police following a request by the U.S. Justice Department that he be extradited to serve his sentence, Harvey Weinstein authored an op-ed arguing  that  “Roman Polanski is a man who cares deeply about his art and its place in the world.” The article dismissed Polanski’s rape and sodomizing of a 13-year-old actress as “a so-called crime.”

 Weinstein then signed am infamous petition for Polanski, along with many Hollywood celebrities.

Last week, Academy Award-winning British actress Emma Thompson appeared on the BBC to  denounce Weinstein’s conduct.  Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis asked her, since she felt so strongly about sexual assault, why she had signed the Polanski petition.

No, I have not heard or read that any U.S. journalist has had the courage or integrity to ask the question of other actresses who have similarly flip-flopped.   Thompson she said she had signed “without really thinking about it . . . I had been absolutely bamboozled by my respect for his art.”

Sure. Emma, that explains it What woman doesn’t sign a “Forgive the rapist” petition without thinking about it?

2.  Hollywood Screenwriter Scott Rosenberg took to Facebook to post a provocative exposition on his early days at Weinstein’s Miramax Films, with a tough kicker: “Everybody fucking knew.” If everybody fucking knew, is it really believable that the Clintons, the Obamas, the other Democrats who gleaned millions from Harvey and Harvey’s connections, and the journalists that never exposed him at the cost of undermining their favorite party didn’t know?

No. It isn’t believable.

Here’s Rosenberg: 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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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/12/2017: Ben Affleck Is Called A Liar, A Blind Man Wants to See Websites, The Boy Scouts Want Girls, And More…

Good Morning!

1 Tales of Moral Luck: Yankee manager Joe Girardi was facing a possible post-season firing for an embarrassing  botch during the second game of the American League Divisional Series against the Cleveland Indians. NY had lost the second game, putting them in an 0-2 hole in a best of 5 series, after an Indian batter’s foul tip into the catcher’s glove for strike three and the inning’s final out was mistakenly ruled a hit by pitch, loading the bases. Replay showed that the ball had hit the knob of the bat, not the batter’s hand, but Girardi didn’t call for a replay review even though his catcher demanding one.  The HBP loaded the bases, and the next batter hit a decisive grand slam. Girardi made things worse in his post-game comments by spinning and rationalizing, then finally took responsibility the next day. He also admitted that he didn’t realize that managers had two challenges in the play-offs, when they had only one a game during the regular season.

Yesterday, the Yankees completed a remarkable comeback, winning three straight games to defeat the odds-on favorites to represent the American League in the World Series. Girardi’s bad judgment, poor preparation and immediate resort to excuses when he undermined his team’s chances no longer matters. He was saved by moral luck, just as earlier he had been slammed by moral luck. After all, if the next batter in Game 2 has popped up harmlessly, ending the inning without any damage, Girardi’s terrible mistake would have been a footnote to a Yankee victory.

Now it’s a footnote again.

Moral Luck.

2. WHOA!  Didn’t see THAT coming! TWITTER just boarded the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck!

Actress Rose McGowan, one of Weinstein’s victims who reached a $100,000 settlement with the Hollywood serial harasser 20 years ago and  who is now on the attack having decided that she doesn’t want to be a Hollywood actress any more, has been using social media to condemn actors and executives who enabled Weinstein, writing in one tweet, “you all knew.” Recently, after Ben Affleck  tweeted that the allegations against  Weinstein “made him sick,” McGowan called him out on Twitter.:

@benaffleck “GODDAMNIT! I TOLD HIM TO STOP DOING THAT” you said that to my face. The press conf I was made to go to after assault. You lie.

Twitter suspended her account. In response, McGowran wrote on Instagram.

TWITTER HAS SUSPENDED ME. THERE ARE POWERFUL FORCES AT WORK. BE MY VOICE. #ROSEARMY #whywomendontreport

These social media platforms are untrustworthy. All of them.

McGowan, meanwhile, is fast approaching Ethics Hero territory. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/11/2017: Words, Debt, And Costumes

Good morning from Richmond, Va.!

1 Passengers keep piling onto the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck:

  • Fashion designer Donna Karan, questioned about Weinstein at an event, said in part:

“I also think how do we display ourselves? How do we present ourselves as women,” Karan said to the Daily Mail. “What are we asking? Are we asking for it by presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality?”

Then she pointed to Weinstein’s achievements, and said Weinstein and his wife were “wonderful people.”

(Note to the designer: men who use their power to harass and assault women are not wonderful people by definition.)

After the predictable response to these idiotic comments, Karan protested that her quote was taken out of context, as if the context wasn’t Harvey Weinstein, and issued a low level apology that could only mean, “I’m deeply sorry I said something in public that reveals the miserable level of my values.”

  • Lindsay Lohan, currently in exile in Great Britain and Dubai, used social media to remind her fans in the US that she is, after all, a moron, writing on Instagram,

“I feel very bad for Harvey Weinstein right now. I don’t think it’s right what’s going on….He’s never harmed me or did anything to me – we’ve done several movies together.I think everyone needs to stop – I think it’s wrong. So stand up.”

One of the real benefits of social media is that it reveals the total lack of ethics comprehension, reasoning ability and life competence that inflict so much of the public, including celebrities. With clarity of thought like that, is there any mystery regarding how the once rising star managed to mangle her career despite beauty, talent, and early success?

  • NBC was presented with the Weinstein story before it was broken by the New York Times, says Ronan Farrow, the author of a new Weinstein investigative piece in The New Yorker. The network hasn’t said why. Does it have to? Weinstein was close to both the Clintons and the Obamas, and the scandal directly implicates the Democratic party and its core supporters….like NBC. It is fascinating to watch cable and network anchors and guests desperately try to analogize Weinstein to President Trump, but the Hollywood mogul was enabled by self-righteous liberals and was given the King’s Pass (with an assist from the Saint’s Excuse) because he gave to Planned Parenthood and Hillary, making him, in Donna Karan’s words, “wonderful” by definition. The analogy is Bill Clinton, of course, and any journalist who refuses to acknowledge that has confessed crippling partisan bias.

2. This brings us to a quote by blogger Ann Althouse:

“My hypothesis is that liberals — including nearly everyone in the entertainment business — suppressed concern about sexual harassment to help Bill Clinton. Giving him cover gave cover to other powerful men, and the cause of women’s equality in the workplace was set back 20 years.”

Her hypothesis is correct, and I said so when the liberals, feminists, abortion zealots, artistic community and others circled their wagons around Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal. This is one reason why Hillary’s campaign stance as standard-bearer for women’s rights and victims of sexual assault was so grotesque.

Here’s another quote from Althouse that I like:

“Who are the women who accepted the deal as offered by Harvey Weinstein? Will their names be kept out of the press? Should they?…

…So much silence facilitating so much harm! Should the women who took the bargain and got what they wanted out of it be regarded as victims and entitled to keep their names secret, or are they part of a system that hurt many others, and subject to outing.”

I’ve answered this question in various comments on previous posts, much to the unhappiness of readers who believe that victims who remains silent and thus allow evil to continue shouldn’t be criticized. The women are part of the system, and accountable. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/7/2017: A Salute, A Disgrace, An Idiot, And An Asshole

Good Morning!

1  I want to take a moment to salute the commenters here for a remarkable performance the past week regarding the re-emergence of the gun control debate following the Vegas Strip massacre. There have been a staggering 664 comments (so far) on the topic in various threads, two Comments of the Day (and another couple soon to be published), and a rare guest post. The level of discourse has been overwhelmingly high, and the sophistication and variety of opinion has been exemplary. Through all of this, there has been little of equal quality from the mainstream media and its pundits, while the quality of opinion and debate on television and from elected officials has been only slightly above the “Do something!” level still flourishing on Facebook. (I’m going to my Facebook feed now to pick a recent example. Let’s see…here’s one! This is a representative segment of the comments on this story on Mediaite, admittedly an especially dumb one, about MSNBC political analyst Steve Schmidt telling Bill Maher , among other simple-minded observations, that only seem relevant to the anti-gun hysterics, that  it is “harder to buy cough medicine than it is to buy an AK-47 or 50 of them”…

This guy is an idiot. Tell him to go buy cough syrup, then go buy an AK and come back in an hour and see what he has. I bet it would only be cough syrup.

is it in a liberal’s nature to murder unborn babies? just askin

It’s a birth control device for them.

Awww, you need attention

And you gave it

I live in your head

Why so many?

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

Heroin is against the law, and yet we have a heroin epidemic. Automatic weapons, like the AK-47, are against the law and yet Steve Schmidt says they easier to get then cough syrup with codeine. He doesn’t even see his idiocy.

False equivalencies to justify your need to compensate, boring.

Well, you can get a semi-automatic one, but it’s a far cry from a military-grade automatic.

The left has issues with their vision. The unicorns that roam the landscape crapping skittles and pissing perfume block their view, I guess.

Damn you really are a mental nut case

Ugh.

Thank you, everybody.

You do Ethics Alarms proud..

2. In the category of “This is so obviously incompetent that I should have to write about it  The IRS awarded a sole source $7.25 million contract to Equifax to verify taxpayer identities and help prevent fraud. This was after the credit company negligently allowed the personal data of millions of Americans to be hacked. The excuses being offered by the agency are hilarious. IRS officials claim they were forced by circumstances to issue the no-bid multi-million dollar contract to Equifax. The GAO calls this baloney. The IRS argued, in a letter to Congress, that the IRS  it was unaware of any fraud related to the company’s data breach.  No, it’s just that Equifax was incompetent and negligent to an inexcusable extent that ought to be criminal. Another defense offered by the IRS:  most of the data hacked by Equifax had already been revealed in previous corporate breaches, such as those at Target and Anthem.  WHAT? That’s like saying you are a trustworthy nanny because the child you let get run over by a car was already dying of cancer.

From Politico:

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle blasted the IRS decision.

“In the wake of one of the most massive data breaches in a decade, it’s irresponsible for the IRS to turn over millions in taxpayer dollars to a company that has yet to offer a succinct answer on how at least 145 million Americans had personally identifiable information exposed,” Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) told POLITICO in a statement.

Ya think?

A. Cancel the contract.

B. Fire the head of the IRS and anyone in the chain responsible for this decision. Continue reading

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Assorted Observations On The Sandy Hook Ethics Train Wreck, Las Vegas Strip Edition

  • I was serious about directing anyone seeking ethics commentary in reference to the Las Vegas massacre to all of the posts tagged with the Sandy Hook Ethics Train Wreck tag. So far, there is nothing new being said or proposed, just an unleashing of the same tactics, same fake “facts,” and same rending of garments and tearing of hair, whatever that is. I suppose this is healthy as a cultural release, though not in nay other respect. That tag wasn’t on this basic Ethics Alarms post, however, and it is the starting point for any of my commentary on gun control-related matters. The intentionally stark title: The Inconvenient Truth About The Second Amendment and Freedom: The Deaths Are Worth It.

Oh, hell. I’m just going to re-post it. Be back in a second.

There. It’s up.

  • So much of the blather everywhere is naked virtue signaling. One commenter here who should know better wrote on one of the other posts that I was criticizing those who were decrying gun violence. Who doesn’t decry gun violence? Why is it necessary to proclaim the obvious? Oh, you really are horrified that 59 innocent people were killed and 500 were wounded? What a sensitive person you are! You are so good, I must take your insistence that we have to do something as a substantive contribution to the discussion.

Decrying senseless violence and wanting gut the Bill of Rights in response are not the same thing, not even close. The first is gratuitous and obvious, and the second is emotional and irresponsible.

  • I would not be surprised at all if President Trump further muddled this already incoherent debate by endorsing some new (or old) gun control measures. He would do this, presumably, as he seems to make most decisions, from the gut, or the seat of his pants, or because it seemed like a good idea at the time. The chances that he has thought deeply about the issues involved are nil; the chances that he is familiar with the jurisprudence on the matter is less than nil. It would almost be worth it to watch the reshuffling of loyalties and support among the pundits and commentariat.

Real Nazis, after all, want to confiscate guns.

  • Once again, the NRA is being vilified, with the disgusting “blood on their hands” cry. The NRA isn’t sort of like the ACLU; it’s exactly like the ACLU, but with more integrity. If only the ACLU fought to defend the First Amendment as vigorously as the NRA defends the Second. Organizations that take the extreme position on any of the sections of the Bill of Rights create a necessary counterweight to fanatics who would tear them out of our Constitution and culture.

The NRA is extreme. It has to be extreme. The ACLU isn’t extreme enough, and because it will not take an absolutist stance (Like late SCOTUS justice William O.Douglas, who repeatedly wrote that no restriction on speech was justifiable or Constitutional), it has made itself vulnerable to bias, and harmed its credibility.

  • It is astounding to me—I guess I foolishly expect people to learn—that the eruption on the latest anti-gun fervor is again being led by ignorance, hyperbole and finger-pointing. The argument of  the Federalist essay I posted the link to this morning should be clear as glass: making this a partisan issue guarantees that nothing will get done. Democrats sounding like they are seeking a slippery slope leading to the banning of all firearms guarantees no action whatsoever, dooming even reasonable measures. Forever. Do they really not understand this? Do they really want to try to fix the problem, to the extent it can be fixed? I wonder.

Progressives mostly refuse to read conservative publications like The Federalist. They would rather be pure and stupid than informed and effective.  And this, my friends, is why Donald Trump is on his way to a second term.

  •  The tenor of much of the blather from elected officials and pundits reaffirms my belief that adulthood is a myth.  I keep hearing various versions of the lament, “We can’t let this go on! How can we stop it from happening?”

Continue reading

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Do Good Friends Let Friends Publish Garbage On Social Media? The Duty to Knock Down Irresponsible Opinions

“Stop quoting Maxine Waters!”

I just arrived at Virginia Beach Double Tree after a four hour plus drive in the dead of night. This gave amble time to obsess to the point of madness on Facebook post I saw from a friend. This is a smart, educated person; published in fact. Yet the post was (I am paraphrasing):

“I don’t understand Republicans. They must prefer Pence to Trump: why won’t the join Democrats in impeaching the orange bastard? I don’t get it.”

This post garnered many likes in the Facebook echo chamber, and several theories.

Now, this is not just an uninformed opinion. It is a dangerous opinion. It misinforms everyone who reads it and who has reason to trust and respect the writer. It is written in complete ignorance of the Constitution, and an irresponsible misinterpretation of what American democracy is.

I shouldn’t have to explain this further, but what the hell: if the Founders intended for our system to be a modified parliamentary arrangement where the public can try to elect a President but if Congress decides it prefers someone else, like the Vice-President, it can veto the election with a sufficient majority, then Madison, Mason et al. would have made that clear. Instead they made it clear that an elected President can only be impeached upon a guilty verdict in a Senate trial for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” which means unequivocal, serious and substantive wrongdoing, usually criminal. Yet a frightening number of progressives, driven to fantasy by listening to irresponsible and incompetent elected demagogues like Maxine Waters, actually embrace an imaginary version of our government that, if real, would render democracy a cruel fraud. Continue reading

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