Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/14/2020: And The Ethics Beat Goes On…

Good morning.

That’s a perfunctory good morning, to be transparent. Mourning would be more accurate. Yesterday’s news that Red Sox manager Alex Cora, a man who had impressed me with his leadership ability, personality and, yes, ethical values, was exposed by an investigation as the primary instigator of cheating schemes that involved two baseball teams and World Series champions (the Astros and the Red Sox), disillusioned two fan bases, harmed his sport, and led, so far, to the fall of two of the games most successful and admired management figures. Cora is also the first minority manager the Red Sox have had, and was regarded as a transformational figure for the team and the city, both of which have long and troubled histories of prejudice and discrimination. Smart, articulate, creative, funny, brave, knowledgeable—all of his positive qualities, rendered useless by the lack of functioning ethics alarms.

1. Congratulations to Ann Althouse…on this, the 16th anniversary of her blog. With the demise of Popehat, she supplanted Ken White as my most admired blogger, and most quoted by far. The fact that her fiercely non-partisan analysis of ethics issues so frequently tracks with my own is a constant source of comfort for me , particularly during these difficult times. Ann has an advantage that I don’t—“I only write about what interests me” is her description of her field of commentary— because this blog is limited to ethics and leadership. Fortunately, Ann is interested in ethics, though she seldom says so explicitly.

2. Bernie vs Liz. Feeling that Bernie Sanders was pulling away as the standard-bearer of the Leftest of the Democratic base as her own support appears to be waning, Elizabeth Warren went low, and had her aides reveal the content of what was supposed to be two-hour a private summit between the fake Native American and the Communist sympathizer in December 2018. According to them, Bernie told Warren that he disagreed with her assertion that a woman could win the 2020 election. Bernie denies it. Observations:

  • This kind of thing stinks, though it is kind of fun to see Democrats dirtied by it instead of President Trump. Anonymous accounts of what was said in phone conversations and private meetings in which the participants reasonably believed they could speak freely are unreliable, untrustworthy and unethical.
  • The Warren camp’s spin on Bernie’s alleged statement is that it shows he’s a sexist. That makes no sense. If I say that I can’t win the election in 2020, does that mean I’m biased against myself? There is no logical reason to assume an opinion like “A woman can’t win is 2020” represents bias, though it could. I will state here and now that a gay man can’t be elected President in 2020, even if that man weren’t a pandering asshole like Pete Buttigieg, but I am not anti-LGBTQ is any way. The statement reflects my objective analysis of the state of the culture.
  • I suspect that Sanders meant, “YOU can’t win in 2020, nor can Kamala Harris nor any of the other equally weak announced female candidates.” The truth may hurts, but that doesn’t make it biased
  • (Psst! Bernie! A delusional septuagenarian socialist who honeymooned in the Soviet Union can’t win either!)

3. No, the fact that there are no more African-Americans running for President doesn’t mean an African-American can’t win. It means weak African-American candidates like Cory Booker, who just dropped out, and Kamala Harris, who is long gone, can’t win, not because of their race, but because they can’t convince voters that they could do the job. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/13/2020: Oh Oh! The Oscars Are Racist And Sexist Again!

 

“I love the smell of napalm in the morning!”

1. Thoughts on the announced Oscar nominations. Well, very few African Americans made it, and no female director despite all the blatant lobbying for “Little Women” director Greta Gerwig.  Thus I have to conclude that the Academy of Motion Picture Sciences DOES have a measure of integrity after all,  because it will catch all sorts of hell for this. Even after adding many voters “of color” and kicking out some ancient, unwoke voters members, it’s still a mostly white field, maybe because the most deserving candidates happened to be the wrong color this year. It doesn’t matter: the Academy will be beseiged again for implicit racism. Watch. And it will seek “reforms.” The problem is that race-based categories looks like apartheid. The only other alternative is to have secret quotas, which is what I thought were already in effect.

It doesn’t help that both Al Pacino and Joe Pesci were nominated as Best Supporting Actors for, in Pacino’s case, standard issue Al, and in Pesci’s case, an embarrassingly  flat performance. If the Academy is going to give out legacy nominations, why not some token nominations for minorities? I bet there were 50 “of color” performances this year objectively superior to these two from the dead-fish “The Irishman.”

2. It amazes me that so many Americans defend Meghan Markle’s “Megxit.” I know, I already wrote about this, but her conduct appears to be a continuation of the Obama phenomenon, where a prominent individual exploits her race to declare all criticism as based on racial bias. “Black Britons” as the New York Times calls them, are lining up to support Markel because they allege she was “savaged” by the British tabloids because of her race. Similarly, the Times finds dark implications in the fact that the Royal Family didn’t rally to her side when she came under fire: they must be racists too. All the evidence I’ve seen suggests that they didn’t support Markel because she’s an annoying jerk: Occam’s Razor applies.

If she really married into the Royal Family and didn’t know that the tabloids would be dissecting her every word and move, she was negligent and foolish. Did she consider chatting with Sarah Ferguson, or did Markle think the Duchess of York was attacked because of media bias against redheads?

For once I agree with ex-CNN talking head Piers Morgan, who wrote, “I’ve seen some disgraceful royal antics in my time, but for pure arrogance, entitlement, greed and willful disrespect, nothing has ever quite matched the behavior of the ‘Duke and Duchess of Sussex.’

She has provoked a crisis in the monarchy to further her own goals of unearned mega-celebrity. I have a Facebook friend who argues that since royalty is unethical, Meghan should be praised for setting out to bring it down in England. (Yes, he’s a Communist.) The real Markle is already becoming more apparent. She has said that she will only move back to the U.S. after President Trump is out of office, already pandering to the Angry Woke. Disney announced that it had a voice-over deal with her, with her compensation to be donated to a charity….but she made that deal as a Royal, not a rebel. Disney has the right, but not the guts, to void the arrangement. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/25/19: Fleas, Fake Movies, False Equivalency, And Female Bigotry

Good Morning!

1. Roger Stone’s arrest a) Stone is a thoroughly loathsome individual—the man has Richard Nixon’s face tattooed on his back, for heaven’s sake—but like the Mueller investigation generally, his arrest seems more like continued politically-motivated harassment of anyone connected to Donald Trump in order to isolate and impede his Presidency rather than part of a legitimate and independent investigation. Stone’s indictment is substantially made up of the now-familiar “obstruction of justice” bootstrap regarding an investigation of a non-crime charge. In Watergate, there was a crime. In the Clinton impeachment, there was a crime (a President lying under oath). In the Valerie Plame fiasco, there was at least a sort-of crime. Even Martha Stewart’s “obstruction of justice” conviction was related to the crime of insider-trading. “Collusion” isn’t a crime, and if Stone lied to Congress about the degree to which he was communicating heads-ups to the Trump campaign about what Wikileaks had and was about to release, that has no implications of wrongdoing for the Trump campaign at all. Stone telling the Trump campaign, “Hey, Wikileaks has a bunch of DNC emails that show Hillary’s campaign was sleazy and that the Clinton Foundation is an influence peddling scam!” isn’t illegal, it isn’t unethical, and I doubt that this sort of communication is unusual for any campaign in any party. b) CNN cameras were on the scene when Stone was arrested, which means the FBI or the Mueller team leaked to CNN. Now THAT’s unethical, and possibly illegal. c) Once again, President Trump’s persistent failure to avoid close contact with obvious slime-balls has caused problems. “Lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas” : It’s not a hard concept to grasp, but for a man who was raised and rose to wealth and power in the dog-dominated worlds of real estate, hotels, casinos, show business and now politics, I suppose its hard to imagine NOT being surrounded by the metaphorically flea-infested.

2. Integrity watch: OK, I no longer know what a “movie” is. Netflix is streaming “Roma,” which was just nominated for a “Best Picture” Oscar. It has sold no tickets, and as far as I can see, is indistinguishable from any movie-length TV program, like the Christmas drama that spawned “The Waltons,” “The Homecoming.” I though movies were things shown in theater with big screens by projectors. Netflix’s “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” (which is terrific) also got some Oscar nominations. Are Hallmark Christmas weepies now eligible for Oscars? To me, those are “TV shows.” Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 1/19/19: It’s Fake News Day!

Welcome to the Ethics Alarms Dead Zone!

Increasingly, almost nobody comes here on Saturdays. For me, Saturday is when I have time to catch up on ethics issues, and that’s fun for me. Everybody else doesn’t find ethics fun? How strange…

1. Another day, another fake news story designed to thrill and energize the “resistance.” BuzzFeed published a “bombshell” about Michael Cohen, that impeccably reliable witness, telling investigators that President Trump instructed him to lie to Congress about his pre-election hotel plans—odd that, since there is nothing illegal about planning to build a hotel in Moscow. Without checking sources, without considering the media source’s record of those of the reporters (one of whom has a well-documented pattern of making stuff up), the mainstream media was off to the impeachment races, with CNN and MSNBC in particular talking about almost nothing else all day.  Then, as the day edged into evening, the Mueller investigation dropped its own bombshell, taking the remarkable step of declaring the BuzzFeed story a lot of hooey.  Some pundits on the Right who trust today’s incompetent news media as much as I do even suggested that BuzzFeed knew its claim was false all along, but were confident that nobody could prove it except the Mueller investigation itself, and of course it would never speak up. The same logic was behind Clifford Irving’s Howard Hughes autobiography hoax (Irving assumed that the reclusive Hughes would never come forward to expose him—but he did.)

The Daily Caller quickly compiled a list of eleven previous botched news reports related to the “collusion” narrative, and it was not all of them by any means. I haven’t checked, but I am quite sure that there were not this many mainstream media headline-generating news stories that proved to be false in the past ten Presidencies combined. What will it take for the industry to declare its performance a crisis? What will it take for even the “resistance” to conclude that their pals the journalists are hacks? Blogger Ann Althouse is so disgusted that she has taken to drawing rat cartoons and diagramming the sentences in anti-Trump screeds. “How embarrassing for the Trump haters,” she writes. “I didn’t even write about the BuzzFeed story myself. I’m so jaded about the latest impeachment bait.”

Why isn’t everybody? It isn’t just bias that makes you stupid. Hate makes you stupid too. Worse than that, it makes you LOOK stupid.

Entertaining accounts of the BuzzFeed fiasco are here and here. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/18/2019: “The Pussy-Grabber Plays,” And More

1. The Comment Of The Day That Wasn’t. An aspiring troll calling himself “Alan P Siegfried, PharmD” attempted to post a debut comment on “Prophesy Confirmed: SNL And Our Nation Of Assholes,” which concerned Saturday Night Live mocking the war wounds of then candidate, now Congressman Dan Crenshaw as part of a campaign of ad hominem attacks on Republican. I considered making the post a Comment of the Day, as I have in the past with especially amusing rants, but it’s not that funny. I am going to reproduce it here, though, first, to provide another example of the kind of approach that the Comment Policies explicitly warn against. You don’t get leave to comment here by insulting me or condescending to your host, much as I am in thrall to the wisdom of pharmacists. I don’t know how someone can think that it is ethical to enter a house and immediately to start vomiting on the furniture, but commenters who do think that aren’t going to be tolerated. I also thought the attempted comment would be instructive on the question of why the current imbalance between commenters on the Left and Right here or late. Recent progressives have been arriving sneering and spitting; new moderate and conservative oriented readers have been acceptably civil. Why is that, I wonder? Here is the post, and my comments follow intermittently:

How many adults did you see ‘roll with laughter?’

This is called “a bad start.” I wrote that the mockery of Crenshaw by snickering Pete Davidson had the SNL barking progressive seals roaring with laughter, which it did. The first line also was signature significance, apparently suggesting that the vicious disrespect of a wounded veteran was mitigated if the laughter was muted. “Ah!” I say, when a comment begins like this. “An idiot!”

Or is that conjecture from a big city gal who dine went and lost touch with reality??

Wait—I’m a “big city gal”? I don’t even identify as one. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/7/18: Dumb, Dumber, Dumbest

Good morning.

…And a good morning to remember a very bad morning in Hawaii 77 years ago today.

1. Oscar’s latest fiasco. The Academy Awards, which like all awards shows has descended into nasty political advocacy, undermining its mission and alienating its audience, decided to pick famously non-partisan black comedian Kevin Hart, who is also a successful movie actor, to host. His gig lasted just a few day. People looking to discredit him went digging into  his social media posts, and some tweets from eight years ago–you know, before Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton had flipped on gay marriage?—were judged as “homophobic.” In a post on Instagram at about 11 p.m. last night, Hart said he got a call from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and was asked to apologize for his prior tweets, or step down as host. He chose to withdraw, and tweeted this:

“I have made the choice to step down from hosting this year’s Oscar’s….this is because I do not want to be a distraction on a night that should be celebrated by so many amazing talented artists. I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past. ‘m sorry that I hurt people.. I am evolving and want to continue to do so. My goal is to bring people together not tear us apart. Much love & appreciation to the Academy. I hope we can meet again.”

The conservative media is calling Hart another example of political correctness run amuck. That’s ignorant and wrong. To be successful, an MC has to be liked and trusted by his audience, which is, for the Oscars, the people inside the theater above all. A huge percentage, even a half or more, of the Oscar audience is gay. No one can host the Oscars while it is known that he once said, even eight years ago, that he was terrified that his son might grow up to be gay. It doesn’t matter that he may have “evolved.”  Hollywood is a substantially gay community, and the host of its biggest party of the year should neither be nor be suspected of being homophobic,

Why the Academy’s vetters and Hart himself couldn’t figure this out is a different issue: gross incompetence. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/7/18: Movie Ethics Edition

Good morning from Ft. Lauderdale!

1. Good question! Referring to yesterday’s post about an actor being excised from a film because he was revealed to be a registered sex offender, trenchant commenter Zanshin asks,

Is it possible to define something like the Ethics Alarms Distracting Actor Principle corresponding with the Ethics Alarms Naked Teacher Principle? The Ethics Alarms Naked Teacher Principle (NTP) states: A secondary school teacher or administrator (or other role model for children) who allows pictures of himself or herself to be widely publicized, as on the web, showing the teacher naked or engaging in sexually provocative poses, cannot complain when he or she is dismissed by the school as a result.

I suppose one could argue that anyone who has a criminal record of any substantive variety cannot complain about the lifetime consequences of his own action. I don’t think the principle, as Zanshin implies it would, should apply to a movie actor in a small part unrelated to the offense. Distracting to who, exactly? How many movie-goers are going to say, “I wanted to see the film, but I hear that the guy who plays “Third guard” is a registered sex offender, and I’m outraged.” The actor who created the distraction was the meddlesome bigot who complained to the studio.

The NTP exists because secondary school students should not have to cope with naked images of their teachers, as this may interfere with their respect and concentration. No such justification exists in the case discussed yesterday. I might well apply in a situation like that of Kevin Spacey, whose personal conduct might well constitute a tangible distraction from any film he appears in. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/26/1918: It’s Incompetence Friday!

Good Mronign!

Competence is often not regarded as an ethical value, but it is one of the most important of them all. It is also one of the most commonly breached, usually with the rationalization that “everyone makes mistakes.”

1 “The Nip” Redux  In a legendary “Seinfeld” episode, Elaine’s Christmas card features a photo, taken by amateur photographer and inveterate screw-up Kramer, in which one of her nipples is exposed. Kramer, however, was an admitted amateur. What is Vanity Fair’s alleged professionals’ excuse for its current cover (I’m not talking about the nauseating pandering to Hollywood it represents, for which there is no excuse), which shows actress Reese Witherspoon with three legs?

Vanity Fair may have been too focused on photoshopping out actor James Franco, who was in the original photo but became model-non-grata when he was accused of sexual harassment, and as #MeToo has taught us, an accusation is all the due process these male scum deserve.

2. Segue Alert! And speaking of Hollywood, there has been much ballyhoo over the fact that the nominated Best Actresses this year play feisty, unglamorous, tough, in several cases outright repulsive women. Question: Who likes watching such characters (and more are on the way)? The Academy snubbed the most popular film with a female star, Gail Gadot in “Wonder Woman,” who probably is still too politically incorrect because men—ick!—find her attractive. 2017 was a catastrophically bad year at the box office, meaning that Hollywood proved incompetent at its job, with is making movies people want to see. It also displayed incompetence—not to mention arrogance, bias, condescension, hypocrisy and stupidity–by shooting off its various mouths on political matters, making the entire film industry, which should be a unifying force in the culture, polarizing, like everything else in 2018.

The Hollywood Reporter has a report about the role politics plays in the Academy Award voting; this has always been true, but never more than now. I cannot imagine who would care what or who wins the statuettes when it is all transparent political grandstanding, virtue-signalling and an attempt to meet quotas. Next crisis on the horizon: Hispanic artists are gearing up to show how they have been statistically insufficiently represented in nominations and awards. I presume Asians will do likewise. Why are there not more roles and awards for the differently-abled? Trans performers? Hollywood is committed to the Left, the Left is committed to tribalism, and tribalism has nothing to do with popular entertainment.

Or democracy. But I digress. Continue reading

Seth MacFarlane’s Outrageous Oscar Mistake (At Least, I Hope It Was A Mistake)

"The Family Guy" in a typical moment of sensitivity.

“The Family Guy” in a typical moment of sensitivity.

The viewing public was severely divided regarding “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane’s performance as Oscar host, with approximately half appreciating his trademark juvenile and politically incorrect schtick (and being impressed that the guy can sing and dance rather well too), and the rest, including the majority of TV critics, finding him boorish, amateurish and unfunny. Personally, I thought he did a reasonably competent job in an impossible assignment (unless, it seems, you are Johnny Carson or Bob Hope, who are long gone, or Billy Crystal, who is seriously past his pull date), made more so by the misconceived show he had to host.

Then I read Katie McDonough’s essay in Salon. Continue reading

“Argo” and the Horrible Thought

Thanks a bunch, Ben.

Thanks a bunch, Ben.

“Argo” prompted a disturbing thought that has been haunting me since I saw the picture. I am sorry that I had the thought, and hoped that it had been successfully banished by time and hope. Unfortunately, the juxtaposition of “Argo” winning the Best Picture Oscar combined with the inappropriate and intrusive appearance of Michelle Obama to announce it, complete with a politics-tinged speech that was as gratuitous as it was manipulative, caused that thought to begin burning in my brain again. Alas, here it is.

At the conclusion of “Argo,” former President Carter is heard emphasizing the obvious, that in 1980 he would have loved to have taken credit for the audacious  rescue of the six American Embassy workers from Iran that was engineered by his CIA. But, Carter says, do so would have endangered the remaining hostages, and though it would have helped his politically besieged Presidency (which was lost to Ronald Reagan that same year, in part because of Carter’s perceived weakness in handling the hostage crisis), giving all of the credit to Canada was the right and responsible thing to do.

I am no admirer of Jimmy Carter’s policies, personality, Presidency or leadership. He is, however, an ethical man. He was President before the hyper-partisanship that has rotted our politics, before the “perpetual campaign” style of leadership launched by Clinton, and before every act by every main stage player in Washington appeared to be dictated by the need to hold power, rather than by the needs of the people. My horrible thought is that I believe the current President and his  Machiavellian political advisors would not have done as Carter did, if the “Argo” scenario played out in 2012, as that Presidential election approached. This White House, facing the prospect of defeat, would find a way to leak its participation in the successful rescue, judging its retention of power a higher goal than protecting the hostages that may well have died anyway.

I wish I didn’t have this thought, but I cannot banish it. The unseemly chest-thumping and credit-grabbing over the killing of Bin Laden, the leaking of details about the deliberations leading to it, the deceptive handling of the Benghazi disaster, and yes, the inability of the President’s political strategists to resist attaching the President or his wife to anything remotely positive—even the Academy Awards— while refusing to accept responsibility for any mistake, miscalculation or failure (See Bob Woodward on the disinformation campaign regarding the looming sequester, beginning with Obama’s outright lie in the third Presidential debate, “The sequester is not something that I’ve proposed.”), all have me convinced that the days when we can trust a President to risk his own grip on power for the good of the country are gone, perhaps forever.

As I said, it is a horrible thought, and I fervently wish I didn’t have it. I want to trust and admire our nation’s leaders, the President most of all. But the leaders of both parties have earned this level of distrust, and I see no signs that they are capable of making that horrible thought, and other too, go away.