What Is Justice For Kevin Spacey?

 Prosecutors in Massachusetts this week dropped a sexual assault charge against the actor Kevin Spacey, in the only case against the alleged serial sexual harasser to be brought to trial. Mr. Spacey was accused of fondling an 18-year-old man at a Nantucket restaurant three years ago, one of the few of the accusations against him that wasn’t too old to try and that involved criminal conduct. The accuser’s lawyer said that a smartphone being sought as evidence by the defense  had disappeared, then the accuser invoked the Fifth Amendment after being warned that he could be charged with a destroying evidence, a felony if he had deleted contents on his phone. When the young man continued to assert his right against self-incrimination,  the Cape and Islands district attorney announced that it was dropping the prosecution “due to the unavailability of the complaining witness.” There wasn’t much choice.

Spacey’s far from out of the metaphorical woods. Around the same time as the Nantucket accusation, the Old Vic theater in London announced that 20 people had  accused Spacey  of inappropriate behavior  during his 11-year stint as the theater’s artistic director. There is another investigation in Los Angeles.

So now what? None of the allegations against Spacey have been proven, though, as with Bill Cosby, the sheer number of them leave little doubt—but still some— that he is a serial sexual predator. Spacey’s own house of cards began falling when actor Anthony Rapp gave an  interview to BuzzFeed accusing Spacey of assaulting him at a party when Rapp was only 14.  The accusation was never proven, but suddenly more stories of sexual misconduct in the workplace and elsewhere started surfacing regarding Spacey. (There is a lot about Spacey’s conduct and problems on Ethics Alarms, here.) Continue reading

Unethical, Shameless, Gutsy, Creepy Or Thought-Provoking: Kevin Spacey’s Christmas Video

What do we make of this, released by actor Kevin Spacey lastweek almost at the same time as he was being indicted for sexual assault?

Yikes.

The much-acclaimed actor  career collapsed in 2017 as more than 30 people claimed that Spacey had sexually assaulted them. Now he is speaking in the persona—with accent!— of his Netflix series villain, Frank Underwood, the central character of “House of Cards.” Or is he? Much of the speech seems to refer to Spacey’s own plight, and suggests that the actor is being unfairly convicted in the court of public opinion. By using the voice and character of an unequivocal miscreant however, for Frank is a liar, a cheat, a sociopath, indeed a murderer, such protests are automatically incredible.

Or is Spacey making a legitimate argument that an artist’s personal flaws should be irrelevant to the appreciation of his art, especially in a case like “House of Cards,” where the actor’s role can’t possibly be undermined by the actor’s own misdeeds: whatever one says or thinks about Spacey, he can’t  be as bad as Frank Underwood. If you enjoyed watching Underwood destroy lives on his way to power, why should Spacey’s conduct, even if it was criminal, make you give up the pleasure of observing his vivid and diverting fictional creation? This isn’t like Bill Cosby, serially drugging and raping women while playing a wise, moral and funny father-figure. Spacey seems to be arguing that there should be no cognitive dissonance between him and Underwood at all. Who better to play a cur like Frank  than an actor who shares his some of his darkness? Continue reading

OK, Facebook Friends, Let’s Pretend It Isn’t Kavanaugh…Let’s Pretend It’s ME.

I’ve had this post composed in my head for some time, and have hesitated to complete it. I really don’t like upsetting people I care about, much as some might think otherwise.

However, there has been such escalating fanaticism on Facebook (and elsewhere, of course), ringing through the echo chamber, about how Dr. Ford must be “believed” and how the judge is a “serial rapist,” I have to ask: would you all treat me this way? Would you react to seeing my career and reputation derailed by the sudden appearance of a high school acquaintance who announces that she has only recently come to realize that I had sexually assaulted her at a party? After hearing my denials, would you decided to determine that her account, with no verification by any witnesses, with the large amount of time past and with absolutely nothing in my record, professional or private life, to suggest any such proclivities, should be sufficient to have me labelled as untrustworthy?

Don’t resort to the “but he’s going to sit on the Supreme Court” trick. I’m a professional ethicist: an accusation that is widely metastasized into doubts about my character, including using it to tar me a liar, would be just as ruinous to me as the late hit on Kavanaugh is disastrous to him. There is no “well, this is wrong UNLESS its a Supreme Court nominee” principle: that’s a pure rationalization. No, if the Ford accusation, with all of its flaws, its basis in fading and rediscovered memories, the fact that it involved juveniles, all of that, and the objective professional observations by Rachel Mitchell that found several reasons why Ford’s testimony was incredible, is still enough to allow you to condemn Judge Kavanaugh, then it must be enough for you to condemn me too.

But I’ll make it easier for you: let’s say its me that is the current Supreme Court nominee, and me that your favorite party has condemned as a threat to civilization. (And lets assume that you haven’t read any of my judicial decisions either.) Continue reading

The Attack Of The Unethical Women

I had pretty much concluded that Christine Blasey Ford was contemptible based on her willingness to impugn a public servant’s integrity, derail what should be an orderly and fair political process, and manipulate the U.S. Supreme Court’s membership using a three decades old allegation that involved, at worst, teenage misconduct. She did this with full knowledge of how #MeToo has unjustly harmed other men simply by raising unprovable rumors and characterizations. In fact, it seems clear that she chose her course of action knowing that she could harm Brett Kavanaugh the same way. If the allegation was politically motivated, as I strongly suspect it was, she is unethical and despicable. If the motive was late vengeance for a teenager’s indiscretion, she is unethical and despicable.

Imagine someone you may have harmed when you were an immature teen. That individual never calls you to account, privately or officially. She never urges you to apologize, accept responsibility, or make amends, or gives you an opportunity to do so. No, she maintains the grievance in escrow, to bring it out years or decades later when the accusation will not only do the most damage, but will also be impossible to defend against. What a cruel, horrible, inhuman way to treat anyone.

First Ford attempted to harm Kavanaugh anonymously. Then, when that wasn’t going to work, she announced her accusation in the news media.

What is being ignored by all those rationalizing Ford’s actions is that that the harm to alleged wrongdoers is magnified and multiplied the longer a victim delays calling for accountability. If Kavanaugh did what he is alleged to have done, he should still have the right to deal with the consequences, accept punishment if any, and be able to get on with his life, set a straight course, and prove his character and values as an adult. Wouldn’t anyone want that opportunity? Shouldn’t any 17-year-old miscreant have that opportunity? As I have already noted, Ford’s conduct is an anti-Golden Rule monstrosity.

It also creates the equivalent of ethics toxic waste. In a just society, nobody is pronounced guilty until guilt is proven, and nobody is publicly accused unless the offense is provable.  A prosecutor who knows that there isn’t evidence to convict someone of an offense is violating prosecutoral ethics to bring charges. Ethically, the principles follow. If you cannot prove an accusation, if all you have is your word and nothing else, if there is no chance that any evidence will arise that supports your version of events, you must be, at very least, absolutely certain that you are correct. Ford cannot be 100% certain. Not after more than 30 years, and especially after a long period in which she says she had forgotten about the alleged episode. There are many, many memorable episodes in my life, and I have always had a remarkable memory for events I witnessed or took part in. Such memories, however, shift and blur over time. No 30 year-old memory is 100% reliable, and because we, well, those of us who are fair and honest, know that is true, no 30-year memory should be employed as a weapon or personal destruction. Ford’s memory is both destructive and impossible to defend against exactly because it is so old. Continue reading

Insomnia-Triggered Observations On The Blasey Ford-Kavanaugh Disaster

I don’t know if it is my usual sleeping in a hotel problem, my typical anxiety before an early morning ethics presentation, or the nauseating reality of what Christine Blasey Ford and the Democrats have inflicted on the political system and cultural norms of basic fairness and decency that has me awake writing a post at 5 am. I have my suspicions, though….

  • Judge Kavanaugh spoke to the Senate Judiciary committee via phone yesterday afternoon about the accusation of a three-decades old sexual assault while he was a prep school student. The committee Democrats refused to participate. I can’t reconcile this with a good faith effort to be fair to the nominee. Can you? It seems that the Democrats, having already made it clear that they will not vote for Kavanaugh for partisan reasons, have no compunction about making it clear that the allegation is just a convenient tool to engineer his defeat. They don’t really care about whether it is true or not.  It is simply a means to an end.

Is there any other conclusion?

  • Professor Rosa Brooks of my alma mater Georgetown Law Center (which has been embarrassing me a lot lately) pretty much sums up my position in a series of tweets. She writes:

I oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination, think senators should vote no based on his judicial record, but am uncomfortable with asserting that his behavior as a teen tells us anything about his “character” now. Yes, even if his behavior as a teen included doing exactly what Ford says he did. This is because….I don’t think teen behavior is predictive of adult behavior, and I am also skeptical of the very idea of “character” as we use the term in American politics. And……. there is a ton of solid research on the general idiocy of teenagers, especially teenaged boys, and the neuroscience that explains their general idiocy….as a lawyer I also think there are sound reasons behind statutes of limitations. After 35 years it is nearly impossible to conduct a full or fair investigation….This does not mean I consider sexual assault “excusable” or “minor.” It just means that I think the bad behavior of minors should be treated differently than the behavior of adults, and that adults should not be shadowed forever by misdeeds as children.

Bingo.

Sadly, the prof’s inner progressive asshole could not remain hidden for the duration of her tweet-storm. I emphatically do NOT concur with her final observation in the last set of tweets, in which she confirms that she is a hyper-partisan bigot who just had a brief, uncharacteristic moment of ethical clarity:

Kavanaugh’s accuser nonetheless deserves to be treated with dignity and consideration; belittling her or her motives should be considered unacceptable. If Kavanaugh responds to her accusations in a way that belittles her or other women who come forward with stories of sexual assault, THAT will definitely be relevant now. And to all who say “well yes but the GOP would draw and quarter any Dem nominee with similar accusations against him,” you’re right, but why would Dems want to do the same things the GOP does? But the GOP would not treat allegations of assault by a black teen as forgivingly,” I agree as well. But again, we shouldn’t conform to the bad behavior of others. Again, this is not because I am “defending” Kavanaugh: I’d vote NO, and for all I know he is a complete jerk and a serial sexual assaulter to boot. All I’m saying is: I am uncomfortable having the current allegation be the basis for opposing, given the above.

Why does Ford deserve to be treated with dignity and consideration? She attempted an anonymous smear job that no professional anywhere would consider fair. When it was clear that this wouldn’t accomplish her goal, she accused a man of politically-toxic misconduct with no more evidence than her own misty recalled memories. Apparently she does  not even recall what year the alleged assault occurred. Professor Brooks is just confirming her #MeToo privileges by embracing the sexist theory that women deserve to be treated differently than men. They don’t. Any man who did something like this to a female nominee would deserve to be condemned. What an air tight gotcha! for the increasingly ethics-free left: an irresponsible, unprovable attack on a mans’ reputation and career that he will be disqualified for treating as it deserves to be treated.

I’d like the law professor to explain why she holds Kavanaugh to this exalted standard of tolerance when she says she assume that Republicans would treat allegations of a black teen’s assault as damning. Now she is virtue-signaling to her colleagues, calling Republicans racists, because of course they are. This tweet would disqualify her, in my view, if President Harris or Warren or Winfrey nominated her for the Supreme Court, or any other post. She’s a bigot, her outrageous claim that he might be a “serial sexual assaulter” is contemptible public discourse.

  • Anyone who uses the fact that she took a lie-detector test  and passed it to support her claim reveals their own ignorance and intellectual dishonesty. The devices don’t work. There isn’t even any debate about it. Sociopaths can beat them, and so can the confused and deluded. There’s a reason why they are inadmissible as evidence in court. Several alleged victims of alien abductions have passed lie detector tests too.

Maybe a space alien assaulted Ford. Maybe Kavanaugh is a space alien. This fiasco is bad enough without lie detector nonsense.

  • Diane Feinstein officially qualifies as an Ethics Alarms Ethics Villain for her role in the episode, joining such disgraceful political characters as Chris Christie, and of course, Hillary Clinton. The San Francisco Chronicle laid much of it out neatly, concluding that her conduct

“..was unfair to Kavanaugh, unfair to his accuser and unfair to Feinstein’s colleagues — Democrats and Republicans alike — on the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

  • Does anyone recall that DNC Deputy Chair and Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison has been accused domestic abuse by former girlfriend Karen Monahan? That accusation isn’t 35 years old and didn’t involve a teenager. It has also been substantiated by others.The Democrats have done nothing about this, except to “investigate it” and allow their mainstream news media allies to bury the story, at least long enough for the current hypocrisy to escape public notice.

Imagine: I heard a female Democratic senator intone yesterday that if Republicans did not delay the vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination, it would be “an insult to every woman” in the country. I regard allowing so dubious and unprovable a #MeToo accusation raised in such a blatantly political context to derail the confirmation of a qualified male candidate a threat to every American male alive. Let’s hand every woman the power to ruin any man, because in any “he said/she said” controversy, only the woman has a “right to be believed.”

Democrats are deliberately encouraging a national, cultural gender war.

More than 200 women who attended the same all-girls school as Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser have signed an open letter supporting her allegations of sexual assault when they were both high school students.

The letter says the women — who graduated from the private Holton-Arms School in Bethesda, Md., between 1967 and 2018 — believe California psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford “and are grateful that she came forward to tell her story.”

“Dr. Blasey Ford’s experience is all too consistent with stories we heard and lived while attending Holton,” the letter says.

“Many of us are survivors ourselves.”

If I thought this was typical of the female ability to reason, I’d advocate banning women from positions of authority. The believe Ford because she’s a woman! They believe Ford because someone assaulted them! They are proudly proclaiming prejudice, misandry and bias. Nobody has any factual basis for believing either Ford or Kavanaugh. Here’s my bias: any position that relies on tactics like this letter is inherently suspect.

 

 

Bret Kavanaugh Nomination Ethics Train Wreck Update: Christine Blasey Ford, AKA “Anita Hill”

Now we know the name of the author of the late, through-the-mists-of-time character assassination attempt on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Good. Realizing that her anonymous sniper attack wouldn’t be sufficient to accomplish the Democrats’ political objective, she identified herself in an interview with the Washington Post. She is Christine Blasey Ford, like Anita Hill a professor who decided to inject an ancient incident into the solemn process—well, it once was, anyway—of confirming a nominee to the Supreme Court.

The fact that the accusation is no longer anonymous changes some aspects of this latest—is it the most unethical? Probably—twist in the Kavanaugh Ethics Train Wreck saga so far. From the second the desperate Sen. Diane Feinstein—desperate to defeat a qualified conservative judge, desperate to bolster her standing with a California progressive base that finds her too moderate—released Ford’s allegation, it could be tagged “unethical” in five ways:

1 The accusation was anonymous, and thus could not be fairly confronted by the accused. UNFAIR.

2. The accusation was over 30 years old, meaning that all aspects of it, including the recollections of the alleged participants, would be inherently untrustworthy. This is why we have statutes of limitations. UNFAIR, and IRRESPONSIBLE.

3. The accusation was, and still is, unsubstantiated by anyone else. UNFAIR, and IRRESPONSIBLE.

4. The accusation was made against a distinguished public servant and family man with no documented blemishes on his record or character as an adult, stemming from an alleged incident that occurred, if it occurred, while he was a minor. UNFAIR

5. No complaint had been made against Kavanaugh by the accuser at any time in the intervening years, until his nomination by President Trump became a political rallying point for the Left. IRRESPONSIBLE.

Now there are only four. One would be too many. The accusation should not have been made, and should not have been made public. This is a simple Golden Rule equation: what innocent human being would want to be the target of an unprovable accusation like this, at a moment when a significant career advancing opportunity was in the balance? We must begin with the assumption that Kavanaugh is indeed innocent, because there is no substantiated evidence that he is not, and because as an adult, which is what matters now, he is innocent.

Do I believe Kavanaugh, who has unequivocally denied that the incident occurred? I have no reason or justification to believe or disbelieve him, and neither does anyone else. However, I would regard the incident as irrelevant to his confirmation even if he agreed that it happened. Would a report of such an incident when he was applying for bar membership be treated as sufficient proof of bad character to cause his application to be rejected? Absolutely not,  not in any jurisdiction in the nation. Would such conduct as a minor cause any adult with an impeccable record since high school to be rejected for any job or post? Are high school indiscretions that do not involve criminal prosecutions ever deemed relevant to adult employment? Never. (Well, hardly ever.) Continue reading

A Special #MeToo Ethics Quiz…

This part is all true, unfortunately:

Many years ago, indeed, decades ago, I had a very traumatic and unpleasant experience. A very gay friend, an actor, called me to ask me to do a favor for him. He had been invited to a formal event by another actress we both knew. He didn’t know her as well as I did, but she was kind of pathetic and needy, and my friend, who in every respect other than his sexuality would be a dream date (among other talents, he danced like Fred Astaire) said he would be able to endure the evening only  if they doubled with me and my current girlfriend. I agreed, pending my date’s approval, which I received.

The evening was a humiliation that I will never forget.

My date, it turned out, had an strange and unrequited crush on my gay friend. I spent most of the night watching her spin around the dance floor with him—she was a professional dancer—while I sat with my friend’s supposed date, who sat making moon eyes at me. I danced with her a bit, though she was an even worse dancer than I was. I wanted to die. Not every guy gets his date charmed away by someone as flamboyantly uninterested in woman as Liberace.

The worst was yet to come. My date decided to stay the night with my gay friend—I forgave him, as he was genuinely guileless, but not her—and I took his date, now attached to me like a barnacle, which she resembled but with red hair, back to her apartment. I walked her to her door, and then, without warning, she reached up (I was about a foot taller than she), grabbed me by the neck, violently pulled my head down, kissed me, and stuck her remarkably long tongue so far down my throat that I nearly choked. I remember that my eyes were wide open, and so were hers,  staring back at me like the Devil does to Mia Farrow while he’s raping her in “Rosemary’s Baby.”  (Or so it seemed at the time. To be honest, her eyes were scarier than Satan’s. ) That image haunted me to for a weeks, and now I’m remembering it again ARRGHHH! THANKS, Ethics Alarms!

I never spoke to her after that night.

Fortunately, I did not become pregnant.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day, Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck edition:

Continue reading