Ethics Dunce: Pete Buttigieg

The competition for the worst Democratic Presidential nominee hopeful just got a bit more interesting when one of the media darlings among the 24 (24!) hopefuls made an Ethics Dunce of himself (in an interview with Hugh Hewitt) in a manner that is disqualifying for the Presidency by Ethics Alarms standards. Here’s the relevant section:

HH: … A very blunt question, because you talk about going to every Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Indiana when you were running statewide. Should Jefferson-Jackson dinners be renamed everywhere because both were holders of slaves?

Buttigieg: Yeah, we’re doing that in Indiana. I think it’s the right thing to do. You know, over time, you develop and evolve on the things you choose to honor. And I think we know enough, especially Jackson, you know, you just look at what basically amounts to genocide that happened here. Jefferson’s more problematic. You know, there’s a lot to, of course, admire in his thinking and his philosophy. Then again, as you plunge into his writings, especially the notes on the state of Virginia, you know that he knew that slavery was wrong…. And yet, he did it. Now we’re all morally conflicted human beings. And it’s not like we’re blotting him out of the history books, or deleting him from being the Found[ing] Fathers. But you know, naming something after somebody confers a certain amount of honor. And at a time, I mean, the real reason I think there’s a lot of pressure on this is the relationship between the past and the present, that we’re finding in a million different ways that racism isn’t some curiosity out of the past that we’re embarrassed about but moved on from. It’s alive, it’s well, it’s hurting people. And it’s one of the main reasons to be in politics today is to try to change or reverse the harms that went along with that. Then, we’d better look for ways to live out and honor that principle, even in a symbolic thing.

Even before this fatuous statement, my Presidential history, common sense and current day political analysis led me to conclude that the South Bend mayor has no chance of being nominated, and if by some miracle of convention deadlock deal he was, no chance of being elected. He is 1) gay, 2) white, 3) male, 4) way too young, and 5) too much immersed  the Democratic Socialist camp. I don’t have to get to some of his other problems, like the fact that he is infuriatingly smug. However, the statement to Hewitt would disqualify him for me even if I were a Democrat, and should make all thinking and ethical Democrats—you know, the ones that aren’t nascent totalitarians, look elsewhere, though good luck with that. Continue reading

Mid-Day Ethics Warm-Up, 11/29/18: Slime, Blather, Theft And Trolling

Good Afternoon…

For me, anyway: I woke up feeling healthy for the first time in 17 days.  Now the day’s ethics stories will make both of us feel sick. I’m sorry.

1. The Sliming. The news media is determined, in the absence of any verified or verifiable evidence, to continue sliming Brett Kavanaugh. The Washington Post placed the story about his return to coaching  girls’ basketball in its “Public Safety” section. Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias!

This below-the-belt innuendo that the Supreme Court Justice is a threat to the young women on his team was caught, criticized, and the Post claimed it was an accident. You know, if journalists played it straight, and  had any credibility as objective, fair commentators, such an explanation would be credible. But they don’t, and it’s not.

Then there was the Huffington Post and AOL, which ran this story, headlined “Ford Is Still Receiving Death Threats, Kavanaugh Is Back To Coaching Basketball.”

The innuendo here is that there is some kind of injustice that the accused gets to resume his life while the accuser’s life is still disrupted. No, one who is accused should always be able to return to his life if the accusation is unproven and unconvincing, though that’s often not the case, and not the case with Kavanaugh as his continued sliming by the Left-wing media demonstrates. As for Blasey-Ford, no one should endure death threats. This is, however, a false dichotomy. There is no evidence that Kavanaugh did anything wrong, much less that he is a sex offender. My view is that Blasey-Ford, for political reasons, raising a high school episode that she could not confirm and didn’t recall herself for 30 years in order to discredit an adult judge of sterling reputation and credentials was unethical, irresponsible, and unfair.

2. The Sliming, cont.: Mark Twain Prize Division. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, inexplicably awarded the Kennedy Center’s Mark Twain Prize as the individuals who has “had an impact on American society in ways similar to” Twain—Julia Louis-Dreyfus? Seriously?—-used her acceptance speech to display her Twain-like rapier wit and take cheap shots at Justice Kavanaugh. (They are too idiotic and unfunny to warrant repeating.) It takes a lot of gall for someone to be accusing a public figure of sexual assault at any event sponsored by the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Center, or with Kennedy anywhere in the name. Indeed, it took some gall for Dreyfus to even accept the award. I searched her resume to find any evidence that she ever wrote a funny line or witticism of her own, which should be the criterion and usually has been, even with wan selections like Tina Fey, a minor wit if there ever was one. The precedent for Louis-Dreyfus would be Carol Burnett, who also is just a comic actress whose wit comes from other artists, though she bestrides the like of Fey and Louis-Dreyfus like a Colossus. Sad and politically incorrect to admit, but comedy just isn’t a field where women seem to excel, so once again, the quest for diversity involves a compromise in values. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Kwame Anthony Appiah, a.k.a. “The Ethicist”

In the past, I mostly visited the New York Times Magazine “The Ethicist” column to take issue with the succession of ethics amateurs and ethicist wannabes the Times employed as its ethics advice columnist. Once Kwame Anthony Appiah took over, this wasn’t as much fun, and I admit I don’t even check the column that often. Appiah is a real ethicist, and knows what he’s doing. I sometimes disagree with his conclusions, but he reaches them using valid ethical analysis, and seldom employs bias or rationalizations.

A recent column, however, deserves special praise. The inquirer asked what the ethical course would be to handle historical artifacts that reflected racist attitudes and artwork, like the card pictured above. The writer concluded her question…

I offered it to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington. I never heard from them, so it moved with us. My husband thinks I should throw it away, but that feels wrong. I feel it is history that we should acknowledge, however painful and wrong. Your thoughts?

“The Ethicist’s” response is note-perfect, even with my intentional omission of its best and most surprising section. I’m doing this so you will hit the link and read the full column. Appiah wrote in part,

I am not a fan of the intentional destruction of historical artifacts….It’s a familiar thought that we need to understand our past, not least in order to help us avoid repeating the worst aspects of it. So your impulse to offer this souvenir card to a museum seems right. Of course, the sort of document you describe is well represented in collections already, and this may be why you didn’t hear back. But who knows whether there isn’t something about it that a historian might find useful in unpacking some detail of the history of American racial attitudes?

So if you think this card does have historical value, and you can’t readily find an interested archive or scholar, you could just put it up for sale on eBay, say, where it will join a large assemblage of racist artifacts. You can’t guarantee that you’ll approve of the motives of the buyer, but someone who is willing to pay for it is most likely to preserve it.

Given that your motives are honorable, I don’t share your worry about profiting from the sale. Selling an image isn’t endorsing its message. And my guess is that most contemporary collectors of such items aren’t motivated by racism. Still, if you want to avoid profiting, there’s an easy solution. Just send the proceeds to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. That’s an offer they won’t turn down. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/25/18: Kavanaugh-Free Zone

Good morning!

Regrettably, I’ll have to be writing about the Brett Kavanaugh Nomination Ethics Train Wreck at length,  since it is deteriorating further has clearly merged with the  Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck AND the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck (the most dangerous of them all). To begin this day without a primal scream , however, let’s speak of other things, of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings, and why the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wings.

You know. Ethics.

1.Sentencing ethics and the Coz. The judge in the Bill Cosby case signaled that the comic-turned-serial rapist would probably get less than three years behind bars for raping Andrea Costand in 2004, by announcing that the defense and prosecution had come to an agreement to merge the counts. Looking at the state sentencing guidelines, the judge said,  and that the actor has no prior history (heads exploding all over the courtroom, but though 60 or so of Bill’s other victims have come forward, in the eys of Lady Justice, they don’t exist), he declared that once Dr. Huxtable was looking at a total jail time of 22 to 36 months.

Ah, the things lawyers have to say while defending their horrible clients! Defense team leader Joseph Green argued that Cosby’s poor upbringing and battles against discrimination in his climb to success should be mitigating factors in sentencing him. This is an old Sixties argument that was dumb then and dumb now, a non sequitur. Millions of men who grew up poor and who experienced discrimination don’t take up drugging women and molesting them as a hobby. “Eighty-one year old blind men are not dangerous,” he added, apparently forgetting the fact that Bill has the assets and the enablers—like his complicit wife, Camille–do continue his avocation should he choose.

Countering all of these desperate arguments was this observation, from D.A. Kevin Steele:  “He seemingly doesn’t think he has done anything wrong. No remorse.”

Cosby deserves to die in prison, and any less of a sentence is just one more unethical nod to “The King’s Pass.”

2. Oh, great, Murphy Brown is back. Don’t these two look like fun folks to spend some light-hearted family TV time with?

That’s Candace Bergen, aka Murphy Brown, and series creator Diane English. As the New York Times explains it, the show’s creator and star feels the resurrection of the insufferably smug, liberal  broadcast media-cheering sitcom from the 90’s was needed, so someone could be bashing President Trump on TV. After all, nobody else is…just all Saturday Night Live, the late night shows, about six cable shows, and the real news media.  And there are all those shows that mock the senile House Minority leader, the pathetic angry Presidential election loser, the socialist documentary-maker who abuses his employees, the Senator who claims to be Spartacus, the other Senator who says she’s a Native American, and people who wear pussy hats. Wait–there aren’t any of those, are there? Never mind: English says that the “resistance” needs more support on TV. As for the other half of the country, “They’re not going to watch us anyway,” she says, referring to American who think an elected President has the right to govern. “I don’t think we’re looking to bring them into the tent.”

Yes. let’s divide the nation further. That should be fun. Here is my favorite quote, from the show’s producer: “If Hillary Clinton was elected there’d be no artistic reason for this show to be on the air.” Discuss, if you like. Personally, I think that one is too easy.

The hypocrisy and dishonesty of the original show seems like it will be intact. Oh, goody. My wife and I bailed permanently on “Murphy Brown” after the star “bravely” had her  fatherless baby (thus encouraging non-millionaire, real single women to do so), and the child literally disappeared except for brief moments when Murphy returned home to check in with her live-in male nanny. Amazingly, being a single mother didn’t affect Murphy’s schedule or career at all!

In the new show, we are told, Murphy will embrace #MeToo. Meanwhile, Bergen is defending Les Moonves, who was just jettisoned from CBS after many women revealed that he had Weinsteined them. Says Bergen, “I think Les’s behavior was — it was a different time. He was a different man. Is it behavior unbecoming? Yeah. But I go back with CBS, with the first ‘Murphy.’ I have great respect for Les. I would really hate to see Les go.”

Oddly, I have no respect at all for men who abuse their power and position to harm women, yet I was called a misogynist a couple of days ago, and Candace is a feminist hero.

“Murphy Brown” deserves to bomb. Where’s Charlie McCarthy when you need him? Continue reading

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

Comment Of The Day: “THAT’S The Concept I Was Looking For—’Cultural Vandalism’!”

Another perspective on the question  of how the personal and professional misconduct of artists should affect our regard for their art comes from Curmie, a drama teacher, director and blogger who has as deep credentials for this topic as anyone.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, THAT’S The Concept I Was Looking For—“Cultural Vandalism”!…

Back in graduate school, I worked as a teaching assistant to a brilliant professor, Ron Willis, in his Introduction to Theatre class. Seitz’s commentary intersects with two of the concepts Ron highlighted in his course. The first of those is what Ron called para-aesthetics: those elements which affect an audience’s reception of an aesthetic event without being the aesthetic event.

These can be entirely coincidental (it’s pouring rain) or created specifically by the production company (the poster). The company many have had some, but not complete, control over the influence (there’s insufficient parking, in part because of another event in the area). The para-aesthetic influence could apply to the entire audience (the leading actor is a big star, the auditorium is freezing) or to an individual (the leading actor is your best friend, the person next to you thinks that showers are for other people, you’ve had a couple glasses of wine before the show).

The fact that a Bill Cosby’s off-camera life has been considerably short of exemplary matters in a para-aesthetic way. But each individual spectator will respond differently to each impulse. That leading actor—my best friend—is someone else’s ex. Facebook tells me that a year and a day ago I saw a play in London with a young movie star in the title role. His presence mattered to me not a bit, but there were dozens if not hundreds of his fans in the house: people who were there specifically to see him. That play was an adaptation of a script I adore and indeed directed a few years ago. The fact that the play as presented bore little if any resemblance to the original bothered me a lot; those who didn’t know the 19th-century version were far more able to accept the 21st-century revision on its own terms. Continue reading

About The Cosby Verdict

Serial rapist and sexual predator Bill Cosby was found guilty today. From the New York Times:

A jury found Bill Cosby guilty Thursday of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at his home near here 14 years ago, capping the downfall of one of the world’s best-known entertainers, and offering a measure of satisfaction to the dozens of women who for years have accused him of similar assaults against them.

On the second day of its deliberations at the Montgomery County Courthouse in this town northwest of Philadelphia, the jury returned to convict Mr. Cosby of three counts of aggravated indecent assault against Andrea Constand, at the time a Temple University employee he had mentored.

The three counts — penetration with lack of consent, penetration while unconscious and penetration after administering an intoxicant — are felonies, each punishable by up to 10 years in state prison, though the sentences could be served concurrently.

Observations:

1 Good. Cosby should be serving hard time for rape. This verdict won’t accomplish that, and he has the resources to keep the matter tied up in appeals, maybe even forcing a new trial. Never mind: the verdict itself is satisfying punishment for a true ethics villain.

2. The verdict overcame the Cognitive Dissonance Scale, and that’s no mean feat. The jury deserves a lot of credit. Here, for the umpteenth time, is the scale:

Celebrities—or the characters they are identified with— are typically so high on the scale ( think of Bill/Cliff Huxtable as a plus 100) that even the evidence of a crime can’t pull them down sufficiently for jurors to be able to resolve the dissonance when they are thinking, “But he’s a great man and a wonderful person! How could he do these things?” The dissonance creates automatic reasonable doubt, all by itself, at least with enough jurors to ensure a mistrial, as in Cosby’s first trial. Hence O.J. Errol Flynn was acquitted of statutory rape. Robert Blake (“Baretta”) was acquitted of murdering his wife. Bill Cosby figured to have an unusually strong celebrity shield, but several  factors overcame it:

  • the amount of evidence against him.
  • the fact that what he did represented such a betrayal of his public image
  • the judge allowing, in the re-trial, other victims to testify
  • the series of previously admired show business figures who have been exposed as predators and sexual abusers since the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck pulled out of the station, and
  • the fact that Cosby peak celebrity was decades ago.

If the trial had occurred at the time of “The Cosby Show,” I wonder if any evidence could have convinced a jury to convict him. Continue reading