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

Stop Me If I Ever Do This: Ann Althouse Disses William Goldman Without Knowing What The Hell She’s Talking About

Sometimes I worry about Ann Althouse. She’s often one of the most perceptive and objective bloggers on law and politics, but when she leaves her zone, we get things like her recent dismissive assessment of screenwriter/novelist William Goldman upon the news of his death.

Althouse admits that she hasn’t seen many of Goldman’s films, and I presume that she hasn’t read his novels, either. Nonetheless, she writes, “Goldman seems to have been a competent, successful, mainstream writer, and good for him, but I have no sense of him as original, profound, or speaking to me.”

Let me enlighten her. (And by the way, how could he “speak to her” if she didn’t read his novels or watch his best films?) Goldman was one of the very best, cleverest and reliably excellent screenwriter of his time, and probably any time.  Althouse cherry-picks an interview in which he said in part,

“[P]ay attention to the audience. The great thing about audiences is, I believe they react exactly the same around the world at the same places in movies. They laugh, and they scream, and they’re bored. And when they’re bored it’s the writer’s fault.”

Incredibly, Althouse uses this endorsement of lively writing, which Goldman was a master at, to minimize and condemn him. “And that’s the attitude about movies that has taken over in the last 40 years and why I’m not interested in movies anymore. This grand effort to preemptively stomp out all boredom bores me,” she writes, whatever THAT means. Goldman isn’t talking about explosions, sex scenes or CGI dinosaurs. He’s talking about stories that go somewhere, avoiding cliches, and making an audience want to watch and listen. My approach to play direction embodies exactly the same philosophy. I learned a lot about drama and comedy from Goldman’s films. Continue reading

Apology Of The Year (So Far): Patterico

I’m not a fan of the blog Patterico’s Pontifications for a lot of reasons, beginning with the fact that he doesn’t supply his real name. He appears to be a generally conservative blogger whose assessment of mainstream media bias comports with my own. He also has been a vocal Never Trumper, and since November of 2016, that way madness lies, as we can see from some of the hysterical commentary from the likes of Bill Kristol, George Will, Jennifer Rubin and others. Patterico’s brain jumped the shark with his ratification of the absurd Angry Left and “resistance” conspiracy theory that a former aide to Judge Kavanaugh, Zina Bush, was flashing a white supremacy signal behind him during the first day of the Senate hearings on Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. I wrote about it here; the controversy was beyond stupid, and in my opinion, so stupid that I did not feel it was worthy of a stand-alone post. I considered checking my Facebook friends’ posts to see how many of them were swallowing this idiocy, but chickened out.

The furious anti-Trump warriors become even more infuriated when you call them deranged, but the Zina Bush uproar is an excellent example of why it is not only fair to do so, but essential. They need to know. There is no reasonable justification for assuming or concluding that Zina Bush. or Brett Kavanaugh, or Donald Trump are white supremacists any more than there is justification for assuming or concluding that they are cocker spaniels or invaders from the Planet Zontar. If you think any of these people are really white supremacists with a white supremacy agenda, then you have slipped a cog somewhere, and need help.

I think what has happened to such sufferers is that they heard too many repetitions of certain dishonest and divisive parts of the Democratic party’s disinformation campaign to seed their coup, and at some point began to believe them, The white supremacy delusion seems to arise from the repeated smear, a standard one since Trump entered the Presidential race in 2015 by a frontal assault on the nation’s policy of encouraging and romanticizing illegal immigration, that opposing illegal immigration was the same as opposing immigration itself—hence xenophobia, hence “nativism,” hence racism, hence “white supremacy.” In fact, nothing in Donald Trump’s vast history of dubious conduct and ill-considered statements suggest a white supremicist agenda or beliefs in any way. Continue reading

Ann Althouse And “Green Acres”, Or “When Trusted Bloggers Don’t Know What The Hell They Are Talking About”

This is a Popeye-–the Ethics Alarm category in which I have been forced to post because something irritated me so much I couldn’t stand it, or in Popeye’s immortal words,

As frequent readers here know, I am a fan of retired University of Wisconsin law professor Ann Althouse’s wide-ranging blog (even if she does refuse to include Ethics Alarms in her blogroll...). However, loyalty goes only so far.

Today I read this from Ann…

“Green Acres The Musical is a fast-paced, contemporary story that features the best in comedy, music and dance. This is the spirited musical comedy love story of Oliver and Lisa Douglas….He is a high-powered, Manhattan attorney and she is an aspiring fashion designer and, together, they are living ‘the good life’ in New York City. Faced with the overwhelming pressure to run his family’s law firm and live up to his father’s reputation, Oliver longs for the simple life, but New York and all that it has to offer is Lisa’s perfect world. What happens when two people in love find themselves wanting opposite lives sends us on a journey that is both hilarious and filled with heart.”

That’s the press release — published in Entertainment Weekly — for a “Broadway-bound” musical. I guess there’s no limit to how stupid and touristy theater in New York City can become.

When “Green Acres” was on TV in the 1960s, it was one of many sitcoms set in rural America. From the Wikipedia article on the “rural purge” —

the systematic cancellation of all that stuff: “Starting with ‘The Real McCoys,’ a 1957 ABC program, U.S. television had undergone a “rural revolution”, a shift towards situation comedies featuring “naïve but noble ‘rubes’ from deep in the American heartland”. CBS was the network most associated with the trend, with series such as “The Andy Griffith Show,” “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Green Acres,” “Mister Ed,” “Lassie,” “Petticoat Junction,” and “Hee Haw”….

… CBS executives, afraid of losing the lucrative youth demographic, purged their schedule of hit shows that were drawing huge but older-skewing audiences….

It was decided that those rural shows — a refuge from the social and political upheaval of the 60s — were too damned unsophisticated and irrelevant for 1970s America. I don’t know if the long arc of history bends toward sophistication, but it makes me sad to see that one of the shows that were seen — half a century ago — as too naive and out of it for television is now the basis for a Broadway show. What is happening to us?

Well, what’s happened to you, Ann, is that you have forgotten the #1 obligation of a serious blogger, which is not to make your readers less informed, more ignorant, and more biased than they already are.  Ann is about my age, meaning that she had the same opportunity as I did to actually experience those Sixties era TV shows she is denigrating and lumping together, but either she did not, and is thus relying on a typically half-baked Wikipedia entry by their usual anonymous non-professional researchers, or she is deliberately misrepresenting them to justify a side joke (Donald Trump once performed the “Green Acres” song on TV, and Ann posted the video), or, as I long suspected, she’s a snob. Just as one shouldn’t review dinosaur movies if one isn’t interested in dinosaurs, a blogger shouldn’t pretend to analyze Sixties TV shows if she didn’t watch Sixties TV shows, and if Ann had watched those shows, she would have instantly known that her Wikipedia source article was crap.

At the end of the post, she says, returning to Broadway,

When I was a teenager in the 1960s, I saw the Broadway play “Marat/Sade” — “The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade.” That’s where it looked as though Broadway would go. Into immense creativity and sophistication. It’s so sad what happened instead.

I won’t argue that Broadway, the Broadway musical in particular, hasn’t hit the skids, and that it now generally seeks to be more of a theme park ride or a nostalgia-fest for wealthy tourists than a source of new ideas and daring entertainment. That case, however, could have and should have been made (I’ve made it myself in other venues) without ridiculing an unseen musical based on its source material. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Ken White Of Popehat

I haven’t featured Ken White lately, in part because Popehat’s posts are sporadic, unlike those of mad bloggers who habitually post multiple essays a day. However, Ken’s most recent post is the epitome of  ethical blogging at its best. It is long, but absolutely worth the time to read. His subject is the internet pile-on against a mentally ill writer named Kenneth Eng, who, Ken points out, was obviously not well, and yet was mercilessly attacked and mocked. Fox News even exploited his illness for some sensational cable moments—shades of Sam Nunberg!  Ken, who has written frankly and courageously about his own battles with clinical depression, takes a hard ethics inventory, finds himself and the internet community lacking, and does a superb job—as usual—of clarifying a difficult issue.  I have had my differences with Ken, but at his best, White is as ethically astute and clear a writer as there is online, with an almost unfailing ability to point us in the right direction.

He writes in part, Continue reading

A Trigger Warning About A Trigger Warning: Audiences Should Walk Out Of The Movie Theater When This Appears

This is not a joke. This is not The Onion. This is real. And frightening.

At the beginning of “Darkest Hour,” the new film about the wartime heroism and brilliance of  Winston Churchill, this warning appears on the screen:

“The depictions of tobacco smoking contained in this film are based solely on artistic consideration and are not intended to promote tobacco consumption. The surgeon general has determined that there are serious health risks associated with smoking and with secondhand smoke.”

Winston Churchill, you see, smoked cigars. Actually he chain-smoked them, and inhaled. They were among his trademarks. Any adult who doesn’t know that should not have graduated from high school. Interestingly, shooting and bombing people are also serious health risks, so I don’t know why it wasn’t noted that the depictions of warfare contained in this film are based solely on artistic consideration.”

Whatever “based solely on artistic consideration” is supposed to mean…

Of course, showing Churchill smoking cigars is not an “artistic consideration,” but one of historical accuracy and integrity. Does this mean that there was really a debate in the studio about whether or not Churchill should be shown smoking, so as not to trigger good little progressive totalitarians, who believe in changing the past for the greater good of the present? I wonder if they considered making Winston, who was fat, appear slim and ripped, since the surgeon general has determined that there are serious health risks associated with obesity and over-eating. I don’t see why they wouldn’t, if they felt that showing people smoking in the 1930s, when almost everyone smoked,  might be interpreted as promoting smoking today.  Churchill also drank like Bluto in “Animal House.” Why no warning about that? Uh-oh—does this mean that the film, for artistic considerations, only shows Winston sipping soda water and prune juice? Continue reading

Roger Simon Says The NeverTrumpers Owe The President An Apology. Well, He’s Not Getting One From Me…

Hollywood screenwriter turned conservative writer and blogger Roger Simon wrote a post last week titled, “Why the Remaining NeverTrumpers Should Apologize Now.” If, by NeverTrumpers, Simon meant those who refuse to this day to accept the fact that the President was duly elected and continue to work to undermine his Presidency by any means possible, the headline would be too restrictive. Those unethical citizens and dangerous insurrectionists owe everyone an apology, including the founders and children yet unborn. They have done incalculable damage to the nation, society and our institutions, and we will suffer grievously because of it, if the U.S. survives it at all.

It is clear, however, that he is directing his screed at people like me, non-ideological moderates and conservatives who proclaimed during the 2016 campaign that they would never support the candidacy of Donald Trump, for all the self-evident reasons. Simon writes,

“Nevertheless, it is time for the remaining NeverTrumpers to apologize for a reason far more important than self-castigation or merely to make things “right.” Donald Trump — whose initial victory was a shock, even, ironically, to those of us who predicted it — has compounded that shock by being astoundingly successful in his first year, especially at the conclusion. (He’s a quick study, evidently.) More conservative goals have been achieved or put in motion in eleven months than in any time in recent, or even distant, memory. It’s an astonishing reversal for our country accompanied by the beginnings of an economic boom.”

It is true that any objective and fair observer should be able to acknowledge that the Trump administration has been far from the nightmarish failure Democrats and the news media have misrepresented it to be. It is also true that the cataclysmic bungle that the Left was certain Trump would sink the country with has not occurred. (Progressives consider conservative policies as cataclysmic, and thus are useless for this analysis.)  Unlike the Left, I will give the President credit for what he has presided over and facilitated, because all Presidents get credit for that. ISIS has been greatly weakened. The economy and consumer confidence are improving. The stock market is soaring. Illegal immigration is no longer being encouraged and sentimentalized by the federal government. We are backing away from world government, and refusing to be extorted by North Korea. As promised, the glut of federal regulations is being decreased, rather than expanded. Continue reading