Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/28/2020: A Bad Couple Of Months For Museums And Sexual Predators

Good morning!

1. Related to absolutely nothing anyone is currently thinking about...I was re-watching “Spotlight” to remind myself that the news media sometimes does its job, and again was reminded how Hollywood constantly makes Americans more ignorant by its sheer arrogance and laziness. The film, which reasonably accurately recounts how the Boston Globe’s investigative “Spotlight” team broke the story of the extensive Catholic Church cover-up of pedophile priests, a scandal still unfolding now, 20 years later, has a scene in which a lawyer who represents the victims of such priests tells a reporter that he’s effective because he’s an “outsider.” “I’m Armenian,” he says. “How many Armenians do you know in Boston?” Having been brought up in Boston, I know that the answer to this question is “A LOT.” Boston was a center of Armenian immigration at the turn of the 20th Century, and its Armenian community, in the city and especially the suburbs, is huge and influential. There are many Armenian organizations as well. In Arlington, Mass., where my family lived, Armenian-Americans were prominent in business and government. The little side street where we lived, Brunswick Road, had ten families living on it: the Marshalls, the Gares, and the Moreland,  the Zeffs (who were Jewish, then two Sakoians, the Nazarians, the Catherians, the Berbarians, and the Masmanians. Just Googling “Boston Armenian conmmunity” would have let the film-makers know the scene was nonsense, and they couldn’t be bothered.

2. And speaking of  sexual predators…the cover-up of sexual predators in the coaching ranks for Olympic sports is being exposed slowly but surely.  Last month a lawsuit was filed against Richard Callaghan, an elite American figure skating coach best known for coaching Tara Lipinski to an Olympic gold medal in 1998 and coaching Todd Eldredge to a world title and six national championships. The suit alleges ongoing sexual abuse of one skater that endured over two decades. Callaghan’s victims were male, not female, but the story is familiar: parents guilelessly entrust their talented athletic children to mentor/coaches in swimming, skating, and gymnastics, without considering for a moment what attracts many of these people to working with children and teens.

Another sport that is coming to terms with a sexual predator is equestrian competition.  George Morris, an Olympics equestrian coach known as  a “kingmaker” for his success with riders,  was barred for life from the sport by the United States Equestrian Federation  based on an investigation of alleged sexual misconduct He is now facing lawsuits filed this month by two people claiming that he raped them as teenagers. Jimmy Williams, another  riding coach who guided many Olympians and  was also named in a lawsuit by a woman who said Williams had sexually assaulted her from the ages of 12 to 17.  Though Williams died in 1993, he was recorded as barred for life from the federation in 2018—yes, a dead man was banned for life— after an investigation by The New York Times revealed accusations by nearly a dozen women, including the Olympian Anne Kursinski, that he had preyed upon them as girls.

Parents are so desperate to live vicariously through their offspring that they willingly hand their kids over to the care of predators. I’m sorry to say this, but absent thorough, thorough investigation, it is irresponsible to trust these coaches. The history and what we know of human nature presents too much of a risk.

The same applies to allowing children to work in professional theater, TV, and movies. Continue reading

The “I’d Say ‘Thank God It’s Friday,’ But In A Home Office During A Pandemic Friday’s Just A Name” Ethics Grab Bag, 7/10/2020

1. Re: Privilege and bit more on the Harper’s letter fiasco. At the Volokh Conspiracy, David Bernstein flags this tweet by New York Times reporter Farnaz Fassihi:

A few thoughts:

  • Why do I subscribe to a paper that would employ someone like this? I forget.
  • She’s a bigot. I just wrote a bit on the “privileged smear” on another thread:

I have to say again that I do not comprehend the “privilege” line of thought at all. In the hands of most who wield it, I find the tactic the equivalent of Butch Cassidy kicking huge Harvey Logan in the balls to start their knife fight….

Continue reading

April Fools Free Zone Ethics Warm-Up: Everything You Read Here Is Real, Unfortunately.

Happy Day Like Any Other Day.

Well, not “happy,” exactly…

I’m on record on Ethics Alarms as detesting April Fools Day, as well as regarding April Fools stunts by professionals, like lawyers and journalists, unethical though usually not sanctionable. It should be a children’s day, like Halloween, but adults are determined to co-opt all such days, ruining it for everybody.

1. I lost a good friend yesterday. It’s more than that really: the human race lost one of its finest representatives. His name was Dennis Nollette; he was a lawyer, a writer and a bon vivant, but most of he was one of those amazing people who made you feel good just by being around him. I knew him in laws school, where he was my room mate for a year; he also was a member of the casts of the three productions I staged when I was a student. Since graduation, I think I saw Dennis six times, never for long, but with him it seemed like the time melted away: he was always the same, always emitting his powerful positive energy, optimism, and love for those around him, and I always felt as close to him as ever.

And just like that, he’s gone. There was no warning; it all happened so fast. All I have now is an overwhelming feeling of loss, along with an acknowledgment of my duty to let as many people as possible know that he was here, that he made the world a better place by being here, and that those of us who remains should follow his example by making the best out of life, and encouraging others to do the same by our example. That was Dennis’s genius, and attention must be paid.

2. Maybe the Constitution IS a suicide pact…Justice Robert H. Jackson’s  famous line in his dissenting opinion in Terminiello v. Chicago, a 1949 free speech case, has come to mind many times in the past few weeks, as the news media and online sources have churned out some of the most irresponsible and outrageous essays in memory, many of them about how this period will “change America forever,” usually in undesirable ways.  90% of these screeds are nonsense and based on flawed reasoning. My current leader for the worst idea is this piece, by conservative gadfly Roger Simon: “Should We Postpone the Presidential Election One Year?”

It’s an incompetent question. Not only shouldn’t we, we can’t, and any suggestion from Republicans that we ought to even think about it would be instantly condemned as the attempted dictatorship by Donald Trump that Big Lie #3 has warned us about.  We also know that if the President did get an extra year, it would spent all of it defending himself against one impeachment attempt after another. Continue reading

New Week Ethics Jolt, 2/24/2020: Uncivil Gravestones, Conflicted Zamboni Drivers, And Unintelligent Intelligence Experts

Hello, mates!

That hilarious novelty song, a big hit in the same year Kennedy was shot, is now too politically incorrect to play in the U.S. Is it also song non grata Down Under?

1. Unethical Headline of the Day. From the Washington Freebeacon, a conservative news site: Dem Megadonor, Gun-Control Activist Harvey Weinstein Convicted on Rape Charges. This unethical device is used a lot now, though seldom this flagrantly. It’s Cognitive Dissonance Scale gamesmanship, attempting to smear positions that the headline-writer opposes by linking them to conduct that they have no relationship to.  There is no logical reason why gun control or the Democrats should be implicated in a headline to Weinstein’s rape conviction. I’m not even sure the connection belongs in the news story at all.

2. Gee, I wonder why the President doesn’t trust his intelligence specialists. The Russian collusion conspiracy theory flared up again among the Trump Deranged after Shelby Pierson, the official in the intelligence community charged with election security, apparently botched her briefing to Congress.

Three national security officials told CNN that the briefer falsely (wrongly, mistakenly) said that Russia was planning to help Trump win re-election:

The US intelligence community has assessed that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election and has separately assessed that Russia views Trump as a leader they can work with. But the US does not have evidence that Russia’s interference this cycle is aimed at reelecting Trump, the officials said. “The intelligence doesn’t say that,” one senior national security official told CNN. “A more reasonable interpretation of the intelligence is not that they have a preference, it’s a step short of that. It’s more that they understand the President is someone they can work with, he’s a dealmaker.”

Since this comes from CNN, otherwise known as Bash The President Central, it cannot be dismissed as administration spin. My Facebook Friends reacted to the original story with utter glee, gloating that they knew Russia viewed Trump as a Russian asset.

If Trump fired her, and I wouldn’t blame him, he’ll be accused of a “purge.” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/28/2020: Transcripts! Audacious Defense Lawyers! Canadian Defamation! “Bombshells”! [UPDATED]

Good morning…

1. Here’s a typical unbiased New York Times front page headline regarding the impeachment trial (from last week):

“One One Side, Piles of Evidence, On the Other, Heaps of Scorn”

Here’s some more scorn: there is no evidence at all of impeachable offenses on  that pile, and scorn for the President is being treated as evidence.

2. This is astounding. (From johnburger, and thanks) Check out this.

Continue reading

Film Cutting Ethics: Three Episodes

 1.  The Canadian Broadcast Company edited Donald Trump’s cameo out of “Home Alone II” when the Christmas-themed family film was aired this week. That sets some kind of record for pettiness, don’t you think? The CBC lamely denies that they meant anything by it, responding to an inquiry,  “As is often the case with features adapted for television, Home Alone 2 was edited to allow for commercial time within the format.” Sure. I believe that! Don’t you believe that? Continue reading

Another Cancel Culture Episode In Canada

A retired pro hockey player accused the NHL’s Calgary Flames coach Bill Peters of calling him a “nigger” a decade ago when Peters was coaching him on a minor league team, the Rockford Ice Hogs, an affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks. Peters apologized in a letter to the Flames management after the allegations, and two days later was  forced to resign.

The Nigeria-born  player, Akim Aliu, wrote on Twitter  that when he was playing for a minor league team a decade ago, Peters, who is white, “dropped the N bomb several times toward me in the dressing room in my rookie year because he didn’t like my choice of music.” Aliu further said that he “rebelled” against the coach as a result of the episode,, and that Peters retaliated by advising executives to demote Aliu to a lower-level league. The National Hockey League reacted with a statement saying that Peters’s alleged behavior was “repugnant and unacceptable.” The Flames immediately opened an investigation into Aliu’s allegations.

In a letter of apology, Peters wrote in part, “I was rightfully challenged about my use of language, and I immediately returned to the dressing room to apologize to the team. I have regretted the incident since it happened, and I now also apologize to anyone negatively affected by my words.”

Aliu, who played briefly with  the Flames, in  2012 and 2013, refused to accept the letter as sincere. There are, by my count, about 28 black or bi-racial players in the NHL, or a bit fewer than one a team on average.

There is so much I don’t understand about this story, it’s hard to know where to begin.

  • Yesterday Aliu met with NHL brass yesterday. Afterward, he told the press, “They couldn’t have been kinder and receptive to the message that we’re trying to bring. I think there’s just some big change coming and it’s long overdue, and I’m excited to see it come to fruition.” Wait, who is “they”? The NHL released a statement too:

  • Akim Aliu is being called a whistleblower.  If so, that was one slow whistle.

How does reporting an incident that took place ten years ago, in a different league, qualify as whistle-blowing in the NHL?

  • Were there other allegation against the Flames coach in his current job? Did he have a long record of bigotry and mistreating players? If this one late hit by Aliu about what happened with the <cough> Ice Hogs is really the whole thing, why did Aliu act now?

His Wikipedia entry describes him as something of a trouble-maker. Was this just vengeance for a his mistreatment for a decade ago?

  • Does it really make sense to fire someone for what he said, with a different employer, that long ago, no matter what it was? Does this mean that Peters can never work again, and will have to wander the world, starving, begging, without friends or shelter? If a statement—not a crime, mind you, but just words, ugly as they may have been— made ten years ago is sufficient to make a man unemployable and a permanent pariah, then why not 20 years ago? Is our enlightened society now concluding that no one can change, or improve, or learn, and a single moment of anger or bad judgment justifying shunning him or her for life?

If I write that this seems cruel and excessive and indeed unethical to me, does that make me racist too?

My usual question as I enter ethical conundrums is “What’s going on here?” In this case, I have no idea, but I doubt that it’s good.

Sunday Ethics Review, 12/I/50: Birthday/Finding Dad Dead In His Chair Anniversary Edition

[Yesterday I was just about to post the following when I felt a recurrence of the dizziness that sent me to the floor on Thanksgiving,  This sent me to the emergency room, where I spent  the second worst birthday of my life. I just got home, now just about 24 hours later, after three blood tests, about ten stroke tests, lots of other tests and quizzes, four doctors and a miserable night, culminating in the conclusion that whatever this was, it wasn’t related to my heart or circulation. 54% of fainting incidents, I learned remain mysteries. Swell.]

_____________________________________________________________

Hi.

Ten years ago today, I went over to my parent’s condo to check on my dad, since my mother, then recovering from knee surgery, was concerned that she hadn’t heard from him. Jack A. Marshall Sr. was also going to take me out for dinner, since it was my birthday, but that pleasure was not to be. He had died, quietly during a nap, a few months short of his 90th year. I miss my father’s inspiration, guidance and unflagging support constantly, and December first has been a matter of serious dissonance for me ever since. I did take comfort, while everyone was telling me that I was a fool not to go to the emergency room after my fainting episode on Thanksgiving, that the odds of anyone dropping dead not only on the anniversary of his father’s death, but also on his own birthday, seems extremely remote. Kind of cool, though.

I took my birthday off of my Facebook page because those reflex happy birthday messages—I send them myself—are meaningless and  faintly obligatory. Two years ago I received almost 200 of them, then last year I got the message when the number fell by about two-thirds. I had made it clear by then that I was rebelling against the Facebook Borg aka “the resistance,” and so I had been told that I did NOT deserve a happy birthday. Fine. Bite me.

1 “The Crown” Ethics. A. The Pretend Sister-in-Law Of The King’s Pass! While waiting to see if I was going to pass out again, I began watching Season 3 of Netflix’s “The Crown.” Like the first two seasons, the series is uniformly excellent and largely accurate, but I am annoyed at Helena Bonham Carter’s turn as the middle-aged Princess Margaret. Carter is an excellent actress as well as one of the biggest stars the series has featured, but to be blunt, she’s too fat to play Margaret, who at that point in her life was  still vain winning the battle against middle-aged spread (at 5’1, it could not have been easy.) For a production that mostly aims for near perfect look-alike casting (young Charles, Princess Anne and Prince Phillip are especially uncanny), why would the producers allow Carter to appear on screen like this? Mostly, I’m annoyed at her: actors gain and lose weight all the time for roles, and a mere 10-15 pounds would have made Carter a credible and flattering Margaret. She could have hit the gym and laid off the kidney pie; obviously the actress didn’t care, and the producer and director let her get away with it, because she’s a star. Yet all the lines about how glamorous Margaret is make no sense as a result. Carter’s a beautiful woman, but she’s a mighty frumpy Princess Margaret.

B. A perfect future episode for Season 4, or maybe 5, is going on right now.  Prince Andrew, the younger brother of Prince Charles, has long been mentioned a party pal of billionaire sex-slaver Jeffrey Epstein, and thanks to a car crash  of a BBC interview in which he couldn’t have seemed more guilty and less remorseful, the Duke of York is reportedly being removed from all royal duties and may have his allowance cut off, meaning that his two princess daughters will no longer be supported by taxpayers, among other nasty consequences. Charleshas ordered a crisis meeting with his scandal-scarred brother before Monday night’s dreaded BBC special with key accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who accuses Andrew of raping her while she was under Epstein’s control.

The news media has been ostentatiously uninterested in Prince Andrew’s travails, in marked contrast to its coverage of the various Charles-Diana scandals in days of yore. One reason, I think, is that Epstein’s OTHER celebrity playmate was Bill Clinton, and it will be hard to expose one without drawing attention to the other. After all, the objective now is to get Trump, not remind the public about Bill (or Harvey.) Media bias is exhibited as much by what isn’t reported as by what is. Continue reading

There Were Many Good And Ethical Reasons To Fire Don Cherry

Canadian hockey commentator controversies are not usually news stories in the U.S.–thank God—but yesterday was an exception. Broadcaster (and former NHL `player and coach—I remember him from his days coaching the Boston Bruins) Don Cherry, 85, who has the fame and following that few U.S. sportscasters ever attain (Howard Cosell, perhaps? Curt Gowdy? Vin Scully, maybe?) talked himself out of a job by using his “Coach’s Corner” segment on the “Hockey Night In Canada” TV broadcast to criticize Canadian who didn’t wear poppy pins to commemorate  the nation’s Remembrance Day, the counterpart to Memorial Day in the states. Veterans groups sell the pins, which signify recognition of the sacrifice of soldiers who died  in service of the nation.

In typical rambling fashion, Cheery had said,

“I live in Mississauga [Ontario]. Very few people wear the poppy. Downtown Toronto, forget it. Nobody wears the poppy. … Now you go to the small cities. You people … that come here, whatever it is — you love our way of life. You love our milk and honey. At least you can pay a couple bucks for a poppy or something like that. These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada. These guys paid the biggest price for that.”

The presumed translation of the brief rant was that  Cherry was criticizing immigrants (“You people”…”who come here”) for being unpatriotic and too cheap to buy a pin as a gesture of thanks and respect to fallen soldiers. Social media and most of the Canadian sportswriting community immediately condemned the remarks, and called for Cherry’s dismissal. Continue reading

“Forget It, Jake, It’s Canada!”: The Craziest Ethics Ruling Ever!

Pervert!

Alexandru Tanase, a Canadian dental hygienist, has been stripped of his license because he violated an ethics regulation forbidding sexual relations between dental hygienists and their patients even if they are married. Many professionals have such ethics prohibitions, including lawyers. Tanase’s patient in this case, however, was his wife.

The College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario felt that a disciplinary hearing was necessary following a complaint against Tanase made by a jerk of a colleague who had read a Facebook post from Tanase’s wife about the care he had provided her.  It wasn’t the first time: they had become romantically involved after Tanase had learned that she had neglected her teeth for years out of fear, and agreed to provide free in-office treatment as a kindness. This was in 2012; by 2014, the platonic friendship had turned to  love, and they later became man and wife. Because of Ontario’s no-sex-with-dental-hygiene-patients rule, Tanase had stopped cleaning her teeth around this time. Ontario enacted the zero-tolerance policy in 1993 to protect patients from sexual exploitation, and under the (lazy and stupidly written) law, mutual consent creates no exceptions. Continue reading