Tag Archives: celebrities

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/6/18: The Defended And The Indefensible

Goooood Morning!

Baby, it’s stupid outside…

1.PLEASE stop making me defend Hillary Clinton. In a “controversy” reminiscent of the mainstream media’s hyped and manufactured criticisms of every word. sigh, look or twitch by President Trump, the conservative web is in an uproar over Hillary Clinton’s “snub” or Melania Trump yesterday. Hillary didn’t wave at Melania, you see. She just “nodded” her head. Good Lord, leave the poor woman alone. She’s obviously not well. We know she’s bitter, angry and depressed. Now she and Bill are facing sparse audiences on their ill-advised tour together. So she didn’t greet Donald Trump’s spouse with enthusiasm at a funeral—so what? If she had, everyone would be saying that she’s a hypocrite and a phony. She is, of course, but that’s not the issue.

Fake snub.

2. Oh, fine, now I have to defend Natalie Portman… Inexplicably acclaimed actress Natalie Portman apologized to has-been singer/actress/ sex-symbol Jessica Simpson after  Simpson said Portman was slut- shaming her. Portman said in an interview with USA Today that as a teenager she was”confused” by a sexy photo of Simpson “on the cover of a magazine saying ‘I’m a virgin’ while wearing a bikini.” Portman said, “Like, I don’t know what this is trying to tell me as a woman, as a girl.”

This triggered a long rebuke by Simpson on social media:

“I was disappointed this morning when I read that I ‘confused’ you by wearing a bikini in a published photo taken of me when I was still a virgin in 1999. As public figures, we both know our image is not totally in our control at all times, and that the industry we work in often tries to define us and box us in. However, I was taught to be myself and honor the different ways all women express themselves, which is why I believed then – and I believe now – that being sexy in a bikini and being proud of my body are not synonymous with having sex. I have always embraced being a role model to all women to let them know that they can look however they want, wear whatever they want and have sex or not have sex with whomever they want. The power lies within us as individuals. I have made it my practice to not shame other women for their choices. In this era of Time’s Up and all the great work you have done for women, I encourage you to do the same.”

Portman immediately backed down, saying her comments were not meant as a jab toward Simpson, saying, “I would never intend to shame anybody and that was absolutely not my intention. I was really talking about mixed media messages out there for young women and completely apologize for any hurt it may have caused because that was definitely not my intention. What I said was I was confused by mixed messages when I was a young girl growing up, and there are a lot of messages for how women should be, and women should be allowed to do whatever they want.”

The issue Portman raised was and is a legitimate ethics conflict, and should be discussed openly by women, men, and culture. Continue reading

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Analysis: Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s #MeToo Accusations And His Response

Oh, great…the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck is still making stops and picking up passengers. This time the target is Neil deGrasse Tyson who someone, actually several somones, decided was a powerful man too full of himself who needed to be taken down a peg or sixty, and thus he has been accused–Democratic Senators would say “credibly” accused—of two episodes of sexual harassment and one rape. This is no trivial matter for Tyson, whose carefully constructed image as the new Carl Sagan is now in real danger. So is his job, his celebrity, his reputation and perhaps his marriage.

The three accusations belong in two boxes. The two sexual harassment claims may bolster each other, for harassing is an attitude, a habit, and a form of ethics blindness. Real harassers never do it just once. Rape is something else entirely, and, obviously, far more serious, since it is a crime.

Let’s examine each of the accusations, and Tyson’s defense, which he issued in a long Facebook post over the weekend.

Accusation #1:

Workplace Harassment: Hostile work environment and Unwanted sexual advances (2018)

Ashley Watson, who began a job as Dr. Tyson’s assistant on “Cosmos” in the spring, told an interviewer that on one occasion he asked if she would like to come to his home to share a bottle of wine and “unwind for a couple of hours.” She agreed to come in for one glass, she said, believing that they were going to talk about work and her future assignments.

Once in the astronomer’s apartment, she said, he told her that “as human beings, we all need release,” and asked if there were any “releases” she needed.  (Oh-oh!) As she began to leave a while later,  and he asked if she would let her show her  a Native American handshake.” This required clasping their hands together , finding the pulse on the other person’s wrist, and looking into each other’s eyes. (Super Oh-oh, and also “You’ve got to be kidding me.”) She says that it made her uncomfortable, and she broke it off after about 10 seconds.

As she was again trying to leave, she says Dyson commented, “I want you to know that I want to hug you so bad right now, but I know that if I do I’ll just want more.”

Then, the next day, he told her, “You say you want to be a producer, but it’s always going to be an uphill battle for you because you’re too distracting.”

She says told a supervisor ,a line producer,about what had happened, and that she was quitting.. The supervisor, asked Watson if she wanted to file a complaint. She said no. The supervisor suggested she tell her co-workers that she was leaving because of a family emergency, which she did.

Comment: If accurately described, this is slam dunk sexual harassment. The apartment visit is an extension of the workplace. If it is a veiled “date,” Tyson has crossed a line because he is the woman’s supervisor with hiring and firing power. She cannot consent meaningfully. The release comment, depending on the delivery and context, is creepy and plausibly sexual in intent, unless he also said, “Me? I like to watch baseball. How about you?” The “Native American handshake” sounds like a nifty version of the old “shoulder rub.” Now there has been touching, and forced eye-gazing. Ew. The last comment at the apartment  is also a sexual advance, especially in context with the rest.

Tyson’s Explanation: Not good. In his Facebook post,  Tyson described the handshake as one he uses “in appreciation of people with whom I’ve developed new friendships.” He said that at work, Ms. Watson freely offered hugs, which he typically rejected, but that on a few occasions, he “clumsily declared, ‘If I hug you I might just want more.’”

“My intent was to express restrained but genuine affection,” he wrote.

He also wrote that . Watson had come into his office after the incident in his apartment and told him she had been “creeped out.” He said he had “apologized profusely” and that she had accepted the apology.

Comment: Tyson’s defense is essentially “I didn’t mean anything by it, she construed it the wrong way, and anyway, she accepted my apology.” Those are three excuses, none of which carried any weight in sexual harassment cases. It’s what the harasser did, and how the harassed felt about it. His apology and her acceptance of it, even if true, doesn’t undo the event. The encounter and his words  made her uncomfortable working with him, and objectively, anyone can see why. It is also interesting that Tyson doesn’t deny the “release” conversation, or his later comment about her being a distraction.

Since Watson had to leave her job, this episode could justify a lawsuit for sexual harassment.

Accusation #2: Sexual assault (2009)

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Mourning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/5/2018: Fredo, Tom Arnold, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, Senator Hirono, Fredo, Joe Biden, And Camille Paglia—Who Doesn’t Belong In This Group?

Good Afternoon…

1 A Big Lie is born!  The fact that Tom Arnold married Rosanne Barr tells me all I need to know about his intelligence and judgment, though it did get him a single good movie role in “True Lies,” which I never could completely enjoy because the her husband’s abuse of Jamie Lee Curtis’s character seemed so cruel and offensive, but was still played for laughs. That movie is decades old, but Arnold is still holing on to shred of celebrity by being a full-time President Trump troll,  thus getting him the love and fealty of thousands of like-minded Twitter users. 250,000 of them.

Last week, he tweeted that “80% of gun owners shoot themselves or members of their own families.” His tweet was shared all over social media, and not entirely by those who used it to demonstrate beyond the shadow of a doubt that Arnold is a moron. Thus it will believed by many Americans, quoted by the anti-gun addled, and generally make Americans even dumber on this topic than they already are.

2. When will they ever learn?  Or un-learn? The University of Montana is now featured as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s (FIRE) “Speech Code of the Month.” It earned the honor by declaring in its Student Code of Conduct’s ‘Statement of Responsibility’  that all members of the campus community “have the personal responsibility to promote an atmosphere of civility,” and that discussions “should never become mean, nasty or vindictive.”

Of course, since the administrators of a committed left-biased institution will decide what is “mean” or “uncivil,” both subjective standards, you can guess whose speech will be chilled by this.

When did freedom of expression stop being a liberal value? Presumably it began when progressives stopped being able to defend their most extreme conduct, positions  and beliefs…

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Sunday Ethics Rundown, 11/25/ 18: Liberty Games

Good Morning!

1. Baraboo hangover. Apparently the Wisconsin male high school students who gave a Nazi salute in an off-campus photo will not be punished. The superintendent overseeing Baraboo High, Lori Mueller of the Baraboo School District, said in the letter that the district was “not in a position to punish the students for their actions” because of their First Amendment rights. That’s right from a Constitutional viewpoint, and something good will come of the incident if it means that schools will stop punishing students for what they post on social on their own time. Here is the photo, in case you have forgotten…

The Times article sure is full of dissembling and nonsense, however. Peter Gust, the jerk who took and posted the photo, claims that it had been modified by “malevolent behavior on the part of some in society.” Sure. Jordan Blue, the boy in the upper right hand corner in the red tie, has embraced the role of ethics hero in the media, and is grandstanding and virtue signaling like mad, saying that he didn’t have time to leave the photo but that he didn’t raise his arm because “I knew what my morals were and it was not to salute something I didn’t firmly believe in.” Uh, that should be “firmly didn’t believe in,” Jordan. Then there is Brock Turkington, also  in the photograph, whose story is that  “As we were about to take that photo, the photographer instructed the boys to give a ‘high-sign.” The photographer instructed us to extend our arms out, no one knew what a ‘high-sign’ was. I asked another student next to me ‘What are we doing?’ He responded, ‘Stick your arm out.’” But that’s not a “high-sign.” That’s a Heil-sign.

2. I won a bet with myself! Cracked, the list and pop culture commentary website that evolved out of a cheap Mad Magazine rip-off from the Sixties, has a feature called “5 Laws From Other Countries (The USA Should Totally Steal).” Cracked is dominated by smug, if clever, social justice warriors, so I made a bet with myself that the list would contain  several concepts that were unconstitutional or that would advance the Left’s dream of perpetual power. (By the way, you can’t “steal” a law.) Sure enough, the tally was three out of five. I win!!! Continue reading

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Sunday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/16/2018: “Ozark,” Slandering Irving, And Language Showdown At Taco Bell [UPDATED!]

Good Morning!

1. Call me an old ethics fogey, but I don’t think these kinds of TV series are culturally healthy. I’ve been watching the Netflix series “Ozark,” and hating myself for it. The show is well acted and even has its ethics dilemmas, but like “Breaking Bad,” which was obviously its inspiration, there are no admirable characters, and the “heroes” are criminals. In the Golden Age of TV, there were unwritten (and sometimes written) rules that shows could not rationalize, trivialize or romanticize illegal, immoral or unethical behavior, and needed to reaffirm positive values. In “Ozark,” “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul,” the latter’s spin-off, as well as “House of Cards,” and “Shameless,” among others, there are virtually no admirable characters at all. I have been watching “Ozark” in part because I like the actors, in part because there’s nothing I want to watch anywhere else except baseball, and, yes, in part because of voyeurism. Still, it makes me want to take a shower, and I fell that the increasing tendency of Hollywood to portray everything and everyone as corrupt makes a “the ends justify the means” rationalization seem like a matter of survival.

2. Post-mortem slander, again. This is a recurring theme here: a famous person is deliberately misrepresented in a dramatic depiction, and legally there is nothing that can be done about it. The First Amendment protects the practice, but it is still wrong, it still leads to public misconceptions, and it still sullies the reputations and legacies of important figures in history who deserve better.

In a recent one-man show Off- Broadway about American song-wrting legend Irving Berlin, writer-performer Hershey Felder portrays Berlin in his dotage as ” a miserable fossil so twisted with rage and zonked on Nembutal that he shooed away carolers who came to his Beekman Place window to serenade him with ‘White Christmas’,”  shrieking “They don’t deserve it,”  meaning the gift of his iconic song. That’s not what happened, however; not even close, according to the Times review of the show:

When he was 95, Berlin not only let those carolers into the house on Beekman Place but also kissed and hugged them and (according to some reports) poured them hot cocoa. “This is the nicest Christmas gift I ever got,” he said.

UPDATE: I relied on the New York Times review for this comment, and not for the first time, trusting the Times to play straight may have been a mistake. Reader Eric Herrault has a very different view, and I am appending his comment here:

In a website however that discusses ethics I think it is important to call attention to the real serious problem here. The quoted “review” in the New York Times of The BERLIN piece, was some kind of personal grudge hatchet job against the performing artist. This brainless reviewer does not describe the show I saw, or in fact the show at all. This is easily provable by seeing the show itself, or having a look at every other New York outlet, major and minor. Nowhere does anyone suggest this twisted and bizarre take on Irving Berlin. The one place it is suggested however, is by the reviewer himself, as he links to and then lauds a review of the book As Thousands Cheer about Berlin, that calls Berlin terrible things and worse. And yet, somehow this neanderthal supports that utter nonsense. The show is full of joy and laughter from beginning to end, with a sad feeling lived too long and the world having passed him by. The ethics violation here is that this disturbed reviewer (for whatever reason) is allowed to write in the first place.

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“Authentic Frontier Gibberish” Of The Year: Stevie Wonder

“This thing I just feel that all these various diseases that we have and all these things that are happening in the world in part is because there are those who don’t believe in global warming, don’t believe that what we do affects the world. what we eat affects the world. and affects us.And I just hope that people will grow up and grow out of the foolishness and know that we all by how we think how we do how we treat others we will never unlock the key until we truly let go the hatred the bigotry the evilness the selfishness when we do that then we can unlock some of those things that keep us in this place.”

—Pop legend Stevie Wonder, explaining why Aretha Franklin died, or something, on “CBS This Morning”

Why is this unethical? It’s irresponsible for celebrities with the education of prunes and the critical thinking facility of  baby ocelots to make their fans and anyone else afflicted with the delusion that being famous equates  to being wise dumber than they already are. Shut up and sing, Stevie. Aretha died of pancreatic cancer, and if you can prove that this deadly disease is linked to global warming, let’s see your research data.

It is also unethical for any TV news host who listens to a guest utter incoherent nonsense like this not to respond, “What the hell are you babbling about?” or words to that effect. Opinions are fine, and, withing limits, can be endured without rebuttal. Non-factual crap, like global warming causing cancer—actually, Stevie literally said that people not believing in global warming causes cancer, like not believing in fairies kills Tinkerbell.—has to be fixed, on the air, immediately. If you have dolts like Wonder on camera, you better be prepared to clean up the messes they leave.

Sad to say, Gabby Johnson made more sense than Stevie Wonder.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/21/18: Road Trip Edition

Good Morning!

We’re just about to hit the road and return home, with a 6 hour drive ahead and a car that periodically flashed “TRANS FAIL PROG.” at  us before the engine stops. Gotta get that checked! Thanks for bearing with me during the past few days. Now that I have my little laptop charged, I have less than a n hour of access to the hotel internet. I hate road trips…

1. What exactly are the #MeToo rules? Obviously they are too complicated for me. I’m going to devote a whole post to this soon, but I wouldn’t mind some advance feedback. Pretty clearly, whatever the rules are, they are ripe with double standards. How can the Democrats and feminists justify standing behind DNC co-chair Keith Ellison, for example, who has been credibly accused of domestic violence? How can feminists and scholars still support Avitell Ronell, whose situation I wrote about here? 

It seems pretty clear, does it not, that race, gender, and political orientation change the rules, right? Of course, the King’s Pass is also in play, as it usually is. I wonder how Al Franken feels right now. Will Bill Clinton be “in” again? Is the new standard that women should be believed when they accuse men of sexual assault as long as their alleged abuser is white, Christian or Jewish, or a Republican? It is particularly peculiar that Ellison’s denials are being taken seriously, since his record of candor is shaky at best. Senator Gillibrand, who led the charge to run Franken out of office, hasn’t exhibited any similar indignation regarding Ellison. Why is that?

2. Wait, I thought President Trump was a Nazi…Jakiw Palij, who claimed he was working on a farm and in a factory during World War II when he applied for U.S. citizenship, had that citizenship revoked in 2003 by a federal judge, and he was ordered to be deported a year later. His appeal was denied in 2005. But he stayed..and stayed…. in the United States until now, because, as we know, the Obama Administration didn’t think deporting people who have no business being here should be a major priority, and the Bush administration, as was often the case, wasn’t paying attention. The  problem was, we are told, that no nation would take Palij, even Germany, which has the ethical obligation to be accountable for all Nazis, living and dead. It appears that Germany relented because this President was willing to go to the mat on the principle.

Trump deserves credit for pushing to do what the previous administrations didn’t care enough about to do. He’ won’t get it, except on Fox News, the hacks. Continue reading

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