Lunch Time Ethics Appetizer, 4/17/2019: Accountability, Conflicts of Interest, Incivility, Hype And Privilege

It’s a real ethics poop-poop platter…

1. Red Sox lousy start ethics. Boston Red Sox starting ace Chris Sale, widely regarded as one of the top two or three pitchers in baseball who signed a rich multi-year extension with the team right before the season began, lost his fourth straight start yesterday to begin the season. He told reporters, “This is flat-out embarrassing. For my family, for our team, for our fans. This is about as bad as it gets. Like I said, I have to pitch better…It sucks. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. I just flat-out stink right now.”

2. The Hollywood writers vs agents mess. I haven’t posted on this because I can’t find a copy of the controversial “Code of Conduct” that the agents refuse to sign. I also need to bone up on  the agency laws in New York and California. This article is a good summary of the show-down. Regarding the question of conflicts of interest in the practice of “packaging” and agents going into the production business, , however, it seems clear that the writers have the better arguments. From the article:

Packaging is a decades-old practice under which agencies may team writers with other clients from their stables for a given project. With packaging fees, an agent forgoes the usual 10 percent commission fee paid to them by individual clients; in its place, they are paid directly by the studio….The writers argue that agencies violate their fiduciary obligations to their clients when they make money from studios instead of from the people they are representing. The practice of accepting packaging fees, the writers say, allows the agencies to enrich themselves at the writers’ expense when they should be using their leverage to get more money for writer-clients.

Any time an agent gets paid by the party the agent is supposed to be negotiating with, that’s a textbook conflict. I’m amazed the agents have been getting away with this practice for so long. As for the production deals…

There are agency-affiliated companies that have moved into the production business — and this does not sit well with the writers unions. W.M.E., for instance, has an affiliate company called Endeavor Content. It was formed in 2017 and is a distributor of the show “Killing Eve,” as well as a producer of an epic drama coming from Apple TV Plus called “See.” C.A.A. also has an affiliate: Wiip. It is a producer of “Dickinson,” a comedy series that is also part of the Apple rollout scheduled for the fall. United Talent Agency is also getting in on production, with an affiliate called Civic Center Media. It has teamed up with M.R.C., the producer of “House of Cards,” to make new shows.

The agencies have argued that these affiliates are artist-friendly studios that will help writers, because they add to the number of potential buyers — which means more competition for writers’ services and bigger paychecks. The writers have said that agencies have a conflict of interest when they act as studios. How, they ask, can an agent represent you and also be your boss?

Bingo. The short and easy answer is “They can’t.”

Stay tuned… Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/29/2019: Good Kool-Aid, Bad Kool-Aid

Good morning!

1. No, it’s not yet clear what happened in the Jussie Smollett debacle, just that  whatever it was, it was unethical as hell. Smollett is no less guilty of faking a hate crime than he always was; the evidence is just as overwhelming; and the fools lining up to support him are asking for trouble. For example, the writers for Smollett’s show (it seems likely that it is no longer his show, and the producers would be certifiably mad to let him back on the air) seem to be under the delusion that charges were dropped against the African-American actor because there wasn’t evidence to try him. That is not what happened, whatever happened. But here is “Empire” writer Cameron Johnson  tweeting to a Chicago-based reporter  who has been covering the case since it first broke in January.

No, in fact everything reported about Smollett—that he faked the attack, lied to police and the news media, and that the two men he recruited and paid to carry out the hoax with him have fingered Smollett—appears to be true. Meanwhile, the NAACP is going forward with Smollett’s nomination for an award for his work on Empire. I wouldn’t put it past them to let him win, meaning that they would be applauding a divisive–but woke! And gay! And black!—hate crime hoaxer.

So again, what’s going on here? The former chief of staff to First Lady Michelle Obama had contacted Cook County prosecutor Kim Foxx about the case on behalf of a member of Smollett’s family.  Foxx is an openly racialized African-American prosecutor whose past words and conduct suggest that she might adopt the Sharpton-like theory that the fact that a hate crime is a hoax is less important than the fact that it could have been true. Also, prosecuting Smollett could have sent another black man to prison, and Foxx is on the record as wanting to do everything she can to avoid that result as often as possible.

Dismissals after grand jury indictments when there is no new exculpatory evidence usually require a defendant to accept responsibility, stay out of trouble for at least six months, and make restitution. None of this happened. Smollett not only denied responsibility, he again proclaimed his innocence . He was required to forfeit his bond, which would never be required if he was actually innocent based on the evidence. The state’s attorney’s office cited 16 hours of “community service” as a mitigating factor, but again, if he is innocent, why would that matter? Smollett did that work volunteering at the headquarters of Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition. Then Smollett’s lawyer denied that any community service was required as a condition of the dismissal of his charges.

Prosecutors announced preemptively that the record in the case would be sealed, and there is no precedent for immediately sealing a criminal case involving an adult, even if a defendant is found not guilty. Defendants usually have to file a motion to seal their case, and the police are given the opportunity to contest the motion.

The Associated Press is reporting that the city will seek $130,000 from “ Smollett to cover the costs of the investigation into his hoax, which means that police are still certain that he is guilty.

It almost feels like this is a deliberate parody of the Mueller Report fiasco, designed to suggest that the situations of Smollett and President Trump are similar: both guilty, and both “exonerated” falsely.

The Illinois Prosecutors Bar Association has released a statement condemning the whatever -it-was in the strongest terms.

2. How do we get the news media and the public to stop paying attention to celebrities and actors when they are off script? These people are, as a group, neither especially informed, well-educated, or trained in critical thinking. Yet they have outsized metaphorical bullhorns, and influence fans to adopt unethical practices and irresponsible ideas. Here is “Captain America” star Chris Evans telling an interviewer that if Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is a supporter of the President of the United States, he will “cut ties” with him, whatever that means. His attitude means, however, that he would have American society divided into warring camps that never speak to each other. In a fawning profile by the New York Times, we get the diminutive actor’s policy wisdom in comments like this, in which he explains why  he will campaign for Bernie Sanders, as he did in 2016:

“If you look back on that election, a lot of his progressive ideas are accepted now. Like free college education. I didn’t go to any college. Forgive the debt, so people can live their lives and not feel they’re under a wet blanket. Let’s let the sun shine. We have a beautiful country. We got a lot of resources. You know, Medicare for all. What’s the big deal? Why not open that up?”

Yes, he’s a moron….and a moron that the Times is encouraging trusting citizens to take seriously.

3.  Scary, if even half-accurate. Over at the Epoch Times, Jeff Carlson (who is an accountant, and apparently a diligent researcher) lays out the whole case for a  “deep State” effort to try to stop Donald Trump from being elected President, and then to overthrow him once he was. It begins,

“Efforts by high-ranking officials in the CIA, FBI, Department of Justice (DOJ), and State Department to portray President Donald Trump as having colluded with Russia were the culmination of years of bias and politicization under the Obama administration.”

Some of his case is the Kool-Aid I was accused of drinking when I reported (accurately) the implications of the irregularities in the FISA warrant process used to plant an informer in the Trump campaign. It is extremely ironic that the same people who threw tantrums here over fact-based suspicions regarding the “resistance” efforts within the government were guzzling the vile Kool-Aid that Donald Trump had conspired with Russia. I was right, they were wrong, and they were insulting while being wrong. If they had any courage and integrity, they would come back here and admit it.

I misjudged them, and their character.

Ethics Observations On The Jussie Smollett Hoax

Lookin’ mighty smug there, Jussie…

Or, “How’s that ‘believe all victims’ stuff working for you’?”

Last night, the ugly truth of what many had suspected was confirmed. One of the few benefits of CNN assiduously burying stories that reflect poorly on the Left, “the resistance,” progressives and their allies is that when it does report such a story, you can probably believe it…unlike, say, its speculation about the Mueller investigation. Here is the substance of the CNN report:

Two law enforcement sources with knowledge of the investigation tell CNN that Chicago Police believe actor Jussie Smollet paid two men to orchestrate an assault on him that he reported late last month. The men, who are brothers, were arrested Wednesday but released without charges Friday after Chicago police cited the discovery of “new evidence.”The sources told CNN the two men are now cooperating fully with law enforcement.

Smollett told authorities he was attacked early January 29 by two men who were “yelling out racial and homophobic slurs.” He said one attacker put a rope around his neck and poured an unknown chemical substance on him. The sources told CNN there are records that show the two brothers purchased the rope found around Smollett’s neck at a hardware store in Chicago….Smollett identifies as gay and since 2015 has played the gay character of Jamal on the Fox TV drama “Empire.”…According to Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi, the actor told detectives he was attacked by two men near the lower entrance of a Loews hotel in Chicago. Police were told the two men yelled “‘Empire’ faggot” and “‘Empire’ nigger'” while striking him.

…One of the men has appeared on “Empire,” Guglielmi said. A police source also told CNN on Friday night that the men had a previous affiliation with Smollett, but did not provide additional details.

Following the alleged attack, Smollett’s colleagues and fans rallied around him, expressing shock and sadness. “We have to love each other regardless of what sexual orientation we are because it shows that we are united on a united front,” Lee Daniels, the creator of “Empire,” said in a video posted to his Instagram page on January 29. “And no racist fuck can come in and do the things that they did to you. Hold your head up, Jussie. I’m with you.” Smollett gave his first detailed account of what he says was a hate crime against him, and the aftermath, in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” that aired Thursday. During the interview he expressed frustration at not being believed.
“It feels like if I had said it was a Muslim or a Mexican or someone black I feel like the doubters would have supported me a lot much more,” Smollett said. “And that says a lot about the place where we are as a country right now.”

Got that last part? That’s the coded and not so subtle “this is all because Donald Trump is a racist and bigot” message, making it a catalyst for the Big Lie.

Observations: Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/29/19: Sick Room Edition

I hope you’re feeling better than I am.

1. Sick Ethics. Being sick on the job is always an ethical conflict, and riddled with bias. My father’s approach, so characteristic of him as someone who insisted on going into the Battle of the Bulge as an officer with a mangled, recently-repaired foot that was still oozing blood, was to ignore the illness and soldier on. There are two problems with that, however. First, you are working at diminished capacity, and second, you risk infecting others. The problem is a bit easier when you have a home office like I do, but there is still a trade-off issue: if I “soldier on” like my father, do I risk a longer illness and reduced capacity for far longer than if I just took a day or two off to recuperate? In my case, this is always a tough call: I am very vulnerable to bronchitis and pneumonia following chest colds (that’s what I’ve got, big time, starting last night), and when the stuff I cough up starts attacking me through the Kleenex, I’m in big trouble that has sometimes lasted for months. There is also a bias problem when you feel rotten. Right now, I would love to lie down. I can’t think of anything I would like more. I bet I can rationalize air-tight reasons why I should lie down, despite all of the very valid reason not to.

2. And speaking of sick...All 50 states require vaccinations before children to attend school, but 47 of them  (California, Mississippi and West Virginia are the exceptions) allow parents to opt out of vaccines if they have religious beliefs against immunizations. Eighteen states also allow parents to opt out of vaccines if they have personal, moral or philosophical beliefs against immunizations, including beliefs that they can think straight when they are in fact idiots and get their medical advice from Jenny McCarthy and other hysterical anti-vaxxers. Oregon and Washington are among the states that allow for a parent’s personal beliefs to exempt their kids from being immunized, along with Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Vermont.

You know. Morons. Continue reading

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

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)

Continue reading

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…

Continue reading