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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/3/2018: Katie’s Rationalization, Teachers’ Extortion, Rudy’s Zugswang, And Kanye’s Influence

Goooood morning!

(I thought it was time for “Singin’ in the Rain” again. Of course, it is always time for “Singin’ in the Rain”…)

1. And that’s when you know…When alleged sexual harassers are accused, the way you know whether they are guilty or not often depends on whether the floodgates open, and large numbers of other women step forward. This was Bill Cosby’s downfall. Now we learn that 27 more victims of Charlie Rose have raised their metaphorical hands. Sorry, Charlie!

The mystery to me is why  current and former colleagues of outed abusers and harassers so often rush to defend them, even post #MeToo, and even women. I suppose is cognitive dissonance again: the defenders have high regard for the harasser, and simply can’t process the fact that they may have been engaged in awful conduct. Katie Couric’s defense of Matt Lauer, however, is especially damning.

Variety reported that Lauer’s office had a button that allowed him to remotely lock his office door when he had female prey within his grasp…

“His office was in a secluded space, and he had a button under his desk that allowed him to lock his door from the inside without getting up. This afforded him the assurance of privacy. It allowed him to welcome female employees and initiate inappropriate contact while knowing nobody could walk in on him, according to two women who were sexually harassed by Lauer.”

Yet on “The Wendy Williams Show” this week, Couric “explained”…

“I think the whole button thing, you know? I think — NBC — a lot of stuff gets misreported and blown out of proportion. A lot of NBC executives, they make it sound like some kind of den of inequity. I don’t know what was happening. A lot of NBC executives have those buttons that opened and closed doors… They did. I mean, it was really just a privacy thing. It wasn’t..Honestly I think it was an executive perk that some people opted to have and I don’t think it was a nefarious thing. I really don’t. And I think that is misconstrued….”

Wowsers. First, Couric is intentionally blurring the facts, using “open and close” as a euphemism for “unlock and lock.” I guarantee that no button would cause the office door to swing open or swing closed, as Couric suggested. I’ve searched for such a device: all I can find are remote office door locking mechanisms. Second, while it is true that other NBC execs once had that feature, it appears that Lauer was “was one of the few, if not the only, NBC News employee to have one,”a senior NBC News employee told the Washington Post.

Second, Couric is engaging in The Golden Rationalization: “Everybody does it.”

2.  Extortion works! Arizona’s governor signed a 9% pay increase for the state’s teachers, because the teachers engaged in a wildcat strike, kids were missing school, and parents couldn’t go to work without their state funded child-sitters. I’m not going to analyze whether the teachers demands were right or wrong, because it doesn’t matter. The teachers’ tactic was unethical, just like the Boston police strike in 1919 was unethical, just like  the air traffic controllers strike in  1981. In the former, Massachusetts governor Calvin Coolidge (what happened to that guy?) famously fired all the striking cops, saying in part that  “The right of the police of Boston to affiliate has always been questioned, never granted, is now prohibited…There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.” President Reagan quoted Cal when he fired the air traffic controllers and eliminated its union.

Striking against children and their education is also a strike against the public safety. What now stops the teachers, in Arizona or anywhere else, from using similar extortion tactics for more raise, policies they favor, or any other objective?  What was lacking here was political leadership possessing the integrity and courage to tell the teachers to do their jobs during negotiations, or be fired.

This precedent will rapidly demonstrate why public unions are a menace to democracy Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Childhood and children, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society

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

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/24/18: Jarrar And The Kardashians

Good morning, everyone!

1 Something stupid. I haven’t written about the Kardashians for a long time, unless you count Kanye West, but he has a legitimate claim to celebrity and the fact that he’s married to Kim K. is more or less a footnote. This morning, checking some cyanide out at the CVS, I saw this cover by the register:

Quick, now: why would it be smart and profitable to put this story on the front of a tabloid magazine? Who is Khloe Kardashian (normally I would try to find a way to get that accent over the “e” but it just isn’t worth it) and why would anyone on God’s green earth care about what she’s doing or what someone else is doing to her?

This woman is the youngest of the original Kardashian sisters, all of whom achieved fame-via-reality show after Kim’s sex tape was released and she gained fame for the size and shape of her butt. I’m not kidding. That’s it. That’s the whole basis for the culture’s love affair with the Kardashians,  and the reality show that introduced ugly duckling heavyish for a professional slut family youngest sister Khloe to America began in 2007, eleven full years ago. And what has Khloe, who is no longer heavy, or recognizable, and that was worth a book and a spin-off reality show—done since then to make her adventures worthy of the time you would normally use to alphabetize your sock drawer?  Absolutely nothing, other than appearing on TV with her weird, venal, narcissistic family, and being rich due to no fault of her won. (Her late father was one of O.J.’s cronies, played by David Shwimmer —“Ross” in “Friends”— in the O.J. miniseries, and her mother is a successful Hollywood hustler.) Here is the full extent of her societal worth, courtesy of the ridiculously long Wikipedia entry:

On September 27, 2009, Kardashian married NBA basketball player Lamar Odom, who was a member of the Los Angeles Lakers at the time. The couple were married exactly one month after they met at a party for Odom’s teammate Metta World Peace. Following her marriage, Kardashian removed her middle name to include her married surname, becoming Khloé Kardashian Odom. Kardashian adopted a pet boxer named Bernard “BHops” Hopkins, after the famous boxer.

On December 13, 2013, after months of speculated separation, Kardashian filed for divorce from Odom and for legal restoration of her last name.[43] Divorce papers were signed by both parties in July 2015; however, the divorce had yet to receive final approval from a judge. In October 2015, Odom was hospitalized after being found unconscious in a Nevada brothel, and was in a coma for four days; as he lay in a hospital, Kardashian withdrew her pending divorce petition. In an interview with People Magazine, Kardashian confirmed that they had not reconciled and the divorce had been withdrawn so that she might make medical decisions on Odom’s behalf.Kardashian and Odom’s divorce was finalized in December 2016.

Kardashian is currently in a relationship with basketball player Tristan Thompson. The couple reside in Cleveland, Ohio.In December 2017, she announced they were expecting their first child together.  In March 2018, Kardashian revealed she would have a girl. On April 12, 2018, Kardashian gave birth to their daughter, True Thompson. He cheated on Khloe Kardashian with other girls leading to him being inactive on social media at Khloe Kardashian’s wishes.

This does not speak well of the culture, American society, its values or its prospects.  My father’s generation was enthralled by the family dramas and controversies surrounding pubic figures like Charles Lindbergh, who, after all, accomplished something and displayed useful and admirable values in doing so.  His generation and the precedding one did have a soft spot for robbers like Dillinger, Bonny and Clyde and before them, Jesse James, but that was because they were styled as latter day Robin Hoods. At least robbing the rich to give to the poor is something. Actors, actresses and sports heroes have always been popular culture icons, but they were famous for their art and achievements, not just for showing up, or worse, showing up and acting like an idiot.  Imagine Babe Ruth being idolized because of fame bestowed on him solely based on his gluttony, promiscuity and drunkenness. That’s where we appear to be now. There really are tweens out there who will announce that they want to grow up to be like one of the six or seven—I don’t know where to put the former Bruce Jenner—Kardashian girls. Parents should lock them in a high tower like Rapunzel, but they won’t, because they probably hope their daughters grow up to be like Kim, Kourtney, Kendall, Khloe aand whatever that the other ones are named…Katmandu? Kalamazoo?

How can ethics survive in a culture like that? What am I doing? Continue reading

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I’m Not Exactly Saying Shut Up And Sing, Shania, But If You Are Going To Talk About U.S. Politics, A) Know What You Are Talking About, And B) Don’t Back Down When The Thought Police Arrive

Canadian Country music superstar Shania Twain told  The Guardian that she “would have voted for” President Trump if she was an American citizen  “because, even though he was offensive, he seemed honest.” She added,  Do you want straight or polite? Not that you shouldn’t be able to have both. If I were voting, I just don’t want bullshit. I would have voted for a feeling that it was transparent. And politics has a reputation of not being that, right?”

This off the cuff answer roused the social media anti-Trump Furies, and a hashtag, #ShaniaTwainCancelled, was born. Fearing that allowing a non-conforming opinion that the thought-policing Trump-hating Left had decreed was impermissible would harm her income stream, Twain instantly collapsed like the filling station in “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.”

As Ann Althouse amusingly put it, “By evening poor Shania — the erstwhile lover of no bullshit — had apologized.” She tweeted,

“I would like to apologise to anybody I have offended in a recent interview with the Guardian relating to the American President. The question caught me off guard. As a Canadian, I regret answering this unexpected question without giving my response more context I am passionately against discrimination of any kind and hope it’s clear from the choices I have made, and the people I stand with, that I do not hold any common moral beliefs with the current President. I was trying to explain, in response to a question about the election, that my limited understanding was that the President talked to a portion of America like an accessible person they could relate to, as he was NOT a politician ”

Observations:
Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: Barbra’s Cloned Dogs

Singing legend Barbra Streisand said a lot of questionable things in a recent interview with Variety. Things like…

  • She says she felt she was miscast in Gene Kelly’s bomb of an adaptation of “Hello Dolly!” for the screen. (As everyone noticed, anyone but Carol Channing would have been miscast.) She says “she tried to get out of it,” thus absolving herself from responsibility from the film some believe  killed the big-budget movie musical.

Nobody put a gun to her head: stars say “no” to projects all the time.

  • “By the way, who was called the father of film?” she asks. “D.W. Griffith. He made his first film in 1908. But a secretary named Alice Guy in 1896 started making films because she worked for Gaumont studios. She made the first film, and she’s not given credit.”

Google is your friend, Babs. The first commercial films are generally credited to the Lumière brothers‘ who had their short films screened in Paris in 1895 . Nobody has ever claimed Griffith made the first film; some credit him with making the first film with any art to it. But Barbra likes narratives better than facts.

  • She thinks Hillary won.

“I really believe she won the election,” Streisand says. “I’ve talked to senators from Michigan and Wisconsin. I do believe, like I believed during Bush, they were playing with those voter machines.”

Yes, Barbra’s a politics-addled idiot these days.

  • She blames Trump for the Parkland shooting.

“I think even that shooter was affected because Trump brings out the violence in people. He says, ‘It’s OK — rally, lock her up.’”

None of these cretinous and irresponsible statements bothered anyone too much, though–Barbra has been taking like this most of her life. She also said that she was never sexually harassed in Hollywood. Amazing! This revelation, however, set off ethics alarms: Two of her three Coton de Tulear dogs were cloned from cells taken from the mouth and stomach of her beloved 14-year-old dog Samantha, who died in 2017. The third dog is a distant cousin. The two clones cost $50,000.

PETA immediately protested:

“We all want our beloved dogs to live forever, but while it may sound like a good idea, cloning doesn’t achieve that—instead, it creates a new and different dog who has only the physical characteristics of the original. Animals’ personalities, quirks, and very ‘essence’ simply cannot be replicated, and when you consider that millions of wonderful adoptable dogs are languishing in animal shelters every year or dying in terrifying ways when abandoned, you realize that cloning adds to the homeless-animal population crisis. And because cloning has a high failure rate, many dogs are caged and tormented for every birth that actually occurs—so that’s not fair to them, despite the best intentions. We feel Barbra’s grief at losing her beloved dog but would also love to have talked her out of cloning.”

Hey, as long as they don’t clone Barbra…but I digress.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz as the week runs out is this…

Is Streisand cloning her dogs unethical, or just stupid?

Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “On The Anti-Gun “Weapons Of War” Talking Point”

Second Amendment authority Chipper Jones. He’s an expert because he had a .303 lifetime batting average, and shoots deer….

It was gratifying that the weekend post about the “weapons of war” anti-gun rhetoric attracted a  great deal of thoughtful commentary here. I was thinking about the post again today when, as is increasingly the case, a sportswriter gratuitously injected politics into sports commentary. Baseball season is fast-approaching, and while one of the many reasons I follow the game so passionately is its ethics content, I look forward to the game to get away from politics, and incorrigible social justice warrior agitators like NBC’s Craig Calcaterra, lapsed lawyer, can’t resist misusing their sports platforms as a political soap box. 

Today he gleefully informed readers that Hall of Fame third baseman Chipper Jones had “denounced assault weapons,” telling Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

“I believe in our Constitutional right to bear arms and protect ourselves,” Jones said. “But I do not believe there is any need for civilians to own assault rifles. I just don’t.

“I would like to see something (new legislation) happen. I liken it to drugs – you’re not going to get rid of all the guns. But AR-15s and AK-47s and all this kind of stuff – they belong in the hands of soldiers. Those belong in the hands of people who know how to operate them, and whose lives depend on them operating them. Not with civilians. I have no problem with hunting rifles and shotguns and pistols and what-not. But I’m totally against civilians having those kinds of automatic and semi-automatic weapons.”

Calcaterra makes sure that we knew that the ex-Braves player is an avid hunter and owns a rife, because he apparently wants us to think that owning a gun makes an athlete an expert on the Bill of Rights. (It doesn’t, and I’m pretty sure Calcaterra knows that.)

Concludes Craig,

“While debate, often acrimonious, will no doubt continue about these matters indefinitely, it’s striking to see someone like Chipper Jones come out so strongly on the matter in the particular way that he has. It has to make people at the NRA and those who support it wonder if, when you’ve lost Chipper Jones, you’ve gone too far.”

Thus we have a lawyer appealing to the authority of a man who played baseball all through highs school, and signed a contract to be a pro baseball player at te age of 18. Call me skeptical, but I question whether he has devoted much research to the history and philosophy underlying the Second Amendment, or has read any of the judicial opinion and scholarship analyzing it. I especially question Jones’ flippant “denouncement”  given the tell-tale signs that he doesn’t understand the right to bear arms at all, beginning with the misnomer “assault rifles” and the assumption that the most popular civilian rifle in the U.S. is a “weapon of war.” He also makes the offensive assumption that he is qualified to decide what kind of fire arms other citizens “need,” a commonly expressed  attitude sharply discredited in this essay by playwright and screenwriter David Mamet.

I find myself increasingly impatient with uninformed opinions on important matters relating to our personal liberty, expressed by celebrities with no more understanding or special expertise than the typical semi-informed citizen, and often less. I am even less tolerant when I am told by journalists that attention must be paid.

Here is the Comment of the Day by Glenn Logan, who is informed on this issue, on the post On The Anti-Gun “Weapons Of War” Talking Point: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2018 President’s Day Edition:

Good Morning, George, Tom, Teddy, Abe!

I’m in a bad mood. Maybe it will pass.

1 No Presidents Day post this year.  I usually do a special Presidents Day post. I never thought I would ever feel this way, but I’m thoroughly sick of writing about the Presidents after the last year. I blame “the resistance” for this along with the news media, both of whom have created a related but separate ethics issue by relentlessly attacking, disrespecting, mocking and undermining President Trump. [Of course, for those who are interested, this epic post, from 2015, was about four years’ worth of Presidents Day material, and this one, also from that year, is my personal favorite of all the entries here about my favorite 45 Americans. Does President Trump have a Julia Sand out there somewhere? We can only hope…]

Yesterday Ann Althouse, strafing the news media’s obsession with the ridiculous publicity-mad porn star whom Trump either did or did not have an affair with and to whom his to slimy lawyer Michael Cohen paid hush money, was attacked on her own blog by commenters who accused her of  defending the indefensible—you know, the President of the United States, who was never allowed a single second when the entire country unified behind the winner of a hard-fought election, and as one wished him good fortune and success. Not a second.

Ann usually doesn’t get involved in her blog’s comment threads., but she responded this time:

You Trump haters made it so boring to hate Trump. I don’t even like Trump, but you people annoy me.

Above all, I believe Trump won the election, and he deserves support as he attempts to carry out the responsibilities America entrusted to him. We need to help him, not try to screw him up at every turn. I think it’s outrageous what has been done to him, and I regard it as an attack on democracy.

I have always found that once the President is elected, we should accept the result and support him when we can and look to the next election if we can’t. I think the “resistance” is a rejection of democracy…

That is about as perfect an expression of my feelings as anyone could compose, including me. It has been this blog’s position from November 9, 2017 on, and I have never wavered from it. I knew this was basically Althouse’s stance as well, since so many of her posts reflect it, but it is gratifying to have another serious blogger I respect express it so clearly. Continue reading

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