Tag Archives: cover-ups

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/16/ 2017: A Kiss, A Blacklist, A Mystery, And President Frog

Good Morning!

It’s tree decorating day!

1 Fact. Last night, TCM was showing “Holiday Affair,” starring Robert Mitchum, Janet Leigh, and Wendell Corey. After the film, as is his wont, host Ben Mankiewicz returned with some inside trivia. He said, “Janet Leigh was not prepared at this point in her career to be on a set with such pranksters as Mitchum and Corey. At the point in the film where the actress was supposed to be kissed by Mitchum, Leigh wrote in her autobiography, instead of getting the expected movie kiss, she got a genuine Robert Mitchum kiss while the cameras rolled. The script called for her character to react with surprise, and there is no doubt that’s what audiences saw!”

This was exactly what Al Franken’s first accuser alleged he did to her in a skit rehearsal a decade ago. Now, was that “prank kiss” sexual harassment? Since that kind of “prank” by male movie stars was hardly uncommon, Mitchum was a bigger star at that point than Leigh (who was 22), and he was considered a dreamboat, and this was 1949, Leigh was a good sport about it, and presumably wasn’t uncomfortable for the rest of the shoot. Yet if the film was in made in 1999, she could hold a press conference today and accuse Senator Mitchum of sexually harassing her, and there would be evidence on film.

She could do this a) if she had shrugged the off then as an initiation to the World of Bob Mitchum, but newly “woke” realized it was sexual assault; b) if her career was flagging and she needed to get back into “Variety” headlines; c) if she had been seething all these years and waiting for a chance at revenge; d) if Senator Mitchum were a pro life conservative and her liberal daughter Jamie Lee Curtis called her up one day and said, “Mom, you know that story about Robert Mitchum slipping you a tongue during “Holiday Affair”? You can take that right wing SOB down with that!”

And there would be nothing Senator Mitchum could do about it.

Go ahead, Prof. Butler. say “Come ON!” I dare you.

2. On the other hand...Yesterday, director Peter Jackson (“Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “The Hobbit,” “King Kong”), told reporters how Harvey Weinstein, he now realizes, made good on his threats to exact revenge on young actresses who didn’t “cooperate” with him:

“I now suspect we were fed false information about both of these talented women [Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino] – and as a direct result their names were removed from our casting list…My experience, when Miramax controlled the Lord of the Rings… was of Weinstein and his brother behaving like second-rate Mafia bullies.”

Sorvino tweeted in response, Continue reading

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The IRS Scandal: “I’m Sorry!” Is Not Enough, But That’s Apparently All Our Battered Democracy Will Get

 

I’ve been holding a draft of this post for two weeks until I calmed down. You should read the first version.

The Treasury Department  agreed to  a “very substantial” settlement covering damages to hundreds of tea party groups following a class-action lawsuit over the obstructive, discriminatory IRS scrutiny they received when applying for tax-exempt status leading up to the 2012 election. According to court documents,  the IRS admitted wrongdoing and apologized for its conduct. The IRS stated,

“The IRS admits that its treatment of Plaintiffs during the tax-exempt determination process, including screening their applications based on their names or policy positions, subjecting those applications to heightened scrutiny and inordinate delays, and demanding some Plaintiffs’ information that TITA determined was unnecessary to the agency’s determination of their tax-exempt status, was wrong. For such treatment, the IRS expresses its sincere apology.”

That’s nice. Isn’t that nice?

The department did not disclose the amount of money handed out to over 400 organizations: “The [Internal Revenue Service]’s use of these criteria as a basis for heightened scrutiny was wrong and should never have occurred,” Attorney General Sessions said in a statement.  “It is improper for the IRS to single out groups for different treatment based on their names or ideological positions.”

Ya think?

The scandal began in 2013, when an IRS official admitted the agency had been aggressively scrutinizing groups with names such as “Tea Party” and “Patriots.” It later emerged that some liberal groups had been targeted, too, but in less aggressive ways and although in far smaller numbers. I hate to be suspicious, but if a Democratic administration’s tax agency agency in advance of an election wanted to hobble Republican and conservative groups, picking out some progressive groups to harass would be the smart move. In “Jack Reacher,” a sniper who wants to kill one target shoots five, so it looks like a random mass shooting. Same theory.

The IRS accelerated its special treatment of conservative groups around 2010, as the election approached, and Tea Party applications for tax-exempt status surged. Some court decisions had eased the rules for tax-exempt groups to participate in politics. Something had to be done, and some obama loyalists in the IRS apparently decided to do it. Or it was all one big misunderstanding.

After the scandal broke, there was a mass exodus from the IRS’s management. Conservative groups sued. Congressional Republicans launched  years of hearings, amid allegations the Obama White House had ordered the targeting. It was a futile effort. In earlier administrations, the news media would have been asking questions. A non-political Justice Department would have investigated hard, but Obama’s Justice Department was entirely constructed to protect the President and Democratic interests. The situation screamed for a Special Counsel. This wasn’t a matter of speculation: Something was rotten in Washington, D.C. A supposedly apolitical agency of the US Government, in advance of a national election with a Democratic President in office, used its power to interfere with the rights of conservatives to organize and participate in the democratic process. If the IRS employees involved were sufficiently partisan—and they were–no explicit orders from the White House were necessary. They knew what to do. Continue reading

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Your Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck Update, With The Ethics Quote Of The Week From Screenwriter Scott Rosenberg

In 2009, after fugitive cinema auteur/child rapist Roman Polanski was arrested by Swiss police following a request by the U.S. Justice Department that he be extradited to serve his sentence, Harvey Weinstein authored an op-ed arguing  that  “Roman Polanski is a man who cares deeply about his art and its place in the world.” The article dismissed Polanski’s rape and sodomizing of a 13-year-old actress as “a so-called crime.”

 Weinstein then signed am infamous petition for Polanski, along with many Hollywood celebrities.

Last week, Academy Award-winning British actress Emma Thompson appeared on the BBC to  denounce Weinstein’s conduct.  Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis asked her, since she felt so strongly about sexual assault, why she had signed the Polanski petition.

No, I have not heard or read that any U.S. journalist has had the courage or integrity to ask the question of other actresses who have similarly flip-flopped.   Thompson she said she had signed “without really thinking about it . . . I had been absolutely bamboozled by my respect for his art.”

Sure. Emma, that explains it What woman doesn’t sign a “Forgive the rapist” petition without thinking about it?

2.  Hollywood Screenwriter Scott Rosenberg took to Facebook to post a provocative exposition on his early days at Weinstein’s Miramax Films, with a tough kicker: “Everybody fucking knew.” If everybody fucking knew, is it really believable that the Clintons, the Obamas, the other Democrats who gleaned millions from Harvey and Harvey’s connections, and the journalists that never exposed him at the cost of undermining their favorite party didn’t know?

No. It isn’t believable.

Here’s Rosenberg: Continue reading

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Here’s Something The News Media Hasn’t Explained Regarding The Weinstein Scandal: Those Victim Confidentiality Agreements Are Unethical, And Maybe Illegal

Rose McGowan, the new Sexual Harassment Fury on social media, says she was raped by Weinstein and had to accept a $100,000 settlement with a confidentiality agreement as a condition of the deal. That means that if she subsequently told her story and accused Weinstein, she would be liable for damages, and would have to return the money. Right?

Not exactly. Most of the accounts in this sordid series of events make it seem like confidentiality agreements are iron clad and enforceable. Often they are neither. McGowan’s almost certainly wasn’t.

Debra Katz, an attorney specializing in sexual harassment law suits, recently explained that if employees or former employees came forward with information about Weinstein participating in criminal misconduct, their non-disclosure agreements or confidentiality agreements would probably be unenforceable, saying,

“These kind of very broad NDAs or confidentiality agreements typically violate public policy. Employees have to have the legal ability to discuss any concerns about unlawful behavior in the workplace … These broad provisions that would effectively silo people, make them feel like they can’t speak about this, are simply an instrument to put fear in people.”

My position has always been that lawyers who construct such agreements, knowing that they are unenforceable, are committing sanctionable ethical misconduct. The lawyer for the employee being silenced, moreover, has an obligation to let the client know that the requirement is unconscionable. Of course, it’s the client’s decision whether she wants to take the money.  It is also unethical to make an agreement you have no intention of honoring. Continue reading

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Lessons And Notes From The Harvey Weinstein Fiasco

The latest development in the rapid fall of Hollywood independent film mogul and lionized Democratic donor Harvey Weinstein: The board of his own company, The Weinstein Company, just fired him.

You should read the New York Times’ damning story, following an investigation, about the extent of Weinstein’s long reign of misogynist terror in Hollywood. I don’t care to re-hash it. Note, as you read, that as disgusting as it is, more disgusting stories have come out since it was published. For example, a TV journalist now says that Weinstein once trapped her in the hallway of a restaurant that was closed to the public and masturbated in front of her until he ejaculated.  She says she told friends about the episode, but remained quiet because “she was in a long-term relationship” and was “fearful of the power that Weinstein wielded in the media.”

  • WHAT? She withheld this story for a decade because she was fearful, thus allowing Weinstein to abuse how many other women? Hundreds? I’d love to ask her if a powerful individual, in her opinion, could have done anything that would have caused her to make the effort to overcome her fear and self-interest. Someone who would act as she describes is pathological. What she endured was a criminal act. This is signature significance, is it not? Does a civilized, trustworthy, non-sociopath sicko ever do such a thing even once, on the worst day of his life? “I’m sorry I trapped you and masturbated in front of you; it wasn’t the best choice, and anyone can make a mistake.”

The man is and was dangerous. The woman had a citizen’s duty to report this to the police; I don’t care how powerful he was.

  • And, apparently, dozens of actresses had experiences, if not quite that horrifying, horrifying enough. In the Times report, we learn that Weinstein invited Angry Progressive Feminist Ashley Judd to the Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel 20 years ago for what she thought would be a breakfast meeting about her career. Weinstein had her sent to his hotel suite, where he greeted the actress in a bathrobe and asked if he could give her a massage. She told The Times that he then proposed that she watch him shower. Now she tells us this? Now, after she excoriated the President on the Mall, using obscene terms to cheer on  “resistance” “pussy- hat marchers  in January and speculate about the President’s Trump’s wet dreams about his own daughter?  Judd  said she kept quiet to avoid alienating Harvey Weinstein because she was just at the beginning of her career—you know, like all of those Cosby victims. What’s her excuse for the rest of the 20 years, allowing more young actresses to be extorted into sexual submission? Larry O’Connor has the (revolting) answer, I think. In a piece for Mediaite, he writes of Judd,

Has she channeled that anger and humiliation and fear at the industry that allowed it? Or at the man and his multi-million dollar corporation that enabled it? No. Her real enemies are Republicans. Don’t you get it?

So the not-so-hidden message in Weinstein’s non-apology statement was “Hey, remember, I supported Hillary and Obama and I raise millions for Democrats and I’ll help destroy the NRA and Trump. I may treat you like shit, but my heart is in the right place. Now get your knee pads on.”

In Hollywood, being liberal means never having to say you’re sorry.

Judd has been praised for having the courage to tell her story now…when Weinstein is elderly and his power is waning, knowing the he was about to be exposed. No, this is an example of Rationalization #22, “It’s not the worst thing.” Yes, Judd is not as bad as the many, many actresses who kept quiet about this sexual predator, endangering others, who still are mum. Whoopie! Continue reading

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Debbie Wasserman Schultz And Her Shady Pakistani Tech

Obviously, this is not true. In fact, Anderson didn’t mention the story at all….

While the Trump-stalking pro-“resistance” news media has been lightning-quick to pounce on any whiff of suspicion emanating from everything from a botched opposition research attempt by the President’s idiot son, to a “secret” meeting between the President and Putin that was in plain view. to a shockingly friendly letter to the President from a 9-year-old, it has been strangely incurious about this story, which to the non Trump-deranged is belching more smoke than any two “scandals” being investigated by the special counsel. No headlines, no segments on the broadcast news, except for Fox, of course. I haven’t written about it because it’s difficult to find sources other than Fox and Breitbart to rely on. I’m still unsure what exactly it all means

Up to the moment he was arrested for bank fraud as he attempted to leave the country for Pakistan,  Imran Awan was being paid by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, former chair of the Democratic National Committee, former Hillary Clinton campaign staffer (added immediately and shamelessly after having to resign after being revealed as leading the rigging of the nomination against Bernie Sanders and for Hillary), and hilariously dishonest spinner for Barack Obama for eight years, as her trusted IT guy. Well, as her IT guy, anyway.

Aswan’s wife, Hina Alvi, also in the family business of being paid by Democrats, had already fled the country with her three young daughters. The Awans  had snagged a fraudulent $165,000 loan  from the Congressional Federal Credit Union, and sent it home to Pakistan. Aswan’s position with the DNC and Wasserman-Schultz had given him and other nefarious collaborators—his relatives!— in various Hill IT department years of access to the e-mails and electronic files of members of the House’s Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees. They were accessing members’ computers without their knowledge, transferring files to remote servers, and stealing computer equipment, including hard drives.

The Democrats fired all of the Awans early this year, except, oddly, for Awan himself, who stayed on Debbie’s staff, collecting a heft salary.  She kept him in a place that allowed  access to the work product and communications of members of  United States Congress right up until he was arrested.

What does this mean? We don’t know yet, and the news media is acting as if it doesn’t want to know. Asks Andrew McCarthy, Continue reading

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“The Keepers,” The Catholic Church, And Bishop Fulton J. Sheen

I began watching Netflix’s new “true crime” series “The Keepers” last night. I may not last through all seven episodes. In addition to the documentary story-telling methodology, which moves at the pace of a slug-race, the story of how unsolved murder of a Baltimore nun might  be part of  (yet another) horrific cover-up by the Catholic Church made me so angry and frustrated that I quit in the middle of the third episode. The series makes the case that the nun, Sister Catherine “Cathy” Cesnik, was killed because she was about  to reveal ongoing sexual abuse of young teenage girls by the priest running the Archbishop Keough High School for girls.

The abuse and the extent of it is not speculation. As in so many other places, the Catholic Church in Baltimore eventually paid millions in damages to multiple victims of multiple predator priests who the Church moved around the  region—so they could molest and assault new victims—rather than handing them over to law enforcement. It is hard to imagine any priest worse than Father Joseph Maskell, however, if even some of the allegations against him are true. Victims say he used student files and illicit police connections to target teenage girls who were already being sexually abused. He manipulated them using a sick combination of religion, guilt, hypnotism and intimidation, sexually abused them, and even delivered some over to members of the Baltimore police department for more abuse.

The documentary focuses on the school’s Class of ’69, though there must have been equally abused girls before and after. The conspiracy of silence began to crack in 1992, when an especially  victimized member of the class suddenly realized that she had repressed memories of horrible experiences, and finally complained to the Baltimore Archdiocese, setting off the kind of despicable Church defensive strategies too familiar to anyone who has seen “Spotlight.”

This documentary isn’t good for my state of mind. It makes me wonder not only if all is lost, but also if all wasn’t lost long ago. I was raised in a largely Catholic community. I am not religious, but as an ethicist I recognize the important, civilizing role religion has played in teaching and enforcing moral principles for the majority of the public for whom ethical analysis is too challenging. Episodes like the Father Maskell scandal raise questions that I rebuke myself for asking, like “How can this be?” “Jane Doe,” the star witness in the documentary, is still a devout Catholic. Her immediate response to every dilemma is to pray. I don’t get it. She was savaged, threatened and abused by a priest that she knows the Church allowed to prey on the vulnerable students entrusted to him. Why would she still trust the Catholic Church?

Why would anyone? Continue reading

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