Noon Ethics Munchies, 7/14/2021: On Cuba, Big Lies, Roy Moore, and More [Corrected]

Munchies

1. The President gets a cheap shot...Commenting on Joe Biden’s generally hysterical speech about “voter suppression,” “Bonchie” writes on the conservative blog Red State,

“Of note here is that Biden is channeling Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels by using the phrase “big lie” to disparage Republicans who have concerns about the 2020 election. Yet, despite the phrase’s murderous, anti-Semitic past, the president seems to have no problem saying it repeatedly. In doing so, he echoed CNN’s Jake Tapper and others who have also been fond of the phrase.”

There is nothing wrong with using the phrase or the description. The device was championed by both Goebbels and Hitler, and is an accurate description of a propaganda tactic, an unethical but powerful one, used by both the Right and the Left. Whether the description is used fairly in any particular case is a separate issue. “Big Lies” is a very accurate description of the assault by the “resistance”/Democratic Party/mainstream media against Donald Trump—can you think of a better one?—which is why Ethics Alarms used it here and elsewhere.

What would be fair to note is that Biden has often been an eager employer of Goebbels’ favorite trick himself…as noted in this post.

2. Does anyone understand why Democrats are trying to downplay the current Cuban protests against the Communist government? This makes no sense to me. Thousands of anti-regime protesters took to the streets across the island over the weekend, waving American flags and chanting “Freedom!” and anti-government slogans. Cuba has been a repressive Communist regime since Fidel Castro pulled his bait and switch with the U.S. in 1959, but the most extreme elements in the Democratic Party, the proto-Marxists, have always thrown Cuba metaphorical kisses, like Michael Moore. Barack Obama reversed decades of U.S. policy by opening relations with Cuba without requiring any human rights concessions in return. One would think an outbreak of democracy on the island would be viewed as a good thing, but Biden’s paid liar, Jen Psaki, absurdly explained that the reason for the protests was “concern about rising COVID cases, deaths, and medicine shortages” rather than political oppression.

While Republicans have immediately announced their support for the Cuban people, Reps. Bobby Rush (D., Ill.), Steve Cohen (D., Tenn.), Barbara Lee (D., Calif.), Gwen Moore (D., Wis.) and the more 70 members of Congress, including “The Squad,” of course, signed a letter asking Biden to lift Trump sanctions Cuba in March. They have not had any comment on the demonstrations so far.

Continue reading

In-Between Ethics Warm-Up, Late 5/28/ Or Early 5/29/2020…

Good whatever-it-is…

One problem with having to take a nap every couple of hours is that all sleep patterns inevitably get wrecked, and that’s where I am now, awake and staring in the early morning or late night…what fun.

1. I see that we have riots in Minneapolis. The Third Precinct police station was set on fire; earlier, rioters burned down a six-story, 190-unit affordable housing project  slated to open in the spring of 2021. That development cost approximately $37 million. Never mind: MSNBC’s reliably ridiculous Ali Velshi told his viewers, literally as flames raged behind him, that “this is mostly a protest. It is not generally speaking unruly.” I would say this is unbelievable, but it only slightly moves the needle in the manner the current left-mainstream media regards reality as a flexible concept.

Meanwhile, there is absolutely no rational nor ethical justification for riots, ever, as a response to a single instance of police brutality, or in response to anything else. Nevertheless, we will get rationalizations and excuses from the usual suspects, as well as pious humming that it’s “understandable” for people to act this way. Not if rioters are to be regarded as adults, it’s not. They are harming innocent fellow citizens and business owners, and making matter worse, not better. The enablers and the apologists for such conduct should be duly marked, identified, and condemned, and no, the four rogue police officers who appear to have killed George Floyd did not “cause” the riots. The rioters caused the riots; it’s a choice, and an inexcusable one. The protests elsewhere demanding premature charges and the abandonment of due process regarding the officers are similarly indefensible.

This isn’t even a close call, and it is frightening that so few  are willing to articulate it without equivocation. Continue reading

It’s Time Again For The Ethics Alarms Mailbag! The Question: Wait, What? Your Vote In 2016 Was A Write In?

Here I was, all set to write a substantial post  updating the newly launched Coronavirus Ethics Train  Wreck, and I encountered this question in the comments to today’s Warm-up, in reaction to my reply to another commenter:

“Wait…at the time you were lecturing all the commentariat about how it was unethical to “throw away your vote” by not voting for one of the two major political party candidates? When did you change your mind on that a do a write-in?”

The questioner was Tim Levier, one of five active Ethics Alarms regular commenters who date back to the old, still off-line (but coming back!) Ethics Scoreboard, so attention had to be paid. If he could have missed my late campaign reversal of the position he described–I would describe my stated logic a bit differently, as “the lesser of two evils is still the lesser of two evils—then that critical moment could have been missed by anyone, or even everyone.

Thus I went back into the October and November 2016 archives, which was fascinating.:

  • As always when I do this, I start wondering what became of some previously active commenters. Whither THE Bill? Where have you gone, wyogranny, T Bird, carcarwhite, joed68?

I know I take this too personally, but it still bothers me.

  • You know, this is damn good blog: thorough, extensive, unpredictable, well-written, diverse, funny, educational. I like it! The only one that comes close to being as interesting without descending into periodic eccentric weirdness or ideological rigidity was the old Popehat, and that’s gone now.  I worked hard on it that year, and have ever since. It should have a lot more traffic and influence than it does, but that’s a reflection on the inadequacies and bad taste of those who don’t come here. I’m proud of the product.

There. I said it.

  • The first time I expressed doubt in my position that I would have to hold back my gorge, defy my principles, and vote for Hillary Clinton was earlier than I thought. It was here, on September 25, 2016. The subject of the post was Clinton’s campaign manager, Robbie Mook, saying that  debate moderators should run interference for her and intervene to contradict and rebut Trump’s assertions, “unlike every other Presidential debate and every legitimate and fair debate of any kind, where that responsibility rests with the debaters.”

I responded to his  Unethical Quote Of The Month by writing, in part, Continue reading

Pacific Coast Time Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/20/19: Guys and Dolls

Good morning from San Diego!

Well, I was speaking to 600 seats just now, but only about 300 lawyers. Several came up to me afterward, inspired or stimulated, and thankful. In ethics, as in the theater, I have come to adopt William Saroyan’s creed that if just one person sings your song, your life as an artist has meaning. Like Saroyan, I have come to adopt that out of self-preservation and to stave off insanity.

1. It looks like a Saturday Night Live writer plagiarized at least two skits this season. The story is here.

The combination of SNL’s insane schedule, the pressure to be different and edgy week after week, and the temptation of YouTube made this inevitable. The rules on borrowing, adapting, copying comedy material has always been a gray area, often settled by the good faith and collegiality—or not—of the comics themselves. By accident, I just saw an old “Everybody Loves Raymond” episode which was an obvious rip-off of an even older Dick Van Dyke Show episode in which Laura writes a children’s book, and professional writer Rob offers to help her improve it.? Plagiarism? Comedy skits in vaudeville were passed around like the flu: Abbot and Costello weren’t the first to do the “Who’s On First?” routine, they just did it so much better than anyone else that they owned it. Was Lucy plagiarizing Red Skelton with her “Vitameatavegimin” skit, where a pitch woman gets drunk doing multiple takes of a TV ad that requires her to drink the alcohol-laced product, when Red had been doing the same routine for years as “Guzzler’s Gin”? Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Donna Brazile, But Not For The All The Obvious Reasons…

“Now, it’s my understanding that as a CNN contributor, you won’t make me follow any of that ethics crap, right, Jake?”

In her new book, “Hacks: The Insider Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House,” Suddenly Ethical Donna Brazile takes a moment  to slam Jake Tapper because he harshly criticized her after a leak reveealed that she had used her CNN position to procure debate question and pass them along under the table to Hillary. (Of course, if Clinton had any integrity, she would have refused—what am I SAYING?).

She wrote,

“The next day, even Jake Tapper took a swing at me, calling me unethical and ‘journalistically horrifying’ during a radio interview with WMAL even though I worked for CNN as a commentator not a journalist.When I called him on this, he did not apologize. His attack on me was really about him. He wrote in an email, ‘I don’t know what happened here except it undermines the integrity of my work and CNN … you have to know how betrayed we all feel.”

OH! Donna was a contributor, not a journalist! That changes everything! So as an individual who was contributing to a journalism product, as well as paid to do so, and being relied upon by journalists in a journalism-supplying entity to inform their audience honestly regarding what journalism covers by definition, Brazile as a paid contributor should not have been expected  not required to tell the truth, be fair, maintain standards of integrity, state her biases and conflicts up front, or indeed engage in ethical conduct at all!

Is that the new definition of what “contributor” means? Boy, I think CNN needs to clarify this; I always assumed that if a network employed a “contributor,” that individual was being presented as someone who would be held to the same standards of professionalism as other on-screen employees. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/6/17: Oh, Great, A Predictably Dishonest Post-Shooting Response, While Democrats Defend Conflicts, Corruption And Stereotyping

Good Morning!

1 I thought the weekend’s violence story was going to only be Senator Rand Paul getting attacked and beaten up by his next-door neighbor, a frustrated socialist, but no. Then we learned that a madman in Sutherland Springs, Texas had opened fire on a church congregation and killed at least 26, wounding another 30 or more.

It now appears that the shooter was not permitted to purchase or own guns, which means that no law, short of gun banning and confiscation—good luck with that in Texas—could have prevented the massacre. Nevertheless, the immediate—can I say hair-trigger?—response from predictable anti-Second Amendment demagogues came in waves. Notable was the country’s #1 demagogue—and yet she persists!—Bay State Senator Elizabeth Warren, who in successive tweets signaled her gun-fearing virtue to gentle progressives, presumably the ignorant ones:

“I’m heartsick for the victims, families & community of Sutherland Springs. But I’m more than heartsick – I’m angry…How many more people must die at churches or concerts or schools before we stop letting the @NRA control this country’s gun policies?…How many kids must die of gun violence on playgrounds & streets every day with no attention at all before we wake up to what’s happening?…Thoughts & prayers are not enough, GOP. We must end this violence. We must stop these tragedies. People are dying while you wait.”

What does this mean? All it means is “Do something! ARRGH!” That is not a mature, rational, professional and responsible reaction from an elected official. The other thing it means is “repeal the Second Amendment,” which is the anti-democratic position of most of Warren’s supporters and followers. Since this episode would not have been prevented by anything but preventing the availability of guns nationwide, except, of course, to the government the public does not trust, Warren is doing nothing more nor less than blaming Republicans and the NRA for a lunatic’s rampage no one could have foreseen or prevented. This, in turn, ramps up the partisan and ideological hatred and division that has been the strategy of Democrats for a full year now, and that leads to Republicans being shot on baseball fields, Senators being mauled by socialist neighbors, and maybe even some mass shootings.

Then we have the muddled and useless “thinking” conveyed by this kind of fatuous commentary, which, to summarize, argues that we need “new ideas” and that a single maniac’s single act from motives nobody yet knows tells us that the rest of the public is devoid of optimism and hope. The author’s candidate for a “new idea”? “Maybe we need to start thinking about guns the way one physician has started thinking about opioids.”

Or maybe we should take a gun apart, put it in a brown paper bag, spin it over our heads and scream like a chicken. Although that’s not exactly new…

On the conservative side, gun defenders are making great hay out of the apparent fact that the killer was pursued and perhaps killed by legally gun-toting church neighbors. That’s moral luck, and nothing more.

2. The Democratic Party really is doubling down on its denials of Donna Brazile’s not-quite-whistle-blowing-since-the game-she-helped-try-to-cheat-in-was-over- a-year-before -she-blew. Amazing. I heard Robbie Mook, Hillary’s incompetent and corrupt former campaign manager, argue that Bernie’s campaign could have bought into the DNC too, so Brazile’s accusation is unfair. The agreement that gave the Clinton campaign control over the DNC was cut in 2015, before the Sanders campaign was anything but a hope, a prayer, a lark and a shadow. Of course Clinton had money: she had been gathering a coronation war chest for years. This was a bright line, classic, conflict of interest by the Democrats, and one that created a terrible appearance of impropriety (because it WAS improper) , except that it was kept a secret. That the Democrats deny this indicates that they don’t know what is inappropriate, and don’t see anything wrong with conflicts of interest as long as they suit their needs.

In other words, the party is corrupt, and likes it that way. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/5/2017: Train Wrecks, Rationalizations, Donna, Debbie, And More

Goooooood MORNING!

(I’m over-compensating: I feel horrible today)

1  “These alleged actions, which haven’t been denied, are reprehensible, indefensible and unacceptable. Any elected official or state employee who has settled a sexual harassment claim should resign immediately.The people of Kentucky deserve better. We appropriately demand a high level of integrity from our leaders, and will tolerate nothing less in our state,” said Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin  after it was revealed that Kentucky House Speaker Jeff Hoover (R) recently settled a sexual harassment claim made by a female member of his staff.

What an ethically clueless bit of grandstanding from Bevin. The fact that an accusation hasn’t been denied doesn’t make it true. The fact  an out of court settlement was agreed to doesn’t make the accusation true either. Bevin has just painted a target on any official’s back who might have blundered across a line of workplace propriety once, and done so with an employee with an agenda, a grudge, a bill to pay, or the lack of the ethical intelligence to say, “That was wrong, don’t do it again.”

As usual with elected officials, Bevin is playing human pendulum, pronouncing an unfair and unreasonable standard in response to a culture where there previously were few standards at all.

Thought experiment: let’s say the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck revealed itself in the Obama administration, and the uncomfortable woman in this photo…

..goes to Vice President Biden after the shoot and accuses him of sexual harassment, indeed, sexual assault. Uncle Joe apologizes, swears he meant nothing by it, says he always acts like this (because he apparently does), jokes his favorite magician is “David Cop-A-Feel”, just like President George H.W. Bush, but the young woman is adamant. She says she will go to the press and file a lawsuit unless he writes a check. Reluctantly, he does.

Should the Vice-President resign? Or just learn to keep his hands to himself?

2. Sentimentalists and socialists mourning the decline of unions just got a splash of metaphorical ice water in their faces.

After reporters and editors in the combined newsroom of DNAinfo and Gothamist, two of New York City’s leading online news sources, voted to join the Writers Guild of America, the sites’ owner, billionaire Joe Ricketts, announced that both were defunct.

 “DNAinfo is, at the end of the day, a business, and businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure,” he said. Ricketts had lots money in every month of DNAinfo’s existence, while The Village Voice, The Wall Street Journal and The Daily News were also cutting staff and costs. What were his writers and editors thinking? Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/3/17: Democracy Dies In Darkness Edition

GOOD MORNING!

1 Related to the previous post is the fact that the President of the United States should not be recommending the death penalty for anyone before they are tried and fund guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, even vile terrorists who attack and kill children. Yet President Trump did this in his usual impulsive, infuriating fashion. It is not the first time he’s crossed this separation of powers line, either: his comments also caused problems in the prosecution of deserter Bowe Bergdahl,

The gratuitous interference with the justice system by premature pronouncements of guilt and deserved execution serve no purpose; the President is just grandstanding. President Obama made premature  comments on unresolved legal matters several times too; he did it more articulately, of course, but he still did it, and he’s a lawyer. Is this particularly stupid conduct “Presidential” now?

2. Speaking of the concept of presumed innocent until proven guilty: I wonder if there has ever been anything in U.S. history as widespread, unfair, and vicious as the assumption by so many in the public and the news media that the President of the United States engaged in criminal acts to steal an election—without any evidence whatsoever. It is like a mass delusion, and all, as far as I can see, because of three factors: past business dealings with Russian entities (which is not illegal) by many of Trump’s associates; Trump’s Trumpish and obviously facetious call on the campaign trail for Russia to reveal Hillary’s (illegally) spoliated emails, and the accusation from Clinton and others that Russia’s interference—you know, with brilliant, persuasive internet ads—explained Hillary Clinton’s loss and made Trump’s election “illegitimate.”

I had another conversation with a friend about this yesterday. He’s just certain that Trump did something illegal. What? He doesn’t know, but he’s sure. Why is he sure? because it’s Trump, that’s why, and because my friend still can’t believe that the man could have been elected without some kind of conspiracy. It’s stunning, and the news media is fanning these flames of delusion. Here’s a post on the Daily Beast; the title: “The Rise of George Papadopoulos, a Trump Adviser Who May Kill Trump’s Presidency.”

The title is blatantly dishonest ckickbait: I clicked. It’s out there for people like my Trump-Hating, Trump-Fearing friend, who reads this and thinks, “Yippee! My wait will soon be over!” Would you like to guess at how much factual support is revealed for the conclusion that Papadopoulos “may kill Trump’s Presidency’? None. Absolutely none. An equally accurate headline would have been, “The Rise of George Papadopoulos, a Trump Adviser Who May Eat a Honda,” or “The Rise of George Papadopoulos, a Trump Adviser Who Could Be  A Concert Cellist If He Practiced Really Hard.”

This is unethical, but it’s also nuts.

3. According to Newsbusters, who obsesses over such things,  neither ABC, CBS, nor NBC covered Donna Brazile’s explosive accusation yesterday that Hillary Clinton and her campaign bought the Democratic National Committee and rigged the nomination process. There is no excuse for this; it is a dereliction of journalism ethics and the profession’s duty to the public. There is also no benign explanation for it. It was obviously the top story of the day, and one with great national and civic significance. Newsbuster’s typical assessment:

“The reason the networks wanted to keep Brazile’s findings secret was simple: They didn’t want to ruin their narrative that Clinton was a pure angel who was a victim of Donald Trump and Russian collusion”

That seems harsh, but it’s not unfair. What other explanation is there? They just somehow never got the memo? They really believed that more coverage about how three Mueller indictments unrelated to illegal Russian contacts by the Trump campaign mean there were illegal contacts with Russia by the Trump campaign?  They have decided to prove, once and for all, that the news media is totally corrupt and biased? Hillary Clinton has bought the networks too?  What then?

4. I have to admit: this makes me angry, and it’s pretty unusual for ethics stories to make me angry. I’m not angry at the networks—disgusted, yes; saddened that our democracy, which can only be healthy with objective, competent journalism informing the public, is endangered, but not angry. Not after all this time: it was clear beyond debate that journalism had become largely partisan Democratic Party and progressive propaganda at least by the 2008 election. I’ve been documenting it, as have others. It’s not my imagination. Yet regular commenters on this blog, people of intelligence and (usually) honesty and perception, have protested that this just isn’t true, that the problem is MY bias.

There have been so many smoking guns that show the news media’s flagrant bias and news manipulation that if you gathered them all you could film Stephen King’s “The Mist” without any dry ice, but these people keep denying it.  PBS allowing Gwen Ifill to moderate the 2008 VP debate while she had a book at the publishers celebrating the election of Barack Obama?  Conflict of interest? What conflict of interest? CNBC’s prosecutorial GOP debate moderation? Eh, it wasn’t so bad, and besides, those bastards deserved it. Blaming the Tuscon shootings on Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh? OK, the media got carried away, and what about all those guns? The Boston Globe’s fake news front page about the dystopian hell of a Trump Presidency? Oh, it was just a joke! Newsweek sending out an edition announcing that Hillary was elected? Anyone can make a mistake! The New York Times announcing that it was now its duty to defeat Donald Trump? Well, he’s a special case! News anchors looking, sounding and acting as if their parents had just died of Ebola while announcing the 2016 election results? Come on! They’re only human!

CNN’s April Ryan screaming, “Is slavery wrong? Sarah, is slavery wrong? Does this administration think that slavery was wrong?” at Sarah Huckabee Sanders on live TV…the nearly total embargo on the Madeleine Leader story–still!—in the non-conservative media…there are hundreds and hundreds—thousands—of equally damning examples, and yet progressives and Democrats who I—we, all of us— should be able to trust as responsible citizens, Americans and ethical human beings  continue to refuse to say, “OK, I agree, this is a catastrophe, and we have to do something about it.”  And because they won’t, and don’t have the integrity to do it, the news media feels vindicated and empowered to continue spinning, lying, manipulating and refusing to practice honest journalism, as responsible citizen civic participation becomes literally impossible.

Yes. It ticks me off, and it ought to tick off everyone. And the fact that it doesn’t also ticks me off.

5. I’m going to say it: every American, liberal, conservative, moderate, should fall on their knees and thank the ghost of that creep Roger Ailes for Fox News.

Yes, it’s a sexist, misogynist, sloppy news network, and yes it employs shameless hacks like Sean Hannity, and yes “Fox and Friends’ is the worst TV abomination since “My Mother The Car,” and yes yes yes its Republican bias is persistent and palpable, and yes I’m still boycotting it as I have for almost two years. Nevertheless, if it were not for Fox, many genuine, imprortant stories the rest of the news media didn’t want the public to know about would have been successfully buried. That was the original justification for the establishment of Fox News, and it outweighs all the other flaws and garbage. Democracy DOES die in darkness, as the Washington Post, so often a purveyor of darkness in recent years, has the chutzpah to say, and without Fox it would be a whole lot darker than it is.

The Democrats, Hillary, And The Unforgivable Donna Brazile

Ugh. But we knew that.

In a piece authored by Donna Brazile and published on Politico, the Democratic operative, conflicted CNN and ABC political analyst, Hillary Clinton debate question supplier and cheat, and former chair of the Democratic National Committee makes numerous sensational allegations about the corruption of her party, her party’s 2016 Presidential candidate, and the nomination process. I don’t mention Brazile’s various anticredentials that mark her as a denizen of the very bottom of the political slime barrel to discredit her revelations, which seem, based on what we already know, mostly plausible. No, I do it it to put Brazile in perspective, and to provoke consideration of what this perspective tells us.

She is spectacularly unethical, unprincipled and untrustworthy, and this is just another chapter in her disgusting saga. Yet two news networks have, for decades, presented her to its viewers as an honest, objective analyst to help them understand their government.

Among the headline-sparking claims in the Politico article:

My predecessor, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, had not been the most active chair in fundraising at a time when President Barack Obama’s neglect had left the party in significant debt.

Debbie was also a serial liar and an apparent idiot. What kind of party would leave itself under the leadership of such an individual?

Officials from Hillary’s campaign had taken a look at the DNC’s books. Obama left the party $24 million in debt—$15 million in bank debt and more than $8 million owed to vendors after the 2012 campaign—and had been paying that off very slowly. Obama’s campaign was not scheduled to pay it off until 2016. Hillary for America (the campaign) and the Hillary Victory Fund (its joint fundraising vehicle with the DNC) had taken care of 80 percent of the remaining debt in 2016, about $10 million, and had placed the party on an allowance.

In other words, Hillary bought the party mechanism, which became a sham.

Debbie was not a good manager. She hadn’t been very interested in controlling the party—she let Clinton’s headquarters in Brooklyn do as it desired so she didn’t have to inform the party officers how bad the situation was.

Ethics Alarms had several posts raising the issue of the DNC’s unethical efforts to rig the nomination for Clinton, and pointing out Wasserman Schultz’s obviously disingenuous denials.

[Gary Gensler, the chief financial officer of Hillary’s campaign] described the party as fully under the control of Hillary’s campaign, which seemed to confirm the suspicions of the Bernie camp. The campaign had the DNC on life support, giving it money every month to meet its basic expenses, while the campaign was using the party as a fund-raising clearinghouse.

“Wait,” I said. “That victory fund was supposed to be for whoever was the nominee, and the state party races. You’re telling me that Hillary has been controlling it since before she got the nomination?”

Gary said the campaign had to do it or the party would collapse.

“That was the deal that Robby struck with Debbie,” he explained, referring to campaign manager Robby Mook. “It was to sustain the DNC. We sent the party nearly $20 million from September until the convention, and more to prepare for the election.”

My ultimate decision that I could not vote for Hillary Clinton was rooted in the emerging evidence that the Democratic Party she led was (and is)  hostile to a fair and open democratic process. One of those pieces of evidence was Brazile misusing her CNN position to surreptitiously help Hillary.

This victory fund agreement, however, had been signed in August 2015, just four months after Hillary announced her candidacy and nearly a year before she officially had the nomination.

That sham I just referred to was put in place more than a year before the election.

By September 7, the day I called Bernie, I had found my proof and it broke my heart.

Yes, two months before the election (at least), Donna Brazile knew that she was part of a fraud on the American people and a plot to undermine our democratic institutions.

I urged Bernie to work as hard as he could to bring his supporters into the fold with Hillary, and to campaign with all the heart and hope he could muster. He might find some of her positions too centrist, and her coziness with the financial elites distasteful, but he knew and I knew that the alternative was a person who would put the very future of the country in peril. I knew he heard me. I knew he agreed with me, but I never in my life had felt so tiny and powerless as I did making that call.

Thus Bernie endorsed and became part of the lie. Nice.

When I hung up the call to Bernie, I started to cry, not out of guilt, but out of anger. We would go forward. We had to.

Awww… Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/13/17: All Aboard The Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck!

Good Morning, Hollywood!

I’m sorry to bombard you with this ugly topic again first thing, but I’d like to stop having to think about it as soon as possible.

1 My sister, a committed Democrat who naturally prefers that damning stories about her favorite politicians go down the memory hole as soon as possible, complained yesterday that she didn’t understand why Harvey’s demise was such a long-running story. He’s a pig, we’ve seen it before, he’s fired, big deal, she protested. There are more important things going on.

There are undoubtedly more important things going on, but from an ethics perspective, the importance of the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck and who boards it (and who has been riding it for decades) is as significant and chock full of lessons as a story can get. The Penn State-Jerry Sandusky-Joe Paterno scandal was important for some of the same reasons. It exposed the tendency of organizations to become corrupted when non-ethical considerations, usually money, freeze the clappers on multiple ethics alarms. It showed how “virtuous” people with power and influence can betray their values, admirers and supporters in the pursuit of personal or organizational goals. It showed how even usually complacent and biased journalists will suddenly become responsible when the details are juicy enough…and how some won’t. The Sandusky saga also was one more clue to how inherently warped an entire industry’s culture—in that case, big time college football—was (and is).

The Weinstein Train Wreck is worse, however, and also more significant. Weinstein is typical—extreme, perhaps, but typical—of  a popular and glamorous industry that has abused power to debase and exploit women for a century. The trade-offs and incentives turned many of the abused women into accessories of future crimes against other women, while some women, too powerful to have to fear the consequences of doing the obviously right thing, chose to protect the community and the industry rather than human beings. That they, and complicit men in the industry as well, did this while spending the past six years making angry public speeches about the sexist and misogynist attitude of Republicans flagged the kind of hypocrisy that demands substantive consequences.

It also demands reform. Anyone who  thinks Hollywood is going to retire the casting couch because of one especially disgusting and prolific predator is kidding themselves. Sexual harassment and gender discrimination is rampant at every level of the performing arts, from high school theater up through Broadway, and on to Hollywood. I question whether that culture will ever change significantly. At least this episode might educate the public that if they take moral grandstanding from the likes of John Legend, Meryl Streep and Jimmy Kimmel seriously, they are asking to be betrayed and disillusioned.

And that doesn’t even reach the political hypocrisy exhibited by the Democratic Party and progressives, which embraced and celebrated a sexual predator from Hollywood because he gave them money, just as they have been giving a sexual predator from Arkansas the King’s Pass on similar conduct because he gave them power. As long as the only voices calling attention to this are from the Right,  count on progressives to ignore or minimize the issue. After all, conservatives and Republicans accepted the devil’s bargain in allying themselves with Roger Ailes. Still, the criticism of the party and predator enablers like Hillary Clinton needs to come from the Left to do any lasting good. So far there has been some criticism from that direction, but not nearly enough.

2. Weinstein’s contract with The Weinstein Company  included a clause that allowed  his sexual harassment as long as he paid the costs of settlements out of his own pocket, TMZ reported yesterday. So much for the sham posture that the company was shocked and disgusted at his conduct. Poor Donna Brazile, desperately trying to join the futile virtue signalling by hypocrites who have been cheering on Hillary and her husband for decades, tweeted her admiration for the TWC board thusly

…only to have to delete the tweet later. Did Donna really believe that the TWC board, including Harvey’s brother, didn’t know what Weinstein was doing? Is she that stupid?

3. A lot of contentious debate on this topic at Ethics Alarms has arisen regarding the complicity and obligations of various Hollywood actresses. There are different categories, and conflating them only leads to confusion. Here are the categories and subcategories:

A. The powerless victims of harassment These are the young, aspiring actresses who were propositioned or assaulted by Weinstein, and convinced, rightly or not, that they would never have a chance if they complained

These are the equivalents of Bill Cosby’s victims, who only came forward after their abuser was wounded and vulnerable.

A 1. Powerless victims who accepted cash settlements. This means that since other remedies were unavailable to them, they at least triggered some kind of punishment and compensation. This required, however, allowing future victims to go unwarned, since the pay-offs were accompanied by confidentiality agreements.

B. Victims who were not powerless, due to connections in the industry. I place actresses like Ashley Judd, Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow in this category.

C. Victims who, over time, became powerful, wealthy, popular and influential enough that they could have exposed Weinstein, if they chose, but didn’t.

C 1 Victims who received cash settlements when powerless but whose careers  progressed to the point that they could forfeit the cash and accept any legal consequences of breaking the contractual agreements.

D. Rape victims. Sexual harassment is a civil offense; rape is a crime. Many rapes can be substantiated by medical examinations, and rapists are dangerous. Accepting a cash settlement for not reporting one’s rape when the rape could have been substantiated—this is what Rose McGowan did—is a breach of multiple civic duties.

E. Women in the industry who became aware of Weinstein’s conduct and did nothing about it.

F. Women in the industry who became aware of Weinstein’s conduct,  did nothing about it, and continued to praise him in public.

G. Actresses who accepted Weinstein’s proffered bargain, and exchanged sexual favors for roles and contracts, turning what is laughably regarded a a meritocracy into sexual commerce. We don’t know who these women are, but it strains credulity to think there were none.

Of course, many male Hollywood figures also fall into categories E and F.

Categories C, EF and G are the most unethical categories. D is problematic as well.

4. Jane Fonda revealed to Christiane Amanpour that she is in category E. She “found out about Harvey about a year ago,” said the certified Hollywood royalty, outspoken feminist and progressive champion.  “I’m ashamed that I didn’t say anything right then,” Fonda said. 

Well, that’s nice. As long as she is ashamed.

We can proclaim our principles and values all our lives, but if we don’t act according to them when the lives of others are at stake, all of what went before is meaningless. How many women suffered at Weinstein’s hands after Jane knew? Continue reading