Observations On The Times Review Of “Apropos Of Nothing”

Woody Allen in “Manhattan” with a 16-year-old Mariel Hemingway (playing a 17-year-old)

To be clear, I haven’t read Woody Allen’s autobiography, “Apropos of Nothing,” and I won’t. I found myself unable to endure anything related to Allen after he married his own quasi-daughter following a sexual affair with her while they were both living with Mia Farrow, Allen as her supposed lover and domestic partner, Sun-Yi Previn as her adopted child. While I maintain that the works of artists should be kept separate from the character flaws and misdeeds of their creators, that’s an intellectual and ethical position, not an emotional and gastrointestinal one. The latter are non-ethical considerations, but that doesn’t mean I can ignore them.

If I were a professional book reviewer, however, I would be forced to put my revulsion aside, or refuse the assignment of rendering a verdict on “Apropos of Nothing.” It is undeniable that the New York Times book reviewer, Dwight Garner, couldn’t or wouldn’t do that. To be fair, the Times no longer enforces the core journalism ethics principle that journalists shouldn’t allow personal biases to infect their reporting, but that is an explanation, not a defense. Some observations: Continue reading

Stop Making Me Defend Woody Allen! And Another Victory For The Illiberal Mob…

This blog certainly forces me to defend some  unsavory characters.

Woody Allen is one among the small group of artists who I find so personally repellent that I can’t enjoy their work even while recognizing and appreciating its excellence. That does not mean, however, thatAllen’s work is not important nor that his life and career lack cultural significance. As I wrote here,

“I found myself unable to enjoy any of Allen’s films after he cheated on his de facto wife with his de facto daughter. I also don’t believe in enriching, even indirectly, horrible people in their professional endeavors if I can conveniently avoid it.”

That, however, is a personal choice that I would never impose on others, nor on the arbiters and trustees of culture, as it would be unethical to do so. Thus I wrote, just a few days ago, of Ronin Farrow’s demand that his publishers refuse to hand Allen’s memoirs because he believes his sister’s account that Allen sexually abused her when she was a child,

“I yield to no one in my contempt for Woody Allen as a human being, but he is a major figure in film and cultural history, and his memoirs are of obvious value and interest. Farrow’s publisher’s obligation is to readers and stockholders, not the sensibilities of one author.”

Now we learn that the publishers have been intimidated into dropping Allen’s book after all:

Hachette Book Group on Friday dropped its plans to publish Woody Allen’s autobiography and said it would return all rights to the author, a day after its employees protested its deal with the filmmaker“The decision to cancel Mr. Allen’s book was a difficult one,” a spokeswoman for the publisher said in a statement. “We take our relationships with authors very seriously, and do not cancel books lightly. We have published and will continue to publish many challenging books. As publishers, we make sure every day in our work that different voices and conflicting points of views can be heard.”

But she added that Hachette executives had discussed the matter with employees and, “after listening, we came to the conclusion that moving forward with publication would not be feasible for HBG.”

There are those pesky rationalizations again! Oh, it’s a hard decision, so that excuses it from being a bad decision. This is 19 B. Murkowski’s Lament, or “It was a difficult decision” again, which I reviewed yesterday. Next, we get this nauseating sequence, which perfectly embodies 64, Yoo’s Rationalization, or “It isn’t what it is!”

The statement says that “We have published and will continue to publish many challenging books. As publishers, we make sure every day in our work that different voices and conflicting points of views can be heard,’ and follows it up by saying that it will not publish this “challenging book” and thus this different voice and conflicting point of view  will not be heard. Seldom does such complete hypocrisy define itself in the span of so few sentences.

The “difficult” decision that contradicts the company’s stated values results from nothing better than cowardly capitulating to a mob carrying out the goals of cancel culture. In this case, those goals include infringing on free speech and the public’s right to know, if they want to know. Our democratic ideals and the principles enunciated in the Bill of Rights have no chance of surviving if those who own and run companies like Hachette emulate the spineless administrators of educational institutions and dissolve into pools of passive submission every time holding to those ideals and principles threatens to entail a risk of sacrifice or adverse consequences. Continue reading

Poll: “Unafraid and Unashamed”

Artist Julian Raven (that’s him on the right above) wants to force the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery to include his “Unafraid and Unashamed,” which you can see above. On the artist’s website  can be found links to his Supreme Court petition and  other documents related to his Free Speech suit “to force the gallery to add a portrait of President Trump to its collection of images of people of remarkable character and achievement.” Raven notes that the gallery has displayed artwork from Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign since 2009, and in his 39-page filing with SCOTUS, argues that gallery’s refusal to hang his portrait is based on an anti-Trump bias.

Raven’s crusade has been treated as an oddball saga and a joke, as in a  profile in the Washingtonian Magazine.

Some conservative writers are taking his cause seriously, however. Here’s Lawrence Jarvik:

Raven’s challenge dramatizes how national cultural institutions established to serve all the American people, such as the Smithsonian, have been hijacked by dangerously partisan factions which seek to exclude, marginalize and erase  “Others.”

As his brief demonstrates, the Smithsonian had accepted campaign posters for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, in addition to huge oversized paintings of Bill Clinton, Barack and Michelle Obama. It had a special exhibition for the Obama Inauguration, and maintains a sort of shrine to the Obamas to this day. 

Raven’s case likewise provides evidence that decision-making at the Smithsonian is arbitrary and unfair. He was never provided a written decision on his application. Instead, he received only a phone call from the director, which from his account sounded conclusory, partisan, and unfair.

As he points out, as an American citizen—Raven is entitled to due process. Yet, to this date, he has no idea as to how his work was evaluated, nor what rubric was applied to his submission…versus that used for pictures of Obamas or Clintons.

Although “Unafraid and Unashamed” may not be the most beautiful portrait ever painted, Raven’s legal brief makes clear that the official criterion for display by the National Portrait Gallery is historical significance. No reasonable person could deny that Donald Trump’s election in 2016 had historical significance.

That’s true. It is also likely, certain, even, that the selection criteria used at the Smithsonian, as in every other art museum, is subjective and thus certain to be biased in one respect or another. Since the question involves pro-Trump art, and it would be hard to find an artist or significant arbiter of the arts in Washington, D.C. or anywhere else who doesn’t loathe President Trump, the issue of bias is not an insignificant one. Continue reading

Will The Democrats Really Let Someone As Obviously Addled As Joe Biden Be Their Nominee?

Doing so is per se irresponsible and incompetent.

Before someone tries to play “whataboutTrump” with me, I would remind him, her or it  that in 2016 I wrote that the Republicans had an obligation to refuse to nominate Donald Trump, having failed their obligation not to let him run in the primaries. I was right then, despite the fact that nominating Trump ended up well for the  party, and so far, on balance, for the country, especially when one considers what the Democrats have become. I’m also right about Biden now. If the Democrats expect to catch lightning in a shot glass like the GOP, they are taking a really reckless gamble.

Let’s look at what old Joe said just over the last few days…

  • During a December 29 campaign even in Peterborough, New Hampshire,  Biden completed an attendees question “If we don’t stop using fossil fuels…” with “We’re all dead!”

Now, what is that? Deliberate hyperbole? Outrageous fear-mongering?  Complete ignorance? Nobody has suggested that “we’re all dead” even under the most extreme projections of climate change doom. My guess is that Joe knows nothing about climate change, and that he’s just pandering to the substantial climate change nut-case component of the increasingly hysterical Democratic base. But he could be so stupid that he really believes this.

In addition to the undeniable fact that this is exactly the kind of statement that the mainstream media  pillories Donald Trump for even when it’s clear  s clear can be that he’s exaggerating, Biden’s over-the-top rhetoric feeds the rising Democratic drift toward totalitarianism. If we’re all going to die, then a dictatorship can be justified as a last resort. Continue reading

It Is With Great Reluctance That Ethics Alarms Concludes That As Generally Repugnant And Vulgar The Term “Asshole” Is, Mayor Pete Buttigieg Is One.

If this was just disgraceful pandering, grandstanding, and shameless virtue-signaling, he would only  have proven himself to be a jerk—a big jerk, to be sure,  but still just a jerk. But it is far more.

The new fad contender for the Democratic Presidential nomination is returning thousands of dollars in donations because they came from two lawyers who had the audacity to represent Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh as he attempted to defend himself against the contrived  ambush accusation of a sex crime, made in a Congressional hearing  on national television, a ploy designed to destroy his reputation. Buttigieg’s campaign said that it will not accept funds from people who helped secure the justice’s seat on the Supreme Court. You know. Dirty money.

Buttigieg’s campaign had received $7,200 from Alexandra Walsh, and $2,800 from Beth Wilkinson, Walsh’s law partner. Both represented Kavanaugh during his Senate confirmation ordeal. As I have vowed to point out every time some ignoramus asserts that lawyesr must be punished for the character, conduct or beliefs of the clients they represent and are responsible or culpable in any way for what those clients have said or done (or NOT done), it is a core and essential principle of our legal system that such an assumption is not only wrong but dangerous. It threatens the right of every citizen to receive competent legal representation and access to our laws and other rights.

Here, once again, is my favorite ethics rule, from the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct:

(b) A lawyer’s representation of a client, including representation by appointment, does not constitute an endorsement of the client’s political, economic, social or moral views or activities.

Whether the target is Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Elizabeth Warren, Harvey Weinstein’s defense attorneys (also here), Larry Tribe, Gitmo defense lawyers, or Clarence Darrow, Johnny Cochran, Leslie Abramson and other defense lawyers who defend murderers and worse, the false claim that lawyers who take on unpopular, repulsive or guilty clients have done anything less than protected  the Bill of Rights and the rule of law is either rank ignorance or a deliberate effort to reduce the civic literacy of the public.

Buttigieg isn’t a lawyer, but he is very well educated and has a reasonable claim to brilliance.  Thus he knows and understands what lawyers do, but is acting as if he does not, intentionally making the public stupid (or keeping it conveniently as stupid as it already is ) for his own benefit.

Despicable.

But that’s not all. Continue reading

Sentencing Ethics: The Perplexing Relevance Of “Acquitted Conduct”

Senators Dick Durbin (D–Ill.) and Chuck Grassley (R–Iowa) introduced a bill this week that if passed and signed into law would  prohibit the use of so-called “acquitted conduct” at sentencing. What is acquitted conduct, you might ask? It is charges for which a defendant has been found not guilty that a sentencing judge nonetheless considers when sentencing that defendant for the crimes the jury says they did commit. This practice give prosecutors a special edge. Knowing that a judge may consider at sentencing every offense the prosecutor charges, a prosecutor can charge a defendant with an offense he knows he can prove beyond a reasonable doubt, and then charge more serious offenses that he probably can’t  prove. Even if jurors only reach a guilty verdict on the charges proved beyond a reasonable doubt, and refuse to convict on other charges, a judge can, and often does takes all the charges into consideration at sentencing.

“If any American is acquitted of charges by a jury of their peers, then some sentencing judge shouldn’t be able to find them guilty anyway and add to their punishment,” Grassley said in a statement released this week. “That’s not acceptable and it’s not American.” Under the law he is proposing with Senator Durbin, if a prosecutor charges you with five crimes, and the jury finds you not guilty of four of them, the judge who then sentences you should be able to consider only offense you were found guilty of.

What’s going on here? It is simply that the Federal sentencing rules currently allow a judge to consider crimes he or she believes the defendant is guilty of committing regardless of what the jury decided, just as a judge can take other factors into consideration. In such cases, a judge may use a preponderance of the evidence standard, not the criminal law standard of  beyond a reasonable doubt, to conclude that the jury was wrong and that a sentence should reflect conduct other than what the prosecution was able to prove to the jury’s satisfaction. Continue reading

High Noon Ethics Warm-Up, 9/5/2019: Arggh!…Yay!…Yechhh!…Hmmm…and Good!

Mornin’!

1. More historical ignorance to make you suicidal: Here’s Anna L.’s review of her visit to the Gettysburg Battlefield on the park’s Yelp page:

Boooorrrringggg. First off, it was nothing like the movie. All I saw were a bunch of fields and rocks. All the tourist shops, bars, and hotels in the area kept saying how I should check this place out. I kept getting confused with all of the plaques and monuments. Who was fighting who, I have no idea. The abandoned cannons looked tacky. I give this one star for the overweight character actor in the square, but that’s about it. Yaaawnnn.

I don’t even want to think about the political positions and favored candidates of an American this…this…I can’t even think of a good description. “It was nothing like the movie”????? And how many people like her are out there, rotting our culture and values from within?

Arrgh.

2. It’s about time. wouldn’t you agree? I’m amazed this took so long. Starting next year, BMC Toys in Scranton will begin adding  little green  Army women to the little green Army men that are such a standard kids’ toy. Since they debuted in 1950s, none of the iconic toy’s  manufacturers  have crossed the gender line. BMC is one of the  ew producers of plastic soldiers left in his country, and will soon be offering these:

Yay! Continue reading