Now THAT’S A Norm Presidents Shouldn’t Mess With…

Apparently President Trump lobbied Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to bar two of the President’s least favorite members of Congress, Representatives Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota,  from entering Israel for official visits. Israel then reversed an earlier  decision to admit the two Muslim Democrats, both supporters of the international Israel boycott movement.

From the Times:

An Israeli official close to the prime minister’s office said on Thursday that a call came from the Trump administration as recently as this week pressing Mr. Netanyahu to bar the congresswomen. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss delicate information, said the prime minister found himself in a “lose lose” situation, having to choose between upsetting Mr. Trump or the Democrats.

Of interest but irrelevant to the ethics issue is this morning’s news that Tlaib is now being allowed to enter Israel on humanitarian grounds in order to visit her 90-year-old grandmother, provided the Congresswoman pledges  “not to  promote boycotts” while in the country. That’s nice. But it doesn’t change the analysis of what Trump did.

One of the “Big Lie” attacks (I haven’t yet added this one to the Ethics Alarms Big Lie Directory, but it will be #6) on President Trump, spurred by partisan academics and gullibly swallowed whole by history-challenged members of the public, has been that this President uniquely ignores or violates so-called “democratic norms,” meaning that he frequently takes actions that may be within his power, but that traditions, precedent and the practices of his predecessors have established as un-Presidential or even taboo. For the most part, this is contrived criticism representing a double standard and requiring historical amnesia. Presidents break norms, and the stronger ones break them frequently. Democrats attempting to equate  breaking precedents as the equivalent of “high crimes and misdemeanors” are showing their hand: this complaint is just one more unethical justification for a “resistance” coup.

The fact that there is nothing automatically wrong with breaking norms does not mean that all norms should be breached, or that breaching a particular norm is wise, responsible, or ethical. A President enlisting a foreign ally to take negative action against a member of Congress is one norm that shouldn’t be violated.

The action is unethical by any ethical standards. From a Golden Rule standpoint, no President would tolerate members of Congress lobbying foreign governments to take adverse action against him, though I have little doubt that this has been attempted by legislators in the past. Kant’s Rule of Universality would reject the practice as a new norm, and from a utilitarian standpoint, it’s hard to see how such conduct by a President would result on balance in more beneficial consequences than negative ones. Continue reading

OK, Facebook Friends, Let’s Pretend It Isn’t Kavanaugh…Let’s Pretend It’s ME.

I’ve had this post composed in my head for some time, and have hesitated to complete it. I really don’t like upsetting people I care about, much as some might think otherwise.

However, there has been such escalating fanaticism on Facebook (and elsewhere, of course), ringing through the echo chamber, about how Dr. Ford must be “believed” and how the judge is a “serial rapist,” I have to ask: would you all treat me this way? Would you react to seeing my career and reputation derailed by the sudden appearance of a high school acquaintance who announces that she has only recently come to realize that I had sexually assaulted her at a party? After hearing my denials, would you decided to determine that her account, with no verification by any witnesses, with the large amount of time past and with absolutely nothing in my record, professional or private life, to suggest any such proclivities, should be sufficient to have me labelled as untrustworthy?

Don’t resort to the “but he’s going to sit on the Supreme Court” trick. I’m a professional ethicist: an accusation that is widely metastasized into doubts about my character, including using it to tar me a liar, would be just as ruinous to me as the late hit on Kavanaugh is disastrous to him. There is no “well, this is wrong UNLESS its a Supreme Court nominee” principle: that’s a pure rationalization. No, if the Ford accusation, with all of its flaws, its basis in fading and rediscovered memories, the fact that it involved juveniles, all of that, and the objective professional observations by Rachel Mitchell that found several reasons why Ford’s testimony was incredible, is still enough to allow you to condemn Judge Kavanaugh, then it must be enough for you to condemn me too.

But I’ll make it easier for you: let’s say its me that is the current Supreme Court nominee, and me that your favorite party has condemned as a threat to civilization. (And lets assume that you haven’t read any of my judicial decisions either.) Continue reading

Your Tuesday Evening Brett Kavanaugh Nomination Ethics Train Wreck Report

I. Let’s give a whole car to USC.

Nearly 100 students  attended a rally at noon on Monday demanding a tenured professor be fired after he sent a reply-all email last Thursday to the student body noting that “accusers sometimes lie.”

Professor James Moore, a tenured professor at the University of Southern California, replied to a campus wide email fatuously demanding that students  “Believe Survivors” on the day of Christine Ford’s testimony with a reply-all message that…

“If the day comes you are accused of some crime or tort of which you are not guilty, and you find your peers automatically believing your accuser, I expect you find yourself a stronger proponent of due process than you are now.”

For a teacher, this was a responsible and important point to make. It is also undeniable, except in dishonesty, ignorance and hysteria. So what was the campus response?  Hundreds of  emails from “concerned” students and alumni condemning the engineering professor. USC students Audrey Mechling and Joelle Montier  organized a Facebook rally against him, entitled “Times Up for James Moore.” Nearly 100 students gathered to shout, “Times Up, No Moore!” The crowd then paraded its bias and ignorance, and marched  to the office of Dean Jack Knott. He, of course…

...sided with the protesters...

“What [Professor Moore] sent was extremely inappropriate, hurtful, insensitive. We are going to try to do everything we can to try to create a better school, to educate the faculty,” said Dean Knott to the crowd. “This is going to be a multi-pronged effort. We are going to have a faculty meeting later this week around implicit bias, sensitivity towards [sexual assault]….”

That’s academia today! At Georgetown, a professor tweets that white males should be killed and castrated, and the administrators shrug and say she has a right to her opinion. AT USC, a professor corrects  indefensible cant that rejects basic ethical and judicial principles, and a dean says that he must be punished.

People actually pay to send their children to be warped by these places.

II. Let’s always believe survivors who know how to beat lie detectors.

The fact that Dr. Ford had been declared “truthful” in her polygraph test was always one of the worst reasons to believe her, but now that test throws legitimate suspicion on her account. The machines are notoriously unreliable, but the argument was that the fact that Ford was eager to take the test indicated her confidence in her account. Today, Fox News received this letter from a man who claims to be Ford’s ex-boyfriend:

Of course, it could be completely innocent that a woman who suddenly dredged up a forgotten alleged incident just in time to use it to derail the confirmation of a SCOTUS nominee her party opposes and submitted to a lie detector test as evidence of her veracity considered herself an expert on beating lie detector tests.

III. Ethics Hero meets Ethics Dunce Continue reading

What Is Fairness, Justice And Proportion For Aaron Schlossberg?

“He’s a jerk. Let’s squash him like a bug…”

Surely by now you know of Aaron Schlossberg, the latest cultural villain.

He was the star and author of a bizarre incident at a restaurant in Manhattan. Schlossberg, who is a midtown Manhattan lawyer, freaked out beyond all reason when a customer began conversing in Spanish with employees at the restaurant. “Your staff is speaking Spanish to customers when they should be speaking English,” he protested. “Every person I listen to — he spoke it, he spoke it, she’s speaking it. This is America! “My guess is they’re not documented, so my next call is to ICE to have each one of them kicked out of my country.If they have the balls to come here and live off of my money — I pay for their welfare, I pay for their ability to be here — the least they can do is speak English…I’m calling ICE.”

Naturally, this was captured on a phone video. Naturally, it was posted to social media. Once upon a time a person could behave like a jackass and only have the immediate witnesses to his conduct know about it. No more. Now, thanks to omnipresent cell phones, everyone is under more or less constant surveillance, and a bad moment, a sudden outburst or an ill-considered word can and will be wielded by steely-eyed social justice enforcers to destroy a miscreant’s life to the maximum extent possible.

Is that the kind of society you want to live in? It would be wise to consider the fate of Aaron Schlossberg.

Somehow his name became known. The news media picked up his tantrum: the Daily News put it on its front page! The New York Post reported that he has been evicted from his office by Corporate Suites, the company that held his law office lease.  His firm’s associate quit, with a nice virtue-signaling tweet. A petition demanding that he be disbarred has more than 10,000 signatures, and there is a GoFundMe effort to a  hire a mariachi band to follow him around New York.

That’s kind of funny, I have to admit. Continue reading

2017 Oscar Ethics Post Mortem

There were more ethics-related events and issues at the last night’s Academy Awards than usual, and that’s an understatement;

1. Jimmy Kimmel, the Oscars’ designated Johnny Carson this time around, automatically gave the ceremonies the stench of ethics blindness by his very presence. Kimmel, as this site has documented, delights in provoking parents to be cruel to their young children so he can present YouTube videos of the kids’ despair for his audience’s amusement. Kimmel, of course, being bereft of shame or decency, was the perfect choice to execute the Academy’s second most important mission of the night, which was insulting the President of the United States in an international broadcast. He did not fail his dark masters. One well-publicized “quip”:

“Maybe this is not a popular thing to say, but I want to say thank you to President Trump. Remember last year when it seemed like the Oscars were racist? That’s gone, thanks to him.”

Actually, the Oscars are racist, or at least racially biased, as we shall see, and there is proof. I’d like Jimmy to show me the evidence that the President is racist, however, other than the “resistance” talking points he gets in his e-mail.

2. More Kimmel: in a typical Kimmel “human beings are just props to me!” bit, he arranged for a group of unsuspecting tourists to be taken on a Hollywood bus tour that ended up at the Oscars.  The group was escorted through the back doors of the Kodak Theater with no idea what was in store, as  Kimmel had the house lights turned down. When the tourists—Awww, ordinary slobs! Look, Meryl! The little people!”—opened the doors to the stage, the lights came up and all the stars shouted, “Mahershala!” The tourists’ shocked, ope mouthed expression were broadcast live to the world, as their Hollywood betters laughed.

This is called exploitation, and using unconsenting human beings as a means to an end.  Jimmy thinks its funny. Kant didn’t. I think it’s sometimes funny, and always unethical. Candid Camera asked for written consent before broadcasting its victims’ amusing reactions to gags like this.

3. Mel Gibson, justly nominated for his direction of “Hacksaw Ridge,” which also was nominated as Best Picture, sat up front. The Daily Beast tweeted “For Shame!” when the film won a statuette for editing, which it deserved. Let’s see: the theory is that the talented film editor should be snubbed for his work because Mel Gibson is an anti-Semite?  Yes, that’s the theory. The Beast’s Amy Zimmerman wrote a pre-Oscar hate piece on Gibson, which really and truly contained these two sentences:

Hacksaw  tells the story of Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector who enlisted as a battlefield medic during World War II. Of course, any drama that Gibson directs pales in comparison to his own behind-the-scenes odyssey: the story of an odious individual who, after years on the outskirts of Hollywood, has somehow managed to fight his way back into the mainstream.

That’s right: Amy Zimmerman thinks that the story of a religious man who volunteered to serve as a combat medic despite refusing to carry a rifle and who saved 76 wounded soldiers by dragging them to safety under enemy fire by lowering them, one by one,  on a rope device he improvised on the spot, thus winning the Medal of Honor, pales in comparison to Mel Gibson’s PR problems.

Have some damn respect for those who did risked their lives incredible things so hacks like you can write garbage like that and be paid for it, you stupid, stupid fool. Continue reading

Acting Ethics: Why We Don’t Want Actors Being Too Picky About Their Roles

FergusonX

In the strange ethics category of “Conduct That Isn’t Exactly Wrong But That Will Have Nothing But Bad Consequences To Society If There Is A  Lot Of It” (CTIEWBTWHNBBCTSITIALOI for short) is actors rejecting roles because they have philosophical or political disagreements with the script.

We’ve had two high profile examples of this occur lately. All we can do is hope that it’s a coincidence. The first was when about a dozen Native American actors, including an adviser on Native American culture, left the set of Adam Sandler’s first original movie with Netflix, “The Ridiculous Six,”a western send-up of “The Magnificent Seven,” claiming some of the film’s content was offensive.

Really? An Adam Sandler movie offensive?

The second and more troubling was in LA,  where five actors quit the cast of the new play “Ferguson,” which consists entirely of dramatizations of the Michael Brown murder grand jury testimony, because the actors apparently felt that it did not appropriately support the “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!” narrative.

That’s really stupid, but I’m not getting into that again.

We don’t see many examples of professional actors doing this for several reasons. One is that they can’t afford to. Acting, except for the top fraction of a per cent, is anything but lucrative; it’s a subsistence level job, redeemable because it is, or can be, art, and tolerable as long as the actor doesn’t have a family to support, or has a trust fund.

The main reason this is unusual, however, is that an actor isn’t responsible for the content of the play, movie or TV show he or she acts in, but only the skill with he or she helps present that content to an audience. Actors—and technical artists like costume and light designers—are the conduits through which a writer’s work of performance art gets to live. They don’t have to like a show, agree with it or understand it, which is a good thing, since many excellent actors don’t have the  education, experience or intellect to understand complex and profound works. As one realistic actor friend once told me, “If we were that smart, we’d be smart enough to be in another profession.” Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Beautiful Young Woman In Georgetown

beautiful-face

Late last night, the previous post regarding the video showing a woman being repeatedly shouted at by rude and intrusive males as she silently walked down New York City streets sparked an ancient memory from my past.

The incident before my career shift into ethics, indeed before I was married. I was in Georgetown on a lovely fall day (like this one), and it had been a lousty week. I was feeling lost and depressed. Suddenly I was aware of the young woman walking slightly ahead of me toward the corner of Wisconsin and M streets, Georgetown Central. She wasn’t merely beautiful, but heart-stoppingly beautiful, the kind of rare combination of perfect genetics aesthetic taste who makes one realize how dishonest Hollywood’s representation of humanity is. Maybe this young woman would have blended into the scenery in Tinseltown, but I doubt it very much. Greek myths described how mortals, if they saw a god or goddess in their true form, would be instantly burned to ash, and that was almost the effect this woman had on me.

Yet she did not have the aura of a star or a model who was aware that she was gorgeous and conscious of her effect on those around her—I have seen that many times. Beautiful people generally know they are beautiful and are used to being treated differently because of it; they sometimes have a “leave me alone” force field around them, and this woman didn’t have that either. For some reason, perhaps because the jolt she had given me renewed my flagging enthusiasm for life in general at that moment—I literally never do this, not before and not since—when we reached the corner together, I turned to her and said, as I recall it,

“Excuse me, I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but your are incredibly lovely, and seeing you today has made me happy, when I was anything but happy before.  I just wanted to say thank you.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz:

Was this wrong?

Continue reading