Tag Archives: “everybody does it”

Unethical (And Stupid) Quote Of The Month: Harvey Weinstein Defense Attorney Benjamin Brafman

“Mr. Weinstein did not invent the casting couch in Hollywood”

—–Benjamin Brafman, Harvey Weinstein’s defense counsel, as Weinstein surrendered to authorities yesterday in Manhattan.

The whole quote, as Brafman addressed reporters:  “My job is not to defend behavior. My job is to defend something that is criminal behavior. Mr. Weinstein did not invent the casting couch in Hollywood. To the extent that there’s bad behavior in that industry, that is not what this is about. Bad behavior is not on trial in this case.”

Good luck with this boob, Harvey. To begin with, his job isn’t to defend any kind of behavior; his job is to defend his client.  The way the English language works is that “defending” criminal behavior means arguing that criminal behavior is just fine, thank you. Defending against charges of criminal behavior, in contrast, means that a lawyer is making a case that there was none. If a lawyer can’t speak with more care and precision than this, when addressing reporters he shouldn’t say anything at all.. He essentially just admitted that his client committed criminal behavior and bad behavior, while also leaving doubt as to whether he understood that criminal behavior was also bad.

That’s just the stupid and incompetent part of the statement. The stupid and unethical part, the Unethical Quote of the Month, is an invitation to play, “Name that rationalization!” What difference does it make whether or not Harvey invented the practice of using power over young women’s careers and aspiration to extort them into being their sex toys? Have you ever heard of a defense attorney arguing to jury, “Come on! My client didn’t invent serial killing! What’s everyone so upset about?”  This is a blatant “Everybody does it” excuse, and an especially offensive one. Weinstein’s lawyer just made his first impression on te public—you never get a second chance to make one, you know—and he presented himself as a man who shrugs off coerced sexual submissiveness in the workplace as just one of those quirky Tinseltown traditions. Continue reading

7 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Quotes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

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

101 Comments

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

Comment Of The Day: “How Many Rationalizations Can You Spot In This Op-Ed?”

In the post, How Many Rationalizations Can You Spot In This Op-Ed?, I challenged readers to read the depressingly meat-headed New York Times op-ed by a defender of Nashville mayor Megan Barry. and challenged them further to identify all of the rationalizations and fallacies it contained. Only one of you took on the challenge in its full, horrible scope, in part because not everyone pays to get past the Times paywall. Fortunately one who did take it on was the newly-minted Michael West, who dissected the essay as if it were a pithed frog.

Here is his Comment of the Day, freeing me from the obligation to post the answers to my question.

Having reviewed the Rationalizations List, here’s my go:

Paragraph 2:
“Along with this confession, the mayor offered the kind of full-throated apology we almost never get from public officials: “I accept full responsibility for the pain I have caused my family and his,” she said. “I knew my actions could cause damage to my office and the ones I loved, but I did it anyway.””

But she doesn’t accept full responsibility. If she did, and clearly her affair led to extreme financial irregularities which amount to defrauding the public, then accepting responsibility probably requires resignation.

Paragraph 3:
“She ended her statement with a pledge: “God will forgive me, but the people of Nashville don’t have to. In the weeks and months to come, I will work hard to earn your forgiveness and earn back your trust.””

I don’t think “God will forgive me” is a rationalization. It may be an actual deeply held belief, but the State of Tennessee is a bit more hard-nosed. At best this is just poll-tested platitude, but at worst, it is meant to convince some people to forgive her also (which makes it a diversion, not a rationalization). Working to earn their forgiveness and trust is an appeal to 21A Ethics Accounting: Criminal’s Redemption. She thinks future “good works” can atone for past sins. They cannot. What atones for past sins is having that sin and its effects blotted out, which in the case of defrauding the public, the only atoning that works is resignation.

Paragraph 4:
“This promise did not seem like an act of damage control. This is the way Megan Barry really talks. The language of full emotional availability is her native tongue.”

Appeal for sympathy, which is the opener for the next string of rationalizations.

Paragraph 5:
“Perhaps that’s why this city loves her. She hugs schoolchildren. She looks genuinely joyful at city parades and festivals. She grieves that too many Nashville teenagers are slain by guns. When Max Barry, her own son and only child, died suddenly last summer, the people of Nashville wept with her. When she spoke openly about the drug addiction that killed him, we marveled at her courage and admired her resolve to bring addiction out of the shadows of shame.”

This is Ethics Accounting again. She’s a really great person…so it’s implied we should overlook this one thing.

Paragraph 6:
“But in a red state like Tennessee, this liberal mayor also has powerful opponents, and they are not idiots. An editorial in the conservative Tennessee Star wasted no time in calling for her resignation: “Barry and the fawning, liberal Nashville media are trying the Clinton defense.””

This is a diversion away from the miscreant by accusing the accusers of bad faith motives. #48 Haters gonna hate. Her critics are ONLY demanding accountability because they want a political advantage or want to win a tactical maneuver. Continue reading

11 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Character, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Leadership

I Know, I Know, But I Swore I Would Never Let A Bad Barry Bonds Defense Go Unanswered

There are a few reoccurring assertions that Ethics Alarms readers know I am duty bound to defenestrate, no matter how repetitious it is for them and me. The gender gap argument in salary is one; election night in 2016 spawned another, when hack historian Doug Brinkley falsely claimed that the same party seldom holds the White House for three straight terms. That Bill Clinton’s sexual misconduct was “private personal conduct” unrelated to his professional trustworthiness was long on my list, though that one seems to be, finally, discredited. There are others involving gun control, marriage, illegal immigration and more; I should list them in one place some day.

None annoys me any more, however, than the rationalizations mounted to claim that steroid cheats belong in baseball’s Hall of Fame.

It happened again this week, as it will every time the Hall of Fame ballots are counted this time of year. On the MLB Channel on Sirius-XM, two alleged experts, analysts Casey Stern and former pitcher Brad Lidge each gave their list of ten former players who belonged in the Hall of Fame, and both listed Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens as deserving. When Lidge went through his “reasoning”—I hate scare quotes, but here they are unavoidable—I wanted to leap through my car radio and throw him out his studio.

It wasn’t just the unethical opinion that infuriated me. It was the sheer ignorance and intellectual laziness of it. The man clearly has never practiced critical thinking in his life. Nobody taught him. Like the President, he literally doesn’t know what ethics are, and reasons by rationalizations and conventional wisdom, meaning that if enough dolts say something, it becomes a persuasive position to him. It is unethical—malpractice, negligence, incompetence—to argue like this when you are holding yourself up as an expert, and addressing the public through mass media. You are making the public more ignorant and stupid, and less able to think clearly, with every word. Stern, who is about five times smarter and more articulate than Lidge, used slightly less moronic arguments to defend Bonds, but only slightly.

So I’m sorry if you have heard this before, but I made a promise to myself, my readers, and baseball, which I love. Here are Lidge’s arguments to allow Bonds into the Hall of Fame, and why they are crap.

  • Bonds was on his way to a Hall of Fame career before he used steroids.

Yes, and that brilliant scientist was on the way to a Nobel prize before he falsified his data. This idiotic argument–maybe the worst of the worst—absurdly holds that if  something would have occurred if a disqualifying event hadn’t happened, the disqualifying event shouldn’t count. It also embodies the “he didn’t have to cheat, so his cheating was no big deal” fallacy. This would have excused Richard Nixon: after all, he won by a landslide anyway, so what difference does it make that he tried to illegally undermine the McGovern campaign? Ugh. It makes me crazy even writing about this one.

  • Bonds cheated during a period when cheating was rampant, so a lot of the player he surpassed weren’t disadvantaged.

Continue reading

9 Comments

Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Journalism & Media, Sports

Alert! Garrison Keillor Becomes The Latest Smug Liberal To Get Run Down By The Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck, And I Should Have Predicted It

Keillor on “The Charlie Rose Show.” I bet Charley agrees with you about Al Franken, Garrison!

From the Washington Post:

Garrison Keillor, who hosted the popular radio show “A Prairie Home Companion” for decades until his retirement last year, has been fired from Minnesota Public Radio after allegations of “inappropriate behavior,” MPR confirmed in a statement Wednesday.

“Minnesota Public Radio is terminating its contracts with Garrison Keillor and his private media companies after recently learning of allegations of his inappropriate behavior with an individual who worked with him,” the statement read.

I’m not surprised. In fact, when I read Keillor’s head-exploding rationalizations for Al Franken in an op-ed yesterday, also in the Post, I thought, “Hmmmm. This sounds like the logic of a sexual harasser to me. I wonder…?” Foolishly, I didn’t post my suspicions; it was a late cut from today’s Warm-Up.

In his op-ed, “Al Franken should resign? That’s absurd.”, Keillor made the astounding illogical leap of equating the tearing down of statues of historical figures whose conduct was offensive by current standards to excusing current individuals whose conduct—in this case, sexual harassment and assaults—would be acceptable under past standards.

To facilitate this unethical argument and wishful self-applying excuse, the plummy-voiced progressive minimized the complaint of Franken’s first reported victim. I’m numbering each awful section:

Sen. Al Franken…did USO tours overseas when he was in the comedy biz. (1) He did it from deep in his heart, out of patriotism, (2) and the show he did was broad comedy of a sort that goes back to the Middle Ages. (3) Shakespeare used those jokes now and then, and so did Bob Hope and Joey Heatherton when they entertained the troops. (4) If you thought that Al stood outdoors at bases in Iraq and Afghanistan and told stories about small-town life in the Midwest, you were wrong. (5) On the flight home, in a spirit of low comedy, Al ogled Miss Tweeden and pretended to grab her and a picture was taken. (6) Eleven years later, a talk show host in LA, she goes public, (7) and there is talk of resignation. This is pure absurdity, and the atrocity it leads to is a code of public deadliness. No kidding.(8)

Yecchh.

To be more specific: Continue reading

55 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, History, Popular Culture, Professions, Romance and Relationships, Workplace

Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/17/2017: Groping And Griping”

We’re going to need a bigger black list…

It is a measure of how quickly the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck is hurtling down the tracks that this excellent post by JutGory,  an overview of the issues raised by the game-changing sexual misconduct accusations against Senator Al Franken by  a former model, current radio host, almost seems out of date. This was the fourth Comment of the Day that arrived over the weekend, and I apologize to Jut for not getting it up sooner. Nonetheless, his analysis is excellent, and his last point is more germane than ever.

Just today, Senator Franken was hit with a second woman’s accusation, CBS and PBS journalist Charlie Rose was accused by eight women, and subsequently suspended from his morning show duties by CBS. NY Times White House correspondent Glenn Thrush was accused by several women, and the Times has suspended him pending an investigation. Best of all, some women came forward with as yet unheard allegations about the Godfather of celebrity sexual harassment, Bill Clinton himself.

In the aftermath of all this, Roy Moore’s plummeting polls are reversing themselves. If everybody seems to be doing it, some are reasoning, especially so many “feminists” and “progressives,” then why punish Moore? Everybody isn’t “doing it,”  but the #MeTooers and the news media have been so incoherent and hypocritical that it has become difficult for the insufficiently attentive to define what “it” is. Right now, nobody seems to care about material distinctions., or context, or time lapse, or even confirmation. This a real witch hunt, with previously ordinary and relatively powerless citizens sensing an opportunity to destroy careers and reputations.

Here is JutGory’s Comment of the Day on the post,Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/17/2017: Groping And Griping:

I am no defender of Al Franken, though I hail from the State that Mondale Won. I think you are right that he should not resign.

But there are excuses that distinguish him from Moore.

The timing is suspicious?

That is stupid. Everyone is coming out of the woodwork now. And, the timing on the accusations regarding Roy Moore is suspicious (with an election coming up); Franken has no similar timing issues.

It’s only one time?

Yes, and no. Franken has always been an obnoxious jerk, and this is one of many variations on that theme. So, yeah, it may have only been one time he did THIS sort of obnoxious thing.

But, in that regard, people are characterizing this as sexual assault, which I think is pretty superficial. Leaving aside the kiss and focusing on the picture, Franken’s behavior is not much more obnoxious than the many, many, many Frat-Boy style photos of a sleeping individual with a mustache drawn on his face with a Sharpie. Those are obnoxious and denigrating (and an assault), and Franken’s photo is more comparable to THAT than to Bush Sr.’s “feel-copping.” Calling what Franken did “groping” is a bit of a stretch, even if technically true. To me, this falls into the “prank” category.

This is politically motivated?

No real evidence of that. Do we know Tweeden’s politics?

We need his vote regardless?

Stupid. Conservatives need a Republican vote in Alabama, but they don’t NEED Roy Moore. Besides, in the State that Mondale Won, it is entirely likely that his vote could be replaced by someone comparable. Hell, with our record, Bob Dylan could be the next Senator from Minnesota. He is just about old enough.

I believe him, not her?

I don’t know about the “kiss.” Accounts can be very subjective. I could believe both of them. But, being as obnoxious as he is, I can fully understand her perception of him as an obnoxious jerk, and his perception that he was just being himself and playing the role as he thought it should go.

It was a long time ago? Continue reading

54 Comments

Filed under Character, Comment of the Day, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Romance and Relationships

The 87th And 88th Rationalizations: The Reverse 15 And The Psychic Historian

Translation: “I got nuthin’!'”

I haven’t been in tip-top shape the last several days, making new posts more of an ordeal than they should be. Luckily this motivates me to catch up on updating the Rationalizations List, which has several waiting additions, including these:

Rationalization #15 A. The Reverse 15, or “If I don’t do it ( and I don’t want to) somebody else will.”

The Reverse 15 uses exactly the same excuse as #15. The Futility Illusion:  “If I don’t do it, somebody else will,” but for the opposite purpose. In #15, the rationalizer wants to avoid the consequences of doing something unethical by arguing that his or her refusal to follow orders would have no practical effect: someone else would just step in and do what was demanded anyway. How, asks the fictionalized version of Confederate Captain Henry Wirz in “The Andersonville Trial,” can a post-Civil War military tribunal fairly hold him responsible for cruelly mistreating the Union prisoners in the Georgia prison camp as he was ordered to, when if he refused he would have been shot, and his successor would have abused them anyway?

In 15A, the argument is the opposite. The rationalizer refuses to perform a necessary ethical act out of apathy, callousness or fear, but this was reasonable because he or she was certain that someone else would do the right thing instead. The Reverse 15 could also be called “The Kitty Genovese Rationalization,” recalling that the many people who heard the murdered woman’s screams chose not to “get involves” while convincing themselves that someone would come to her aid. All of the Mount Everest climbers who left a stricken colleague behind to die protested later that they were certain the next climber behind them (or the next, perhaps) would stop to help the man. We pass a stopped car in distress on the highway at night, reasoning that someone else will stop to help, sparing us the trouble.

Sometimes someone does. Sometimes not. This abdication of an ethical duty is accomplished by casting one’s lot, and gambling with the fate of another, while relying on the unpredictable quirks of moral luck. The only ethical decision is to take action. You must do what you know is the ethical act yourself, and not ignore your obligation because you can pass the buck and then argue, disingenuously, “How could I know that everyone else would be as unethical as I am?”

Rationalization #1B. The Psychic Historian, or “I’m On The Right Side Of History”

Continue reading

18 Comments

Filed under Government & Politics, History, U.S. Society