Further Reflections On “What Do We Do With Jeffrey Previte?’

The reason I posted the Ethics Quiz about the consulting company CEO caught on a security camera beating a small dog is that I genuinely do not know what society is supposed to do with people like that. The conduct is sick and evil, and as I noted in the post, Previte’s comments showed that he neither regretted his actions nor understood what people were upset about. The poll was included to get a sense of the assembled, and it has been one-sided:

It is the esteemed veteran ethics warrior Michael West who focused on the question from a practical viewpoint, and, after all, this is a practical ethics blog. In a series of comments he wrote,

I voted for the apology route because there’s no choice between apology and appropriate punishment that incorporates aspects of both. His conduct is gross and indicative of his character, but our society is getting to a point where we don’t allow for any rehabilitation ever. And that’s not a good development.

I had posited to another commenter a public official caught on camera terrorizing his family to counter the argument that it was unfair for this conduct to be made public, and Michael countered,

I think psychologically terrorizing family combined with being a public official changes the scope of invested parties and certainly justifies a larger body of people interested in knowing about the behavior. In this case, while not absolving him of being scrutinized and shunned by an appropriate section of society, “it’s just a dog” does guide the level of this man’s infamy as compared to your hypothetical. But yes, once the video is out the video is out. But, if, after appropriate demonstrations of genuine remorse, repentance and change of character and appropriate consequences are leveled against this man and…such as reduction to mere data entry job…I don’t think I would “take my business elsewhere” if I discovered he happened to be the man entering the data I need entered.

I mean at some point the “shunned by society” is clearly disproportionate…should grocery stores refuse his ability to buy food?

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What Do We Do With Jeffrey Previte?

Jeffrey Previte is –last I checked—the co-CEO of EBI Consulting in Los Angeles. That’s him on the left, and that’s also him on security footage where he lives, abusing his little dog. There’s a video too. You can view it—if you have the stomach– here.

The Daily Mail broke the story after it obtained the video from the concierge at the Seychelle Condominiums building in Santa Monica, California, where Previte lives. The  concierge passed along the film–why to a British tabloid I don’t know (it probably paid him)  and asked to remain anonymous in case he wanted to be a source for an Atlantic Monthly hit piece on President Trump. He told the  Mail that he heard the dog whimpering from the front desk, saw the video,  and filed a report with the police about the incident. “I heard the dog screaming and when I looked on the camera, I saw him beating the dog,” he said. The concierge claims that the building’s management did not take his report seriously.

Previte has only made himself more despicable since the story came out, and revealed himself as an individual without ethics alarms.

“I think this is very unfortunate that this has come across your desk. I don’t even know exactly what to say but I will say this: [The concierge] called me the evening of this interaction with my dog and that was at nine o’ clock at night and he attempted to extort money from me so that he wouldn’t report it to the building,” said Previte in a statement.

All absolutely irrelevant to the issue at hand, which is what we see on the video. How does someone think impugning the character of the person who reports his misconduct mitigates the conduct?  Dead ethics alarms. Then he said, “There’s nothing illegal about what I did.”

This might be the best example of Rationalizations #4, Marion Barry’s Misdirection, or “If it isn’t illegal, it’s ethical,”and #5, The Compliance Dodge I have ever seen, except that I’ll want to gag every time I think about it.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is..

“What is a fair and proportionate way for society to treat this creep?”

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Stop Making Me Defend Joe Biden! The Plagiarism Charge…

One of these things is not like the others…

I would say Joe Biden will never live down his 1987 disgrace, when he withdrew from the Democratic Party’s presidential race after it was revealed that he plagiarized a speech—indeed, a life account—from UK Labor Party Leader Neil Kinnock. I would say that, except there is so much Biden should never be able to live down that doesn’t matter now that he is running against Donald Trump, not the least of which is that he is placing the nation and the integrity of the Presidency at risk by continuing his candidacy despite evidence of serious cognitive decline that he must be aware of.

During the  2016 campaign, I frequently mentioned my  “Lawn Chair Test,” which is whether I would vote for a lawn chair rather than a particular candidate. Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton all flunked the Lawn Chair Test, and apparently the Trump Deranged are taking it literally, as it appears that in November they will be voting for the nearest thing to an actual lawn chair that has ever been on a Presidential ballot.

Nonetheless, the alleged plagiarism claims that have been trumpeted by some conservative news sources regarding Biden’s nomination acceptance speech are as unfair as they are silly.

Biden wrapped his  speech in rousing fashion—well, it would have been rousing  if Joe showed any energy at all—by saying: “For love is more powerful than hate. Hope is more powerful than fear. Light is more powerful than dark.”

The Canadians “pounced,”  claiming that Joe’s words were unethically similar to those from a speech byJack Layton, the leader of Canada’s left-wing New Democratic Party,  in an  open farewell letter to his fellow citizens prior to his death in 2011. Layton wrote, “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair.”

“A number of Canadians are struck by the similar parting words of Biden’s speech to the final words of Jack Layton’s farewell letter before his death,” CBC’s Washington correspondent Alexander Panetta tweeted.

Layton’s message, meanwhile, had itself employed somewhat similar language to that once used by former Canadian Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier,  who had said in 1916, “Let me tell you that for the solution of these problems you have a safe guide, an unfailing light if you remember that faith is better than doubt and love is better than hate.”

Knowing that Republicans and others would be searching for “gotcha!” examples of plagiarism by Biden given the Kinnock scandal, his campaign invested in a $4,200 anti-plagiarism software program last year. It didn’t pick up on the similarities between Layton’s language and Biden’s (assuming he was the author of his speech, which he almost certainly was not), because there was no plagiarism. First, it was a single sentence, and hardly a remarkable one in either instance. I’d be shocked if similar sentences haven’t turned up in many political speeches throughout history. Second, they just aren’t that much alike, though Layton’s was better. Anger isn’t the same as hate. “Light is more powerful than dark,” isn’t the equivalent of “Optimism is better than despair.” Sure, the construction is the same, but that is a standard rhetorical device: three parallel statements,  linked by cadence.

Oratory is a genre, and, like music, it is customary and traditional to borrow and alter phrases and sequences from the works of others, which in most cases weren’t completely original themselves. If Joe hadn’t already had a well-earned reputation as a plagiarist—as a law school student in 1965, Biden failed a class for citing published works without attribution—no one would have criticized him for this trivial sort-of match. The fact is that Joe Biden isn’t that bright and isn’t that articulate. He’s  been a plodding, over-achiever his whole life. He needs to borrow from those more clever and gifted than he, and most speakers consider that kind of borrowing a compliment.

Here’s how it works: certain apt and memorable lines evolve and get perfected through the ages, until finally someone nails it. Then that one is theirs, and nobody can imitate it again without everyone noticing. A prime example is President John F. Kennedy’s famous line, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” There are many recorded—and probably unrecorded— speeches that contain similar sentiments. Ted Sorensen, who wrote the speech with Kennedy, nailed it, perhaps aided by Jack, who had a headmaster who was fond of quoting an old Harvard dean who told graduating classes, “As has often been said, the youth who loves his Alma Mater will always ask, not “What can she do for me?” but “What can I do for her?”

Were Kennedy and his speechwriter plagiarizing? No.

Then there is Winston Churchill, who in 1940 famously told Parliament:

“We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills…We shall never surrender, and even if,which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of itwere subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

In a similarly desperate situation  during the German offensive in the spring of 1918, French premier Georges Clemenceau rallied his people by saying,

“I shall fight before Paris, I shall fight behind Paris. The Germans may
take Paris but that will not stop me from carrying on the war. We shall
fight on the Loire, we shall fight on the Garonne, we shall fight even
in the Pyrenees. And should we be driven off the Pyrenees, we shall
continue the war from the sea. But as for asking for peace, never!”

Plagiarism? It’s a lot closer to plagiarism than Joe’s speech, but so what? Churchill wasn’t speaking for a grade, or for publication. Political oratory has a purpose, and accomplishing that purpose is paramount. He may have been inspired by Clemenceau, but Clemenceau might have taken his inspiration from Caesar, or Homer…it doesn’t matter. What mattered was inspiring a nation, not achieving 100% originality.

As for Joe’s little speech, it wasn’t within furlongs of Kennedy’s or Churchill’s, but accusing him of plagiarism this time is petty and unfair.

Proportionality And The Cancellation Of Thom Brennaman

“Proportionality” is an ethical principle, one that has been recognized for centuries.  In the Josephson Institute’s “Six Pillars of Character,” it is included under the “pillar” of Fairness. Plato explained that he concept of ethical retributive justice must be  committed to  three principles:

  • That those who commit wrongful acts deserve to suffer a proportionate punishment;
  • That it is intrinsically morally good if a legitimate authority gives such wrongdoers the punishment they deserve; and
  • That it is morally impermissible to intentionally to punish the innocent, or to inflict disproportionately large punishments on wrongdoers.

This brings us to the case of Thom Brennaman, play-by-play broadcaster for the Cincinnati Reds and the son of retired and revered Marty Brennaman, also a veteran baseball announcer. Last night, Brennaman the Younger was caught on an open mic describing someplace as the  “one of the fag capitals of the world” after the Fox Sports Ohio feed returned from a commercial break in the top of the seventh inning in the first game of a doubleheader at Kansas City. This led the Reds to pull Brennaman off the air after the fifth inning of the second game, and the announcer was quickly suspended.

The team quickly released a statement:

Note “horrific.” That “horrific” word can be heard near the beginning of the famous song above from “Company,” lyrics by Broadway icon Stephen Sondheim (who is gay). To my knowledge, no audience members have ever walked out of a performance upon hearing it. Sondheim, now in his eighties, did recently concoct an alternate lyric for those productions that are determined to be politically correct. He’s a prudent man, I guess. I wish he hadn’t.

The word is apparently so horrific that I had to search all over the web to find out what it was. Most accounts said that the announcer used an “anti-gay slur,” and left it to readers’ imagination what was said. This is crummy, craven, virtue-signaling and incompetent journalism. If the story is about the uproar over a word, a news reporter is obligated to say what the word is. When the ESPN report only said that the word used was “horrific,” I thought it was something I had never heard before. It’s a slur, that’s all. It’s a word. Continue reading

Tuesday Ethics Tidbits, 8/18/2020: Michelle Lies, The Convention Dies, An Ethicist Is Unwise, And A Red Sox Fan Cries

1. Loyalty dilemma. I have deliberately refused to watch the last two Red Sox games against the Yankees. This, for me, is high treason. For more than 50 years, I have supported the team through its darkest hours, thus entitling me to take special pleasure during its greatest triumphs. There was stretch of 15 years, many of them with dreadful Red Sox teams,in which I watched, attended or listened to every game, even when it required standing on a chair while holding the radio to the ceiling, as Lithuanian folk music broke into the broadcast without warning. However, the current edition looks like it has quit. I get it: the team lost its manager, Cheatin’ Alex Cora. It had to trade its best player, Mookie Betts, to the Dodgers because he was determined to sell his services to the highest bidder after this season.  The team’s ace, Chris Sale, is out for the year after arm surgery; last season’s biggest winner got a heart infection from the Wuhan virus and has to sit out the season as well. The team traded last season’s #2 starter because he was absurdly overpaid, and let the #3 sign with the Mets because he was a poor gamble at 20 million a year. Even with all that, the team figured to be competitive because it had, or was supposed to have, a dominant offense. Yet the Red Sox have the worst record in baseball, even worse than the Marlins, who lost half its squad to the pandemic, and with only 40 games left, things aren’t going to turn around.

It’s not the losing I mind: I’ve endured that before. I love baseball: watching your team  lose games can still be exciting and fun. But the Red Sox players look like they’re just waiting for this strange, shortened, season without fans and with piped in crowd sounds to end. Why should I watch that, when it take three hours out of my day, the team is behind by 5 runs by the fourth inning in every game, and watching is less fun than “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee”?

And I’m not even considering the giant “Black Lives Matter” banner across the Fenway Park center field bleachers…

Or, having derived so much wisdom, perspective, diversion and joy from Boston’s iconic team throughout my life, am I obligated to stay the course, even if it is just one more thing to make me miserable?

2. No. Just no. Ethics professor Parker Crutchfield is troubled that everyone won’t follow Wuhan virus protection measures, writing,
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Monday Ethics Mixture, 8/17/2020: Let’s See What I Can Concoct Today…

1. Is this fair? Houston-based freelance photographer Bill Baptist shared a meme on his Facebook page that parodied the Biden-Harris campaign logo. It read, “Joe and the Hoe.”

Former WNBA star Sheryl Swopes saw Baptist’s post, shared it on her own timeline and demanded that the NBA to fire the photographer. So he was fired. Baptiste tried the inevitable grovel, writing,

“I deeply regret posting on my Facebook page a phrase that I saw and copied from others as a sample of some people’s reactions to Biden’s selection of Senator Harris as his choice for VP. The phrase I posted does not reflect my personal views at all. I should not have been so insensitive to post the statements by others. I sincerely apologize to all of those who have rightfully been offended and I have taken the post down from my FB page. It was a horrible mistake on my part.”

It didn’t save his job.

Observations:

  • Does sharing a tweet or a meme necessarily mean “I agree with this”? Can’t it mean, “Look at this”?
  • What kind of person actively seeks to have people fired for words or conduct that have nothing to do with their jobs? My answer: cruel people.
  • In this episode, Sheryl Swopes showed herself to be  a worse human being than the photographer.
  • Kamala Harris  exploited a sexual relationship with power-broker Willie Brown to advance in her career.  The meme could be considered legitimate satire if she were white. Is it illegitimate because she is sort of black?

2. And the Ed Wood Award goes to...The Orpheum Theater in Memphis. Ed Wood, bonkers director of such camp classics as “Plan Nine From Outer Space,” was creative, courageous, indefatigable, and passionate.  He was also completely incompetent, and not smart enough to realize it.  That brings us to the Orpheum, which installed a nine-hole miniature golf course on its stage to  create a revenue stream during the pandemic. Continue reading

A Jumbo For The Ages And Other Ethics Observations on “Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich”

For me, the most stunning ethics moment in the Netflix documentary “Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich” was when Prince Andrew, a long-time pal of the late sex-trafficker/billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, appears on camera and engages in a spectacular Jumbo. In a televised interview, the brother of Prince Charles claimed he never met Epstein—though there are photos of the Prince standing with him. He also said he had no recollection of knowing the woman pictured in the photo above, who was one of the under-age girls Epstein sexually exploited and passed around among his friends. The woman in the background is British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, who served as one of Epstein’s procurers (and who was recently arrested as an accessory to his crimes). Yet when Andrew was asked how he explains the photo if he never had anything to do with the American teenager it shows him with his arm around, he said, incredibly, “I can’t explain it.”

Wow. “Photo? What photo?” “Teenage sex toy? What teenage sex toy?” “Pedophile billionaire? What pedophile billionaire?”

All Jimmy Durante had to deny was the existence of the stolen elephant he was holding at the end of a rope.

Reasonable minds may disagree about the worst ethical breaches on display in the documentary; there are so many. Epstein, of course, was scum—a predator, a sociopath, and a crook. I found no surprises regarding him personally. I also knew that wildly wealthy villains have the ability to corrupt everyone around them, but the supporting cast of the Epstein story provides  bracing reminders, such as… Continue reading

In Honor Of Our New Dog Spuds, A Timely Ethics Alarms Encore: “Unethical Website of the Month: Dogsbite.Org”

That’s not Spuds above; that’s Brad Pitt’s wonderful Staffordshire Terrier in “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood,”, one of many breeds dog ignoramuses lump into the category of “pit bull.” Spuds, whom we brought home today, is almost certainly at least part American Pit Bull Terrier, like the dog in the “Our Gang” comedies, but we’ll know better when he gains back more of the weigh he lost when his owner stopped feeding him. Here he is in our kitchen tonight..

Since he is among the  types of dog who will be subjected to the breed bigotry that has led to the deaths of so many smart, loyal, affectionate and harmless dogs across America and Europe, I’ve decided to re-post this essay from 2015. It is the all-time champion Ethics Alarms post for comments, with 339 and counting. It is also the post that has continued to attract comments the longest after a post went up: the last flurry of reactions from anti-pit bull hysterics was in February of this year.

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Unethical Website of the Month: Dogsbite.Org

This despicable website, created by phobics, liars, fools and bigots to promote dog breed prejudice and persecution of responsible dog owners, is discredited by the vast, vast  majority of dog experts, breeders, and people with any knowledge of dogs. It is useful in a way, in that its rhetoric mirrors that of the anti-Jewish, final solution advocates of the Nazi regime, and the most virulent American racists, like the KKK. (A dog breed is exactly like a human race.) It also apes the logical fallacies of those who want to ban guns or engage in racial profiling.

Although a mass of data and history proves that pit bull-related breeds are no more inherently dangerous than any powerful breed and arguably less, Dogsbite.Org is leading a vendetta against both the breeds and lawful, loving owners, reasoning that dogfighting uses pit bull-type breeds, and pit bulls used for fighting are more likely to be dangerous (as any dog so abused  may be), so to kill two birds with one stone, it makes sense to wipe out not just any individual dangerous dog of the type but any dog that is a hybrid of the a “pit bull breed” and any dog that looks like what people think is a “pit bull”, in part because there is no such breed as “pit bull.” Continue reading

From The Ethics Alarms Archives: “Ethics Quiz: The Harley Tragedy”

(This is a different Harley)

The arrival of Spuds, our new dog, was postponed a day. While chatting with his foster owner, she told us that had had decided to to report Spuds’ previous owner for animal cruelty. Good. The woman neglected the dog outrageously, as I wrote about here.

But for some reason, my mind flashed back to this post from 2013, involving a more complex animal cruelty case. It’s an ethics quiz, but I’ll be adding a poll at the end. The comments to the original post were very good.

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Ethics Quiz: The Harley Tragedy

I’m sure PETA thinks this is fair; I’m not sure that I do.

Tammy Brown,47, a disabled Moon Lake, Florida woman trying to make ends meet on her $508-a-month government check, argued that she was not able to afford veterinary care for Harley, her 14-year-old dog who had a painful ear infection as well as skin problems, periodic tumors, heartworms and ear mites. Because she did not get treatment for Harley, however—the fact that she tried to treat the dog’s problems with over the counter ointments wasn’t enough to mollify the judge— Brown was convicted of felony animal cruelty. She spent more than a month in jail awaiting sentencing, and then received six months of house arrest, 300 hours of community service, three years of probation, and $1,000 in court costs. Circuit Judge William Webb also commanded, “I don’t want you to own any animals. Not even a goldfish!” (Hartley had been euthanized.)

Apparently Harley’s physical condition was shockingly poor, so much so that jurors found photos hard to look at. An Animal Services officer testified that Harley couldn’t stand up without support. The prosecutor wanted Brown imprisoned.

Has society become so animal-sensitive that it has lost its priorities?

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz

Assuming that Harley’s lack of treatment was due to lack of resources and neglect rather than malice…

Was Tammy Brown’s sentence fair, or was it excessive and cruel?

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Yes, I’m Blaming The Victim: Ben Gravolet Is An Ethics Dunce. And A Jerk

You may have missed it, but Ellen DeGeneris, the queen of daytime talk shows whose brand has always been her niceness, has had her once impeccable  reputation sullied lately as employees of her show have complained about a “toxic environment” that the star did nothing to address. There’s an investigation now, and Ellen is rumored to be considering leaving “Ellen,” meaning that instead of toxic employment, her staff and production crew will have no employment at all.

In the midst of this crisis for DeGeneris, sensing a cheap opportunity to grab some publicity, kick her when she’s down, and apparently seek vengeance for a slight that he has obsessed about for more than 40 years, a man named Ben Gravolet has come forward to tell the world that…..what, that DiGeneres sexually molested him? That she was secretly working for Fidel Castro? No, Ben accused Ellen of being mean to him when he was 11 years old.

We should have seen this coming, for it is the dangerous slippery slope Christine Blasey-Ford’s dubious accusation against Bret Kavanaugh greased. Continue reading